Especially when you do it by train. I simply had far too much stuff to go by air, my truck wasn’t going to last but another hundred or so miles, and the train seemed like a reasonable alternative.
Which it was, by the way. I’m not knocking Amtrak, but there were a few things I wish I had known before setting out on my journey.
The first thing you need to know is that while drinking water is available on the train, it is room-temperature, and is not available in all cars. In my case, getting water meant walking back to the car behind mine. And unfortunately, since I didn’t think to bring a drinking utensil, I had to settle for one of the 2-ounce paper cups the railroad provides.
My one-way fare was under $300; that was for a coach-class seat and it included my luggage. I could have opted for a sleeper berth, but that would have added about $1,000 to my ticket. Of course, it did include all meals, but for that price, I could have flown first class to Seattle and shipped my bags.
Which Brings Us To Meals
The first rule of eating on the train is this: There are no cheap meals on Amtrak. I splurged on dinner Tuesday evening: a steak, baked potato, and vegetable, with a semi-stale dinner roll, accompanied by a bottle of beer and followed by a small dish of ice cream set me back $30. And it was a small steak. That was in the dining/lounge car.
I saw someone who had bought a chicken dinner in the café car: A roll, a small dessert, one leg and one breast set him back $12.50.
The lesson I learned: Bring your own food and beverages. a 12-ounce can of Coke cost $2.25…and it wasn’t even cold. Even a cup of mediocre coffee cost $2.00.
NOTE: you cannot consume your own alcoholic beverages on the train. They MUST be purchased in either the café or the dining car.
I practically lived on trail mix for the rest of the trip.
Still, a girl could do worse, I suppose.
Don’t make the mistake of traveling by train if you want to “see the country.” Unless your goal is to see the underbelly of cities and endless reaches of flat, empty farmland, there really isn’t anything to see. Oh, sure—there were the sunflower fields in North Dakota, but even they pale after a while. And who knew there were so many oil wells in that state?
It was too dark to take decent pictures in Glacier National Park, and all through the Cascades, we traveled through narrow cuts that were made just to fit the train. Besides, the windows were either too dirty or too reflective to get any decent shots.
I did, however, see lots of cattle and horses. Also a few deer and antelope, but I couldn’t tell if they were playing or not,
The Bottom Line
Yes, I’d do it again. But I’d be better prepared. And now that I know there is a one-hour layover in Minot, North Dakota, I will definitely walk to a grocery store and replenish my supplies of food and water. It would have been nice of them to tell us we had that much time. In fact, if it weren’t that it was 8 in the morning, I could have sent out for a pizza!