I wanted to take my daughters on a great adventure type vacation. Somewhere educational but totally unforgettable too. Stephanie and her husband Rick were out in Helena, MT and Nancy had already been twice and said she thought the girls would have a ball out there. And what better way for them to see everything from here to there than to travel by land. I considered renting an RV, but decided against it. I’m just not a great long distance driver , but I am a goodpassenger. Three days by train was an exciting option. The Amtrak website is very helpful and easy to navigate. One call to their 800 number and our trip was booked.
Monday afternoon: After much confusion at the Fredericksburg train station as to what side of the tracks was the correct side, we boarded the first of three Amtrak Trains that would ultimately get us to Shelby, MT. This was the girls first time on a train, including mom, and we were all so very excited.
We arrived at Union Station in Washington, DC where Nancy & Robaire met us for a quick lunch and to help us board the next train. With tummies full of triple chocolate cake, we boarded our Chicago bound train.
We boarded without incdent and waved our very happy good byes toNancy & Robaire. Families wth children and persons over 60 get to board first. There is lots of direction from the Amtrack folks so entering & exeting is smooth. The one thing I found difficult was actually physically boarding the train with the girls and all our carryons. The stairs to the upper level is extremely narrow and tight. Mom had to carry everything!
Soon we were setteled and on our way out of te station. Later that night I found out that the trains get very cold. The girls had warm pj’s and blankets but mom forgot her sweater (the only thing I forgot). Some lessons are best learned the hard way.
Activity books sent to the girls by Stephanie were extremely helpful in keeping us all entertained. Board or card games were a great ways to pass the time. There were certainly moments when I didn’t think the girls were going to make it, but then I would pull out a new activity or markers or we would make up a game to play and that would keep us busy for a couple of hours. The trains are very comfortable and have generously sized seats with plenty of leg and storage room, a huge plus when traveling with children. The views are great from just your seat, but the viewing cars have large windows and seats facing them so you can look out and see th towns go by all day.
There are a few options for dining on the train as well. The dining cart for complete hot meals, a café lounge for snacks and heat up food (hotdogs, sandwiches and such), or you can bring your own food and eat either at your seat or in the observation cars.
The café lounge is ok but it gets expensive ($2.25 for a bag of Skittles candy for the girls). I would definitely recommend bringing your own snacks and fruit.
Tuesday: We spent about 5 hours in Chicago’s Union Station. I bought a sweatshirt in anticipation of our last cold night on the next train. We freshened up in the cleanest restrooms I’ve ever seen, ate lunch in the food court, colored in picture books, watched people hurrying along to catch their trains, and took pictures.
After what seemed like a lifetime, we boarded our next train which would have us in Shelby, MT by the following evening.
Wednesday: North Dakota is such a huge state! It seemed that we would never cross into Montana. The girls weren’t asking “are we there yet?” they were asking “are we still in North Dakota?” They really seemed to enjoy just looking out the window at all the space out there. It was all so new to them but I think they really understood just how far from home we really were.
We arrived in Shelby and not a moment too soon. The girls were really starting to get restless. North Dakota is a huge state and we seemed to be crossing it forever. Its such a comfort to see a familiar face when arriving to such an unfamiliar place. Our wonderful Stephanie was already there waiting to sweep our luggage and 3 very tired little girls into her car.
The first leg of our journey was complete. We were in Montana with Stephanie. Everyone survived the tree day train ride and spirits were high. We were filled with anticipation for the fun that lay ahead, but first we all needed cowgirl hats!!