A couple of weeks ago, the family returned from our summer adventure. We managed to see a lot and everyone returned in one piece so I call it a win.
We left for Shelby MT, from Raymond AB, to catch the Amtrak to Chicago. The ride was comfortable and scenic. There were 5 of us so a sleeper car wouldn’t do. The only part I would say was the least comfortable for me was the sleeping. I am just not made of the same metal that Della Mae is made of. She, and 80+ lady in our ward, traveled from Virginia to Whitefish and said it was great. My arms went numb from weird sleeping positions and I froze. I was also the only one that wasn’t small enough to curl up in the seat, that didn’t have a window seat there and back. Anyway….
So if I was to do it again, this is what I would do.
1. Bring some Melatonin and take it. Possibly give it to my kids too. We had some for the trip back, but I forgot which bag I packed it in and didn’t take it.
2. Buy a cheap little pillow insert from IKEA for everyone. The little blue ones that are about a buck or two are the perfect size.
3. Bring a blanket for everyone. At around 10:00pm when the cars are quieting down, they turn on the AC pretty high. I personally think this is to sell out the blankets the have in the cafe car, but I’m sure it’s also to add some white noise to help others to fall asleep. Another reason might be to keep the car from smelling like nap. If people aren’t sweating in their sleep then they aren’t stinking as much. Anyway it’s cold.
4. Bring a cooler with some real food. Everyone is aloud 2 carry on pieces of luggage as well as some checked luggage. The cooler can be included in the carry on. If you don’t eat in the dinning car, which we didn’t, for a number of reasons, then the only food you have access to is the cafe care located in the lower half of the Lounge scenic car. There they have things like microwave pizza, burger, hotdogs, and sandwiches. Lots of pop and candy are also there. I managed to snag a yogurt parfait one morning which was so good. Anyway all that stuff for 3 or 4 meals can wreak havoc on a digestive system. Just saying.
5. Bring stuff to entertain yourself. We were on the train for 32 hours out there and 28 on the way back. I should have brought more movies 2 didn’t quite do it. We had puzzle books and Archie comics. The favourite past time was playing cards in the Lounge car. When you can snag a table you better get it or you are out of luck, they go fast. Oh and if you are from Canada and haven’t purchased a data plan, there is NO WIFI at any of the stations. Not until you reach the McDonalds at Union station.
6. Bring Lysol wipes and baby wipes. The train was generally clean, but there are lots of people touching things and sharing restrooms. It might be in your best interest wipe a few things down before you use it. Most people were quite courteous and did keep their messes to a minimum.
Things we found out while traveling on the train.
1. There is a water tap near the stairs that lead down to the restroom that you can fill your own bottles or cups with. Sometimes the water doesn’t taste that good though. It’s kind of a roll of the dice. On the way out it tasted fine. On the way back it tasted like swimming pool.
2. The sleeper car is like first class. All your meals in the dining car are paid for and you have first crack at the dining car reservations. There is also a sleeper car lounge in the big stations to hang out in before you board the train.
3. If you have children under 10 years of age, you are bumped to the front of the line, so they can seat you together. Thank you Tweedle 3.
4. Trains do not always keep their time. We were delayed 4 hours on the way out which caused problems for connecting trains, which we didn’t have, and car rental places, which we did. The car rental place closed, despite having spoken to them and they said they would be open until 9:00pm. Tim arrived at 8:45pm. Don’t use Alamo, unless you want to. We ended up renting with Enterprise and they were fantastic to us. They are also blocks away from Union station in Chicago (look hard the sign isn’t all that noticeable) where as Alamo is further than their website says. Just saying. The link posts earlier closing so maybe that is their off season hours.
5. Although children 5 and under are free, or is it under 5? Anyway some children are free, but if you have a baby and the train is crowded, you may be asked to hold your baby and give up the seat. I have mixed feelings about this. There were some pretty irate new mommies, when they were told this information. Luckily, depending on how you look at it, we were 4 hours late so the car never filled up and they didn’t have to share.
I think that is about it. Oh and for those wondering if our vehicle was ok for the 11 days in Shelby, It was. So yay.