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Starting our Train Trip

This post is a bit long. I thought about breaking it into parts, but I can't. You'll see why.


Not the actual train


My cousin apparently loves the Amtrak train system. In 2013 she responded to my post about bus travel with "Train travel - much nicer - even coach!"


So, fast forward to August of 2018 and we decided to plan a train trip. This isn't a verbatim conversation. Let's consider it fiction.

"Honey, we should take a train trip! Here's one from Chicago to Seattle and you get to stop off at Glacier National Park. Amtrak should be fun. Everyone raves about it."

She smiles at me, knowing that I make these statements and hardly ever follow through. "Go ahead," she says.


Well, I think, this should be easy. Amtrak has a vacation planning group called Amtrak Vacations, so I'll just call them.

"Hello," I say to the woman who answers, "I'd like to take a train trip. We'd like to see if trains are as fun as people say."

"I can help you with that," says J, after introducing herself. "Where would you like to go."

"We live in Houston. Can we take a train from here?"

"Nope." I pause after that and look at the gorgeous pictures on the web site, including marvelous scenic mountain views from a plush viewing car on the train.

"Well," I say, "there's this trip from Chicago to Seattle. That looks nice and it's only three days. We could try that and see how we like trains. And we'd get to see Glacier National Park. How about that one?"

"I can get you coach tickets, but there aren't any sleeping berths available. It's too late in the season. I can book you something for summer of 2019 if you'd like." She seems nice.

"Oh," I say. My disappointment colors my thoughts. I'm missing a train trip! "Any other trips? My brother's in-laws went on a trip across Canada and they loved it. Is that available?"

"Let me check." She disappears from the phone and I continue to flip through all the lovely pictures of exotic mountain train trips.

She returns. "No," she says. "Those are all booked for this year." Now she is sounding frustrated and perhaps a little annoyed.

I am starting to panic. My train is fast disappearing down a dark tunnel. "Is there anything you could recommend?"

She doesn't expect me to hear it, but she sighs. "How much did you want to spend?" she asks.

"I didn't really have an amount in mind. I don't really care about the cost."

The sigh is gone, replaced by ... what is that in her voice? Joy? "Let me check. Hang on a few minutes."

My darling wife watches me with a bemused look on her face. "How's it going?" she asks.

"I'm not sure," I mumble in response. "I might have something."

J is back on the line. "I have something. Now you said you'd fly into Chicago and you wanted to experience a train trip. I can't get you a train going west to Seattle, but I can take you east, then up into Canada, then across Canada to Banff, then to Vancouver, to Seattle and back to Chicago. How's that sound?" She's excited now, and I'm feeling it. 

I have a train trip after all. She gives me the dates and places. Nineteen days! She tells me the cost and my heart skips a beat, but this is the trip of a lifetime - and I planned it! I'm good with spending this small fortune.

"Wow," I say to her, "I didn't think Amtrak did Canada."

"Oh, we're not Amtrak," she says, "we're an independent travel company."

So the adventure began...

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