All Aboard

East side of the Rockies   Click on this link for train info. Open by copying and pasting into your browser.

Today is our rendezvous with a train.  We are scheduled for a 4:45 p.m. departure.  It is now 6: 00 p.m. and there is no train.

Where is that darn train?  Well, let me step on my own story to back up and remind, you, dear reader, what the plan was.  We were leaving Portland on train 28. NN, The Empire Builder, to travel to St. Paul, MN.  Additionally, we booked first class at the insistence of the Rayman who said something to the effect of, “I will not take a train if I can’t have my own loo.”   To say he wasn’t thrilled was an understatement.  But Rayman is a fabulous person who knew he owed me a train trip.  This has been an ongoing convo for years…my begging and pleading to take Amtrak.  

Rayman on the other hand doesn’t like Amtrak because it isn’t a train you can count on.  This story is a case in point.  Which is unfortunate for me as the person that booked this trip!!  So, where is that train?

Everything is so complicated.  Our plan was to take Uber.  I couldn’t get the Uber app to work.  Tamara, our daughter-in-law, luckily had come by for a glass of wine yesterday so she got the Uber booked for me.  Well.  Uber got cancelled for the 4:45 train.  Then another alert from Amtrak came in.  The all aboard time was now 9 p.m.  Then the all aboard time became 10 p.m.  So we got to thinking, why don’t we just drive down to the PDX train depot and see if we can change our departure station to Vancouver, WA so the kids could take us to the train from their house, as they live in Vancouver. 

On the way to the station to do just that, Ryan called us.  He discovered the problem.  The train had mechanical issues and that is why it was late.  With that info percolating we decided to go talk to a person in person at the train depot.  That decision was made because yesterday when I had some software problems with the Amtrak website, I sat on hold waiting for a person from Amtrak to help me for like 100 hours.  The website, “just ask our digital assistant” didn’t even work.  

Perhaps I should send Secretary Pete Buttigieg this epistle.  Just sayin.  

Arriving at the train depot, I jumped out and sauntered in to the station and met with a man named Alex.  He said such classical things like, “Well, yes.  Train travel is unpredictable”.  When I asked what the problem was, he told me, “Well, the train from Chicago broke down.  A train to tow the train was dispatched.  It is currently in Pasco and it will arrive.  Then we will change the engine and off it will go”.    And,  when I asked him if the whole trip could be canceled, he said, “Excuse me while I take this call”.  Then he said to the person at the other end of the phone, “Well, do you want to come in on track 3 or do you want another track?”  This made me wonder if he ran everything at the the train station.  Holly mackerel.  

When he completed his call, he said, , “Now, what was your question?”  I said, “I don’t remember!”  Really, people.  I was now worried about who was in charge of things.  

Then I piped up and asked, “Will the train be canceled?”  He assured me he wouldn’t because “he would know”.  OMG.  Alex is to trains as Hal is to the space station.  

Returning home, we drove over the Steel bridge.  It is a draw bridge over the Willamette.  That caused me to remark that maybe we should traveled by boat up the Columbia.  

It is now 1:15 a.m. We are sitting in the Metropolitan Lounge at the train depot.  To state the obvious, the train is still indisposed and Amtrak is holding us hostage.  We spent $36 for a Lyft ride and the guy picked us up at 11:40 p.m. so we could get here on time.  We could have walked here with no problem of missing this train.

My new friend, Alex, was still here at the depot.  And he was still unsure about everything. Then we met some other new friends in the lounge.  Their story was thus.  They live in Portland but they booked the train to leave from Vancouver, so their daughter took them to Vancouver.  Well, the Vancouver station closed at 9:30 p.m. so they took the train coming from Seattle back to Portland.  And here they sit.

Just now Alex said all the sleepers could board.  We are sleepers.  We rose like a phoenix from the  grey couch and headed for the door.  When we got outside, Alex informed us there was a miscommunication and the train was, in fact, not ready after all.  At this point the passengers started to get a bit rowdy until it was explained that a person had died on the train east of here.  Then the train engine died west of Spokane.  Then a rumor started that a wheel needed to be replaced along with the engine.  Eye rolls were observed.  But the death news did have a calming effect because really, how mad can you get when there is a death on a train.  

