Day Three: All Aboard!

Our wakeup call came at 1:00am today, and we checked out and said goodbye to the friendly folks of the Sandpoint Best Western Edgewater Hotel, and staggered our way across the train tracks to Sandpoint's Grand Central Station.  According to the Amtrak Website and App, which was great to use to check Train #28's status, Sandpoint supposedly has no station shelter, rest rooms, or existence.  Thankfully, there is now a newly remodeled little station house which we camped out in awaiting our 2:35am train.  At 2:35 the Empire Builder pulled in from the west, on time from its last stop in Spokane.  A happy conductor, who evidently didn’t realize what time it was, cheerily loaded our bags and showed us to our "roomette."  There is a little more emphasis on the "ette," than the "room" in the roomette.  It is actually a masterfully engineered space that allows for a bunkbed style sleeping arrangement, with converts to a private sitting room with a window to Americana.  On an airline, this space would be considered ultra-first class, on this Superliner Train, this is a modest accommodation type above coach class.  Anyway, at 3am it looked great to us. My wife being more Mary Lou Rettonesque than I, got the top bunk and she nailed the dismount landing a few hours later when the breakfast bell rang.  We learned there are a couple other room types on board, with private bath and shower...train snobs.  We slept like rocks, as the "rhythm of the rails" and the smooth ride of a double decker Superliner gently rocked us past Sleepyville, Idaho and into Montana on this first moonlit leg of our journey east.

Sunrise over Whitefish Lake, MT woke me up a little after 7am.  I did the morning shower and shave routine down the hallway, and everything was clean and easy to use.  I thought about folding up Anne's bed into the cabin ceiling while she tried to catch a few extra winks, thinking zany Three Stooges-like antics would start off a fun morning on the Empire Builder, but then I regained consciousness. At about 8:30am we headed several cars forward to the dining car for breakfast. As eggs and pancakes were served (all included for sleeping car passengers) we rolled along Glacier National Park.  Spectacular views from all sides.  It was like having breakfast in a Disney inspired winter wonderland scene, except it was all real.  If the trip ended here, it would have been a treat, but we were just beginning our trek to Chi-town, but it was a magnificent American morning.

We settled into the observation deck car and watched the National Park go by, crossed the continental divide and watched the Rockies rather suddenly fade into rolling hills and then into the great plains of central Montana passing through towns like Cut Bank and Shelby.  You can’t beat train travel, and so far the Amtrak staff's positive service has complimented the fascinating images streaming outside our windows.  Anne, the travel agent, roamed the coach cars, public areas and toured various empty cabins to compare amenities for inquiring prospective clients.  I meanwhile am here at a table in the observation lounge typing away at this travel log.  There are outlets everywhere for devices, but thus far out here on the prairie, cell coverage is very spotty, which makes this even a better situation.

At some stops, you can hop off and wander around, catch some fresh western air, or watch some smokers do the opposite. We had salads at lunch to break up the Pepsi and pretzel diet. Going with the Flat Iron Steak for dinner. Very stress free, no need to dress up or park the car for the dinner date. Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer. The sun will set as we roll into the North Dakota oil fields, and pull into the economic roller coaster town of Williston.  We should be waking up near the Twin Cities tomorrow.  Until then, we're " passing towns that have no name." Can't help myself with all the Arlo Guthrie references.  Good night from roomette number six, somewhere in North Dakota.