Posted by: Don Bemis | December 15, 2011

Clickety Clack, the Bemi are Back

Our train ride was peaceful. One night in a sleeper to Whitefish, Montana, two nights in a Kalispell hotel, and one night back. We pretty much did nothing but look out the windows, knit, and read. That was the plan. Glacier National Park is always spectacular from the train.

We also ate very well.  Too well.  Meals are included in sleeper tickets.  Three squares a day, with dessert.  Free coffee and juice in the sleeper cars.

The hotel had a small casino, but we aren’t casino people. There is a way to gamble if you ride trains, though. Get cheap tickets, and ask if there are any available upgrades after the train is moving. If they aren’t already booked, you can generally get upgraded for less than full price. We had already gotten a 20% discount on coach fare to Whitefish, thanks to an Amtrak promotion, and we upgraded at full price to roomettes both ways when we made our reservations. Roomettes are cozy, to put it gently. They have two reclining seats across from each other, with room to prop your feet on the other person’s seat. We got a very inexpensive cash upgrade to a deluxe sleeper going west. It would have cost more with a credit card. Deluxe sleepers come with a wider bed, a third chair (uncomfortable, for people you don’t like), and private toilet with shower. One could get spoiled.

Here’s another hint. If you want a smoother ride on a Superliner, get downstairs seating or rooms. The view isn’t quite as spectacular, but they don’t rock as much, and you won’t have half the passengers walking by you on their way to the dining car.

Train toilets have improved since Lois and I started riding trains thirty-some years ago. They used to have signs forbidding their use near railroad stations. Why, you ask? If you looked into a toilet, you would see railroad ties through the hole in the bottom; that’s why.  Yes, they were cold in the winter.

The whole Michigan-Montana trip took 4-1/2 days. If a Coloradan or New Mexican were to take the train to Montana, it would require at least a week, because they would have to go all the way to Chicago or California and change trains. There is no north-south passenger service in between Texas and the West Coast. It’s a shame.

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