Tuesday, March 26, 2013

See The Smoke and Hear The Whistle Blow . . .

Our first adventure "riding the rails" is over.  We started in Topeka (a ninety-minute drive from our house).  

The train was scheduled to depart at 12:10 a.m. but was delayed when a drawbridge somewhere between Chicago and Topeka went up and refused to come back down.  Even though we were notified by text about the delay, freezing drizzle was falling in Topeka and there were reports of accidents on overpasses, so we decided waiting in the station would be better than missing the train.  We arrived at 11:30 and the train arrived at 1:30. Fortunately, there were comfy couches and fellow passengers to chat with.

Amanda and Isaiah get comfy while waiting.
The interior of an Amtrak train is similar to that of an airplane, but much roomier.  The seats are wider, further apart and include leg rests.  There were electrical outlets at each seat so it was easy to pass the time with laptops, cell phones, etc. - no wifi, however.


The Lounge car has large windows for watching the scenery.  One of the few downsides to train travel is that the tracks don't normally run through the best part of towns - so you see a lot of the run-down, seedy side of the places you pass.

Mackenzie, Mitch and Dave chat and watch the scenery.
Since most of the scenery in western Kansas, eastern Colorado and northeast New Mexico is familiar to us, we took advantage of the booths for playing a variety of games . . .

. . . and occasionally looked up to admire the desert mesas and the red rock of Raton Pass.

The Lounge car offers a "Cafe" that sells drinks, snacks and microwavable meals.  There is also a Dining Car, which we tried for one meal, but it's a little pricey for mediocre food, so we stuck with the cafe and the food we brought on-board.

The best way to pass the time was to make new friends.  There was a group of families (Amish or Mennonite?) traveling from Maryland to California, that struck up a conversation with Dave and grilled him about agricultural practices in Kansas.  Here he explains how he monitors the grain markets from his cell phone.

Amanda got a lesson on moccasin bead-work from a Native American woman who's granddaughter performs with a tribal dance group.  This is our next mother/daughter/daughter-in-law craft project!

The only downside to our train ride was the crew.  The majority of the employees were rude and arrogant - wielding their "power" just because they could.  I was snipped at by the dining car waitress because I touched my plate as she was sitting it down; we were forced to stand in below freezing temps while a steward argued with a woman in line about her destination - though it was clearly printed on her ticket; and ordered around more like inmates in a prison than paying guests.  The crew on the return trip was better, but still churlish.  I'm sure they deal with a lot of rude passengers, also, but that's no excuse for assuming that attitude before it's deserved.  

In spite of the crew, we will definitely take more trips by train.  At half the cost of air fare and ten-times the comfort of a car, it's a great way to see the country.

Although our time on the train was nearly as long as our time in Albuquerque, the wedding was the real focus of this trip.  Come back tomorrow for wedding pictures.

*Can you name the tune referenced in the title of this post?


  1. hmmmm - - - is it that song - i'm so lonesome i could cry . . . hear the something whipporwill?

    Looks like a very comfy trip and fun too!!! I love all the room you had.

  2. I like travelling by train though rarely get a chance and then only short haul trips. Sometimes is Canadian Via Rail and other times the train originates in the US and is continuing on to Toronto. This past week,a train was stranded by a storm in northern Alberta for over 24 hours. The passengers were well taken care of but happy to finally reach their destinations.

  3. Great post Tami, love the pictures...felt like I was along for the ride.