The overnight train trip: a cautionary tale. Be forewarned, I get hyped up about the littlest things. Did Ryan think it was as cool as I did? Eh, maybe not as much, but he still enjoyed the adventure. Do your standards have to be set low? Yes. This is not the Hilton. But the characters on board, along with the cozy privacy of the bedroom is worth not being fussy.
We finally arrived at the train station, a different station than planned in fact. There were mudslides up the coast of Washington and so they had to bus us to the next depot just north of us. We were a little bummed because that was the only hour of daylight we’d have looking out onto the countryside.
But, here we were, happy to be boarding anyway.
As you might expect, everything is tight. (I feel like I’m turning into the Amtrak ambassador here. I even started daydreaming about a train-only vacation blog, but then time and money snapped me back to reality.)
Do you see the window? Do you see the silver door jam? That’s our room. Pack light is all I’m saying. Two chairs facing each other (with a table in between) turn into a bed with an upper one ready to come down when needed. The carpeted end table next to me is actually the stair for the bunkbed.
You could not have pinched me harder. I said at least 1000 times, “Isn’t this fun?” We had an attendant named Gul who over-enunciated the “s” sound at the end of words: “Yesssss, your dinner serviccccccce issss going on now.” So we headed to the dining car for dinner. (FYI: If you reserve a sleeper car, your meals are free. Your welcome, Ambassador Carolyn.)
It’s like a bed and breakfast where they sit you with strangers which… I like. People intrigue me. And there were several that made me feel like we were truly in a movie. The two young Australian friends checking off a bucket list before they head back. (They also watched a rocket take off in Florida. It was cancelled the first day because a plane flew right into it’s path before launching. So they had to defuel and refuel the rocket the next day, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. I laughed so hard. Can you imagine being that pilot? That would so be me, just minding my own business, ruining official government procedures.) Anyway, it was an enjoyable dinner, especially since Ryan could get his Australian itch scratched, talking about his college adventures there.
There was one guy we called The Major. He practically shouted everything he said and was also eager to talk with everyone, a potent combination. Every sentence was a joke where he himself laughed the loudest. Another was a lady who used to be homeless, now with a roommate and a house, traveling to Seattle to visit her homeless friends. She showed us many pictures of said house and I couldn’t have beamed brighter for her.
I’ve found that learning people’s stories, and letting them talk, has become one of my favorite things. They are so interesting, aren’t they? And I can truly say that I’ve never appreciated them more than I do right now in my life.
Maybe I’m just nosy. But I think it’s more than that.
Bedtime was the ultimate part of the ride for me. We had our own little night lights. The train rocked side to side, gently though, and it would speed up and slow down at the stops. It was lovely. Every person I asked how they slept, said “Great!”, usually surprised at their own answer. I was just as surprised in the morning too.
Meanwhile, as we were taking in the silence, the girls were ratcheting it up at Jama & Da-dads. Gertie’s starting to act ornery which is a good and bad thing. It’s a relief for something to feel normal, but it’s annoying too. This series of pictures texted to us pretty much summed up the progression.
Thank you for holding down the fort, in-laws!! I’ll mail you some Excedrin.
When we woke up, it was early morning. I had to apply my make-up in the window reflection. Expectations low, people. I probably still asked Ryan if he was loving this like me, even while messily applying my eye-liner.
We had rented a car in Whitefish, MT so we could drive to Glacier National Park. In the winter the park rangers host snowshoeing hikes for free. I’d never been hiking in snow before, so off we went.
We stopped several times to listen to our ranger give lessons…..very….slowly. It was almost painful, how long the pauses were between words. For all my previous appreciation of people, I was about to break down in impatience. Like, I’d started hoping the mountain lion she said to look out for would actually relieve me of my misery. I’d see it in the woods and would just walk over to it and lay down by its mouth.
After a suspenseful ten minute lead-in, we finally found out that across the river was a 50 year old beaver den.
Mamasita hadn’t eaten since 6:30 that morning and it was nearing 1pm, after a 2 hour hike. We’d heard that the restaurant at the top of Whitefish Resort’s summit was really good. So we bought lift tickets and headed that way.
Okay. Can we pause here to remember that I’ve become (ironically, unafraid to admit) AFRAID?! I’m not a ski bunny. I tremble at the thought of going down a hill with zero brakes. And let’s also not forget, I don’t have the ski lift finesse needed to fake any sense of belonging. The guy who sold me the tickets said that this one goes very fast. I said, Fine, no problem. Inside I was quaking.
We stood in line and it was very peaceful. Watching little groups getting on the lift, shuffling their way out and hopping on. And then the attendant, a lady sturdier than nfl linebackers, turned to see us next. She’d not uttered a word since we got there, but once our feet hit the front of the line, she yelled “COME UP. PUT YOUR FEET HERE. NOT THERE. RIGHT HERE. MOVE FORWARD. IT’S COMING. IT’S COMING. SIT DOWN. SIT DOWN. PULL YOUR LEGS UP. PULL THE BAR DOWN NOOOOWWWWWWwwwwwww!” And I think she was still yelling at us halfway up the mountain. If I hadn’t been scared out of my mind, I would’ve laughed at how ridiculous that scene must’ve looked to the regulars.
I cried turning around in the seat to get this picture of the town below.
We got to the top, ordered our food. Hamburgers, poutine, and pho: a natural combo. I pushed a table to the side of a balcony and we, again, people watched. In silence. We sat there for a long time too, because I dreaded going back down the mountain.
When we got off the lift, there was the linebacker ready for us, with the same commands. It was all a blur.
We had a few hours to kill before getting back on the train, and since we’d already done the three things we really wanted to do (Pike Place Market, Snowshoeing at Glacier, & the Summit Restaurant), we decided to go to the movies. And both promptly fell asleep.
After another night on board, we woke up to watch the last bit of Washington go by before arriving in Seattle. We crossed over the fastest moving creeks I’ve ever seen. There were whitecaps all over it, just forcing its way down the mountain. It was gorgeous. We saw trees that we don’t get to experience in the south. And squinted our eyes at the constant glare of snow on the ground.
Have you heard the saying “You can travel the world, only to come back and see your home for the first time.” Or something like that. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that while we saw so many fun things and made wonderful memories, there’s nothing quite like home. It made us love it more.