OK upfront I must admit to not being that creative. A young lady with whom we shared lunch one day said that our Amtrak adventure sounded like a tour of "stations across the nation" and I liked it enough to use it here.
For me, my Amtrak adventure began in Milwaukee heading west to Whitefish, Montana. My sister Pam and her son Michael were taking a nine day loop route starting and ending in Washington, DC on a 15 day/eight segment USA Rail Pass ($429/person). I decided to go to Whitefish for a few days and then hook-up with them there for their east bound return through Milwaukee.
My itinerary of stations went through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana . . . 30 stations in all, each way. Per the Amtrak guide, we covered some 1,541 miles across some of our country's most beautiful landscape. Admittedly, some areas were pretty flat and brown since it was the end of winter but I still enjoyed every minute of watching out the Empire Builder's windows.
With sunrise and sunset roughly 12 hours apart (7:50am sunrise and 7:40pm sunset), there was a substantial amount of the trip that I did not expect to get to see due to scheduling. As it turned out, our nearly four hour delay on the east bound trip allowed for viewing of much of western Minnesota that would have otherwise been lost to darkness in both directions. I thoroughly enjoyed the foggy sunrise somewhere around Staples, MN. Too bad we were moving too quickly to get a decent photo.
I was especially happy for the hour delay out of Whitefish as well, as that provided a better viewing and photography opportunity coming through Glacier National Park. They say everything happens for a reason, and with what I think may be the inevitable delay while riding the train, you may as well make the best of it!
From my notes of the trip, it would appear that I did not get to see the following areas due to the overlap of darkness west bound vs. east bound . . . Detroit Lakes, MN; Fargo, ND; Grand Forks, ND; and Devil's Lake, ND. I was a bit disappointed for Pam & Michael that they didn't get to see the oil production operations in western North Dakota as our delay caused us to arrive in that area well after dark. That said, it was sorta neat to see the gas burn-off in the night skies as we passed through.
As for my segment of Milwaukee to Whitefish, I departed on schedule at approximately 4:00pm. My hubby had dropped me off at the Milwaukee Station an hour prior to departure, which allowed me adequate time to take care of my ticketing details and to take a few photos.
When the train arrived, the boarding process was very efficient. I was directed to my sleeper car where I was greeted by a lovely woman named Annie. She would be the attendant responsible for assisting me and the other passengers in that sleeper car. Once I got settled in upstairs in my #9 roomette, she was back by to explain the operation of the various comfort features as well as to give me my assigned dinner reservation for that evening. (The next evening, I had my choice of times but since I was arriving late on the train, I had to take what was available . . . which was fine too.)
Chugging out of the Milwaukee station, we went by Miller Park where the Milwaukee Brewers play, as well as the Miller Coors Brewing Company in "Miller Valley" (still within the Milwaukee city limits). It was neat to ride through the small communities that I often drive through . . . Wauwatosa, Peewaukee, Oconomowoc, Ixonia.
I suppose the rest of Wisconsin that evening was a blur as I had an early dinner reservation, being seated right about as we arrived to the Wisconsin Dells. By the time dinner was over, it was getting dark and I was ready to settle into my sleeper with a good movie on the laptop.
Because meals are served with folks seated in groups of four, I was added as a single at all meals. Often it was me plus one other single travel along with a couple. Sometimes the couple was a man and his wife, once it was a man with his son, while another time a woman and her daughter. It was very interesting to get to meet and chat with so many other people traveling for the first time on Amtrak. Consensus was that it was a good time, and that folks were impressed at just how good the food and comfort were on the train.
CONTINUED in Stations Across The Nation - part 2