As a child, my family always traveled on Amtrak for our big trips. I have countless fond memories from these vacations, and many of the most vivid were from the experiences of train travel itself.
This time, I decided to take my 7 year old twins to Michigan on Amtrak.
Our town of Truckee is right on the route for the California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago to San Francisco/Emeryville. We were picked up on a Friday afternoon, and would be on the train for over 40 hours, until we switched lines in Chicago, and ultimately ended in Milwaukee where my parents would drive us the rest of the 4 hours to Michigan.
I envisioned a very memorable bonding experience between the three of us, drawing pictures, playing games, watching the countryside go by, meeting people, and overall, enjoying the most leisurely form of traveling together.
My kids, however, reminded me that they were kids, with too much energy to sit in a 2-seat sleeper car together,
and no interest in hanging out in the lounge car, and too rambunctious for the dining car…
and by the end of the first day I was calling my mom in tears telling her I was ready to bail on this nightmare in Denver and fly the rest of the way.
Fortunately, for us, and for the other passengers in the surrounding little compartments, by the 2nd afternoon we were able to upgrade to a larger room and everyone’s attitudes turned around.
We loved traveling along the Colorado River, through many tunnels, a couple rainstorms, and had a nice little stop in Glenwood Springs.
Sunday morning, while eating breakfast in the dining car, we crossed the Mississippi River.
Every so often, we could hear something that sounded like angels softly singing, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Finally, we realized it was coming from the lounge car, so we brought our board games and books in to listen to the Amish women singing hymns, and watch the cornfields go by.
Sunday afternoon we rolled into Chicago, got off the train, and had a few hours to kill before the train for Milwaukee was to depart.
I took the kids for a short walk, expecting them to be REALLY excited to be in a “big city”.
Stephen, however, after walking 2 blocks, turned around, looked off in the distance, and quietly proclaimed,
“I hate big cities. they’re crowded, there’s garbage everywhere, and it smells bad”
Fortunately, the last leg of our trip went relatively quickly and we were soon in Milwaukee meeting my parents. Although that first night was extremely challenging, all things considered I am happy we took the train and I have a feeling the kids will always remember it.