Amtrak Adventures

Jake and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on June 23rd and decided to take a quick 4-day trip for the occasion. For our own reasons that are completely ridiculous we ended up settling on a train trip from our home in Red Wing, Minnesota to Portland, Oregon and back with only 4 hours off the train in Portland.

We rode in coach on the way out and had a roomette for the ride home so we got to see two different sides of the Amtrak experience. Here’s my take on the experience…

  • All of the Amtrak staff were very friendly and accommodating. Each sleeper car has its own attendant so the service there is highly personalized but even the busier coach attendants are great.
  • The coach seats were very comfy – about twice the width of an airplane seat – with plenty of legroom even for this 5’8″ girl with big feet. They recline about 45° so it’s a bit like sleeping in a recliner. Not ideal overnight for a side or stomach sleeper like me but nice during the day.
  • The beds in the sleeper cabins are… ok. They’re flat and come with sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. That’s pretty much the list of selling features. The seats in the compartment face each other so you trade legroom for privacy.
  • The train rocks back and forth pretty often. It’s mostly a side-to-side jostling (stops and starts are pretty gradual.) It was enough that I didn’t feel like reading and trying to color was frustrating. I only felt motion-sick once but those who are particularly sensitive might have a tough time, especially moving between cars or up and down the stairs to use the bathroom.
  • The food is pretty good on the train and is only *slightly* over priced. Meals and non-alchoholic beverages are complimentary for first class passengers, which was very nice. The menu IS limited though so after a couple days, we’d exhausted most of their options. Likewise, the snack bar options ran a bit thin between restocking stops.
  • The bathrooms are about the same size as an airplane bathroom and the few showers are located only in sleeper cars. The stops along the way aren’t usually long enough to go in and use a real bathroom and the longer ride means that the bathrooms get a lot of use. The rocking train seems to pose a challenge for some riders so the floors tend to be sticky and urine scented. The low-flow toilets are also not so conducive for clearing out a #2… Despite the best efforts of the Amtrak staff… well… wear washable shoes and bring your essential oils.
  • The amount of time spent on the train was about what we’d have spent driving and we got to see the countryside like a road trip. Unlike a road trip, we could both nap and relax which was nice. Also unlike a road trip, though, we couldn’t stop where and when we wanted which is my favorite part.

All in all, I enjoyed the train but nearly 4 days on it was too much for me. I think an overnight trip or a shorter day trip would be ideal but I won’t be signing up for another long trip any time soon.

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