Riding the rails

We’re lucky to have Amtrak run through Denver. 

Last week, with a meeting in San Francisco and an itch for some quiet time, I roped in one of my kids and we hit the rails.

For the two of us, in a family bedroom, it cost $1,100 roundtrip. That counts the private room, meals and 32 hours of peace each way. But we had a four-person berth so I could have brought a couple more kids for a few dollars more.

For comparison, RT airfare would have been $980.

If you think a day and a half on a train sounds boring, you’re right. But kids are at their best when they have nothing to do but exist. Phone service is spotty, so you get to be a substitute for their friends. They’ll talk to you, and you can just be together. That’s pretty nice.

The full-service food is fine. Not great, but plenty good.  And the community seating means you never know who you’ll be sitting across from.  Sometimes it’s a nice couple; sometimes it’s the Sneeds.  You pays your money and you takes your chances, I guess.

We’ve been on this route before, so we saved a few hours by driving to meet the train in Glenwood Springs.  Those first few hours out of Denver are scenic, but they’re slow.  West of Glenwood – have you ever seen Ruby Canyon? Train or canoe is the only way.

Eastbound to Chicago is nice, too. All aboooard in the evening; a nice dinner; and drift off to sleep while the engineer plows through Nebraska.  That’s my favorite way to see that wonderful state—as the clickety-clack softly rocks me to sleep. 

Chicago is a 30-hour ride from Denver, too. From there…anywhere.  Last year we went to Boston. That’s a long trip, so we flew back. The year before, D.C. Each time we’re sad when the journey is almost over. Not because we’re leaving whatever exotic place we were, but because our time alone is ending. We spent a lot of it alone together on the train. 

Travel is stressful if you go by air or car. But travel by rail becomes more than just a way to get where you’re going; it becomes a part of the trip. The slow, calm trip.  As I write this, we just pulled out of Sacramento and into the verdant knee-high-grass covered hills. Spring is pretty everywhere, but especially here. The golden season is coming, but for now the lushest green you’ve ever seen.

Up ahead is the Sierra Nevada. Donner Pass. Reno.  Brittany is curled up on a daybed looking out the window. We’ll head to the dining car in a few minutes and eat a lunch with the widest views that money can buy.

Then we’ll read. Maybe nap. We have time for both.