After our Christmas visit we headed back to Chicago’s Union station to catch our train home to Seattle. The Christmas decorations we starting to be taken down but the Great Hall still looked amazing.
Union Station has an Amtrak lounge for sleeping car passengers. The lounge was a nice and comfy change from the hustle and bustle of the station. They even had complimentary coffee, tea, sodas, and juices. I’ve recently discovered the bliss that is an Airline lounge in airports… it all started with the Amtrak Lounge. Soon it was 2:15 and time to board the train.
Meet Betsy*, our Sleeping Car Attendant. She wasn’t bad per say, but we realized how good we had it on the Eastbound trip with Patrick. We were in the same room as the previous trip, but Betsy didn’t run her car the same way Patrick did. The door across the hall was closed and all the things that he had told us to help ourselves to (which were neatly arranged) were flung about her room. She didn’t detract from the trip, but she also didn’t add anything to it.
We were a bit more tired on the trip home. We spent a lot of time knitting, playing games (on the DS and iPad), and napping. Matt even borrowed the eye mask I got in my stocking. Apparently he was oblivious to the red satin and “sweet dreams” on it. Thanks to my MIL we also had lots of snacks for the trip.
The beginning of the trip West Bound has an old industrial feel – and we loved it.
That first day we passed through Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis by 11PM.
The sun was setting over Wisconsin when we decided to break out the complimentary Champaign (no extra splits for us- although we did help ourselves to some sparkling wine.)
The next morning we woke up in North Dakota. I love the next series of photos as they show how beautiful the plains can be a the sun comes up.
Our train had to stop on the tracks in the middle of nowhere because of high winds. I took this photo while we were stopped for almost an hour.
The highlight of our second day was of course the wine and cheese tasting. I really wish we could have bought the cheeses we ate- the blue was amazing.
It was on that second night at dinner that we met the most interesting couple ever. You meet lots of characters and interesting people on the train but this couple took the cake. They had just returned from spending 7 years in Paupa New Guinea on a mission trip. They are professional mariners (sailors) and they sailed from Seattle to Papa New Guinea where they taught the missionaries to sail and established safe sailing routes. My understanding is that the Missionaries learn the local language and work on translating the bible in very remote locations where boats are essential. Paupa New Guinea has 200+ local languages- whoa.
Oh yeah, Matt and I won another bottle of wine- as you can see we were quite excited to split it back in our room that night.
The next morning we woke up in Washington and by early morning we were riding the rails along Puget Sound with Whidbey Island in the distance.
It was a great experience to ride along the coast like this. The train tracks are virtually on the water, it is a much lower and closer view of the sound than is possible by any other method of transportation (well except for boats of course).
*sigh* Seattle at last.
Looking back on the trip we feel that we should have only taken the train Eastbound and caught a flight home. The two-day trip on the way out was perfect. It allowed us to slow down and unwind before seeing family. We arrived very relaxed. On the way home the two-day trip felt like a hurdle between us and our own beds. There are so many great rail trips you can take, I’d definitely suggest looking into a few. Matt and I have created a list (I’ll list them in another post) that we hope to try some day- maybe you’ll try one soon too.
*I’ve forgotten her name- as has Matt. I couldn’t very well call her “not Patrick” but that’s how we think of her.