ABOARD AMTRAK'S EMPIRE BUILDER -- Spokane is six to seven hours away at this writing, not a minute too soon.
I've enjoyed my AMTRAK adventure to Chicago and back, but I'm eager to return to my apartment, my familiar routines and a special woman. Oh, the stories I have to share.
Because I can't sleep upright in a coach chair, I opted for a more accommodating roomette so that I could sleep en route. Air or train fares are always more expensive during the winter holiday season, but the train ride cost more than double what I would have paid in airfare. But I was eager for a new adventure and I have plenty of time to travel in retirement.
The AMTRAK crew earns kudos for excellent service and attention to passenger needs. However, I'd recommend more variety on the dining car menu. A guy on a restricted diet can only eat so many veggie burgers, am I right?
As a few of us exited the train at Havre MT, for a brief walk in the freezing but fresh air, I told the attendant, Kevin, that I was not going to get back on until I heard the conductor actually yell "all aboard!" Kevin said the conductors only shout "board" these days, or failing that, the train whistle blows twice. Well, when it was time to board, the conductor did indeed yell, "all aboard!" I grinned at Kevin and he said the conductor "is relatively new. He's not been around as long as me." Get with the lingo, Kevin.