With storms looming in the area, I was glad not to be boarding a plane. Leaving on a train I had no worries about weather, nor did I care much about schedule. We had plenty of time to reach our destination and the flexibility to move about and relax as we traveled. But there are far more reasons to love Amtrak. For starters, they are cyclist-friendly. For a mere $10 each, we could check our bikes on the train and feel confident that they would be handled with care. Even having to box them up is fairly easy (ok, so Rich does all that for us), and rumor has it that Amtrak is adding roll-on baggage cars for bikes on their long haul routes soon.
For this trip we have an overnight journey from St. Louis to Dallas. We did learn from our last train ride that attempting to sleep sitting up is a foolish endeavor. So we booked a little sleeper this time. It's highly compact with two seats facing each other, but ingeniously designed to convert to a bed with a drop down bunk above – already made up with sheets and blankets. We can close the door and curtain and easily retreat to our own personal space.
What I didn't expect was the first class treatment that comes with the sleeper. We had a private waiting lounge to use before boarding, and were assisted to our compartment by a gracious conductor who continued to see to our needs throughout our travels. The dining car was just next door on our upper level, and all meals came included in our package. Even though we'd already had a delicious dinner before departing, we couldn't resist the opportunity to relax over a glass of wine and bite of salad as we departed St. Louis.
From the comfortable lounge car we were able to see barges traveling along the Mississippi River, their push boats lit up over the water.
I'd be lying if I said we got a great night's sleep. Rich heard the ubiquitous train whistle and above him I felt the jerky swaying of the train, but neither of us minded the unique nighttime interruptions. Just getting sleep and avoiding a stiff neck was a vast improvement over last time.
Venturing down the rail car I found full blown movie-style sleeping compartments. I even overheard a woman talking about their shower leaking out onto the floor. A shower? Really? I was happy enough to brush my teeth and clean up in the cramped communal bathroom. Our accomodations were luxurious enough for me.
Breakfast in the dining car was family style. The overhead announcement informed us we would be seated with strangers and leave with friends. We were game – meeting other folks traveling is always intriguing.
The morning's scenery changed to Texas countryside. Green pastures, leafy trees and beautiful purple blossoming trees passed by. The backside of small towns and the occasional glimpse down Main Street provided interest. Space, lots of it, everywhere. Two boys riding their bikes. That will be us soon.
We are already pouring over the Amtrak map, pondering our next train ride. No doubt it will involve bicycles at one end. We are rapidly becoming Amtrak cycling fans.