Rayman mused aloud that we had booked the death train.  Then we retreated to the lounge again and sat right back down on the grey sofa to continue the wait in comfort.  

Another few minutes dragged by another employee came in and gave us our marching orders…to the train we went.  This time it was the real deal.  We embarked on the sleeper car, the last car on the train, and the last room on the car.  Here is a pic of us this a.m.


The room we have would have made a very good broom closet.  Our “room” gives new meaning to this space.  But before complaining, we are extremely fortunate to have a window that looks out at the world and other interesting things.  I snapped a picture of a coal train that I affectionally named The John Coltrane.  Much of the trip this morning runs along a river.  The Kooccccc river and there is no other way to see this part of the country except by river.  The view from the train has been extremely interesting.

If only you could have seen us at 3 a.m. this morning, trying to move into the closet.  Exhausted and annoyed, we threw stuff where it would fit… a 6-inch wide closet, a chair in the corner, and hit the hay.  My hitting the hay involved climbing up to the suspended bed without killing myself.  And there I lie looking at the ceiling which was about a foot from my nose.  A suspended futon is a good descriptor of the contraption.  And while I lie there being tossed around by the train, I held onto the thick cord that was attached in two places for the purpose of keeping me in my place.  One roll in the wrong direction and I might have been the next person to die on this train.


Rayman was in complete shock about the size of the room, the tardiness of the train, that without even saying it, I think I know this may be our last overnight train trip in the U.S.  

Barring him throwing me, MaMa, from the train, we are due to arrive in St. Paul, MN tomorrow evening.  


Man enjoying his own broom closet!!

Update, update, read all about it.

Things slowly but surely improved.  Our attitude adjustment was critical.  Expectations were modified.  Some examples.  The second night, we slept head to toe on the lower bed that serves as a couch during the day.  A employee comes by and converts it to a bed, a single bed.  This had the added benefit of not having constant air blaring at me from the ceiling vent which was located right by my ear.  Think of it as me trading in the air-in-the-ear situation for a Rayman’s feet in my armpit.  


The top and the bottom beds.

The observation car was a good car.  Chairs in various configurations tightly bolted to the floor, sat in from of the windows on both sides of the car.  Nice.  Spent lots of time there.  The dining car was well appointed sans crystal and silver or glass.  Throwaway was the name of the game.  At least they didn’t use styrofoam.  And eating was family style so we met Harold and Maude.  Just kidding Harold and Margaret, he a professor from Connecticut, and she of the – I don’t know who lives in Spokane.  Tom and Claire, he a retired surgeon from St. Paul, and she from St. Paul who intimated to be a doc but never stated it.  Lovely couple returning from Glacier National Park.  We traded info about our favorite websites for news, places to drink in St. Paul, etc.  

There is also a 90 year old two woman that travels by the train almost constantly.  She stopped by to tell me this a.m. that this is the worst service she had ever experienced.  She was traveling alone and could walk this tilting, lurching train better that me.  I almost fell into others’ laps as I weaved down the aisle.  She was sure-footed.  Oh, and she and another woman went and lodged their complaints with the person in charge of the entire train.  That shocked me.  Someone was in charge!!

We have about 5 hours left before we arrive in St. Paul.  Because we are being picked up by firends, I sent out a warning that we were going to need showers.  Yes, our cabin has a shower/toilet room but it was just too hard to stand and shower.  Rayman decided to try and as he was trying to get in the door of the shower, the train lurched which caused the door to slam shut and in doing so knocking Rayman on his keister. Luckily he fell on the bed.  So we scratched that plan and opted for a spits bath.  Or is it spitz bath.  Whatever it was, it had to suffice.  I’ll just say this is the first time that we have worn the same clothes for three days running.  My linen over blouse and my long skirt with no zipper or buttons was the perfect choice although I did get my skirt caught in my undies and after strolling the train, someone told me about this situation.  “Oh, quite the look!” I said as I pulled my skirt down.  Then I thanked her.  I just hope I’m not featured on TikTok without my knowing it.  It could be going viral as we speak.  

Leave Comment