Friday, May 16, 2008


I'm back from my week's vacation, relaxed and refreshed and ready to trumpet the advantages of train travel! After a year and a half of only phone conversations, e-mails and letters, it was wonderful to spend 3 days with a couple of my best quilting buds. That's LeAnn on the left and Cindy on the right.

But before I could see them again, I had 26 hours on Amtrak, starting at the station in Sandpoint. Here it is in the daytime (looking a bit worse for wear), but boarding the eastbound train actually happens at about 2:30 in the morning. I treated myself to a "roomette" in the sleeper car. It was a bit smaller than I expected but a nice place to escape to for the long trip. I had visions of pulling out my embroidery or quilting to help pass the time, but there was much more movement and jolting than I was prepared to work around, so I mostly read, stared out the window and napped.

Sleeper car passengers get extra perks, like a porter who makes the daytime seating into your nighttime bed, passes out cookies, shows you where the bottled water, juice & snacks are, keeps a pot of coffee going and slips a newspaper under your door in the morning. All meals are included in your ticket, and overall, they were excellent with ample portions. They even threw a wine and cheese tasting party for us!

I woke somewhere near Whitefish, Montana, peeked out the window and was amazed at how much snow was on the ground. By the time I made it to the dining car for breakfast, we were nearly to Glacier National Park and I'd missed much of the good scenery (but not all). Dining car not conducive to taking pictures so I just let the coffee work its magic and enjoyed the mountains, snow, deep ravines and rushing waters. Once back in my roomette, the scenery turned flat and relatively boring - at least to me.

Montana is cattle country, so there were the occasional herds of cows along the way, complete with the calves of spring.

There were lots of stops along the way, some just "stop & go" and others long enough to get off the train and wander a bit. Havre, MT is one such stop. A much nicer station than at Sandpoint.

My car was very near the front, which I later discovered meant listening to the train whistle's almost constant blowing all night as we traveled through those rural areas and their multitudinous crossings. Apparently, the sleeper cars near the end of the train don't really hear it, but it made sleeping hard enough for me that I gladly accepted a pair of earplugs from a friend for the trip home.

These old baggage carts were quite striking with their blue paint job.

And there were some great old buildings along the tracks that speak to America's agricultural past and dependence on the rails to transport everything from livestock to grains. With gas prices on the rise, transport by rail may soon be on the rise again.

As we got near the large cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, I started seeing the type of artistic graffiti I've read so much about. I could see where it had been covered by paint in some places, but some of it I felt could be left as is, a unique decoration to an otherwise bland facade.

Although I can see why one wouldn't want to leave a message like these for long if you weren't of the same belief.

And look! Those old style baggage carts are not just for decoration, but are still in use.

And here I am at my destination. One of the really nice things about train travel is the lack of security hoops to jump through. My friend who met me at the station was able to walk right up to the train and find me. Call me naive, but I long for the days of less government interference to ensure my safety. And it was nice to be treated by Amtrak as a customer and not a commodity.

Next stop, retreat house!

1 comment:

Doug said...

Sheila maybe the graffiti should be a de ja vous--back to the days of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. The days of peace and prosperity an unheard of thing for less than middle income people now. Also gas rationing back to the late 70's early 80's. I traveled from the Cities today--mega cars, trucks, and no fuel ecomony, everyone going above 75 miles per hour. When will it change?