Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ms. Adventure's Wild Ride

Oh how I love summer vacation!  We just returned from being on the road--or rather, on the rails.  This year we thought we would try a different type of journey.  We decided to step back in time and use trains as our main mode of transport.  Unfortunately, we live in a portion of the country that no longer provides passenger train travel.  No worries, I had a plan and yes it involved a car!

We drove to Milwaukee to start our rail adventure.  Milwaukee is approximately a six hour drive from our home.  We chose to leave from Milwaukee over Chicago for two reasons 1) traffic driving into Chicago can often be a bear and 2) parking in Milwaukee is easy and much more affordable. 

We boarded our commuter train and set off for Union Station in Chicago.  The first thing my kids noticed was how spacious the seats were.  The second was the power outlet which they were super excited about so that they could charge their iPods.  Yep, there we go traveling vintage.
My kids were stunned by the fact that were no seat belts and they could get up when they wanted.  Overall the trip to Chicago was uneventful except for the fact that we got stuck behind a Metra train and ended up 40 minutes late into Chicago.  We had to run to catch our train "The City of New Orleans".  I'm sure it looked just like a scene out of a movie!  

We had planned our journey in two legs.  Our first destination was Memphis, TN.  The ride from Milwaukee to Memphis lasted approximately 13 hours, we boarded at 5:45p and arrived 6:45a.  We reserved two roomettes to make our travels more comfortable.  The roomette is designed to sleep two.  During the day the roomette is set up as two seats facing one another with a fold out table between the two.  By night, the two chairs folds down into a bed and an upper bunk folds down from the ceiling.
Roomette Chair (The bunk can be seen in the upper left)
Hall of Sleeper Car

We had dinner in the dining car about an hour after we boarded the train in Chicago.  It was 10 o'clock at night in our home time zone which was quite late to be eating but since meals were included with our ticket price we gave it a go.  The food was large in quantity with the overall quality being pretty good.  I was somewhat shocked to see the prices on the menu.  Entrees hovered around $25.    I had the herbed chicken.


We retired to our little cabin directly after dinner.  After all, we were due to arrive in Memphis at 6:45am.  And off we went to sleep or at least we tried.  We were in a car toward the front of the train and wow, do they sound the whistle--all night!  I must say however, that on our return trip we were at the rear of the train and the horn was not an issue. 

My favorite car on the train had to be the lounge car.  It was wide open with large windows, chairs, side tables and booths.  We spent a lot of time in this car on our subsequent trips.  We played Uno, built jigsaw puzzles and ate some really great food that we brought along from great restaurants.

Lounge Car
It was such a pleasure to be able to have fun with our kids for the entire trip!  No worrying about getting lost.  No dealing with the hassle of an airport.  Yes, it took longer and ended up costing about as much as plane travel.  But the trip itself was part of the vacation not just a nuisance that had to be dealt with before starting our vacation.

Would I do it again?  You bet your billy goat I would! 

Look for the next post featuring the first of our destinations, Memphis.

Check out Amtrak to plan your rail adventure! 

'til we meet again,
Ms. Adventure