Monday, January 18, 2016

Take the train and see America (very slowly)!

I've been meaning to write up a little something about our Christmas travels this last year in which we took Amtrak home instead of our usual flight. Usually we spend something like $400/person for our airfare between SEA & MSP, and I think we've had to pay as much as $500. Turns out a lot of people travel around Christmas, and supply and demand means it costs more to travel at that time of year. Go figure.

On the other hand, I found that one-way airfare (SEA->MSP) was only about $125/person, and a one-way train ticket was $150/adult, $75/child. After taxes and fees, we spent $600 to fly to Minnesota and about $500 to take the train. For all four of us. On the other hand, a return flight would be something like 3.5hrs versus 34hrs for the train, so we're trading a day and a third for $1000ish savings. And the experience of seeing the country.

The St. Cloud Amtrak station is about as big as one airport terminal gate seating area but with no coffee or gift shops. Instead, there was a broken water fountain and a (working!) 7-Up machine from the Taft administration.

We got to the station around 11:30pm after a busy day at my parents' house. Both boys zonked out for a while, though Jacob had been so extremely tired that before falling asleep, he got a severe case of the sillies and was Andrea's and my comic relief for about twenty minutes.

When the train arrived around 12:40am, we carried the boys outside, but they woke up on their own, extremely excited to take the train. Jacob told me, "Dad, it's real! I pinched myself and it hurt!"

Once on the train, we found the seats to be pretty comfortable, the ride smooth, accommodations... acceptable. The boys actually enjoyed it surprisingly well.

Though the ride took a day and a half, we were at least able to get out at several of the stops (though I only did so on one).

Unfortunately, the better part of our daylight on New Years Eve day was through North Dakota and Montana -- all very flat and boring. We did have a nice sunset, however.

By the time we got to Glacier, it was nighttime and nothing to see. We got to Spokane around midnight-ish, and we didn't get any light until around the Cascades. The snow-covered trees and mountains were beautiful, though unfortunately, we were so close that we didn't get any good shots of the scenery.

The western side of the Cascades were a nice welcome home.

The final stretch from Everett to Seattle was right along the Sound and was gorgeous, though I was too busy gawking at it to take any pictures. The arrival at King Street Station was a nice break to stretch and walk around before we hopped into a taxi to get home.

All in all, it was a good experience. I'm glad we did it -- not just because it barely offset the cost of boarding Shasta for our two week trip, but it was also was a fun experience in and of itself. Hard to say, though, whether and when we'll do it again.