This happened to be my longest train ride. Since I love being on the road, I took the 46-hour long train ride from Chicago to Seattle, via Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. The highlight of the trip was passing through the picturesque Glacier National Park in Montana, and seeing the last rays of the sun fall on the snowy mountains.
The Empire Builder is Amtrak's busiest long-distance route, carrying more than 500,000 passengers every year (Wiki). There is no wi-fi in the train, so I had plenty of reading materials, writing materials, and music with me. There were power outlets though.
It was an amazing experience. It cost me roughly the same as a plane would ($140). But this was much better than taking the plane. Imagine getting seats as wide as you do in business class. And that too with broad footrests that you see in the LaZBoy recliners. And then, imagine not having anyone sit by you, so that you have two seats all to yourself. And an amazing view to look at, unlike just the clouds. And a lot of time to gaze out. 46 hours precisely, that would have taken you 3 hours on a plane. And everything, at the same price for a plane ride.
The restrooms were clean and decent. With my height, I could nicely get in a fetal position and lie diagonally using the two seats. I sleep really well with the undulating motions of a train, and I dozed off by 9 pm on both the nights. The food is quite pricey though, and I got my own food and water. It was a long journey, but it helped that I was not in a hurry.
It gave me a great chance to sample a portion of the country's landscape. Back in India, most of us thought that the US looks like Vegas, NYC, or SF, thanks to the movies. As I started traveling, I realized that this is not true. There are places like Nebraska and Wyoming that are very much the face of the US. My journey was quite flat in the first 30 hours. But then, as we entered the Glacier National Park, the pretty snow capped mountains started to appear. I even saw a really gorgeous sunset by the mountains. By the time I crossed Wenatchee and Leavenworth the next morning, it got even more pretty. There is a lounge car, where you can get amazing views (Just Google "Amtrak Lounge Car"). I managed to get some pictures too, but they were shaky.
Overall, I would highly recommend the Amtrak experience. All I did was sit back and think during most of my trip. I did not even read or write as much.
By the time the Amtrak entered the Puget Sound, I realized that I was staring out and grinning. Back in childhood, when we would return home from out month-long summer vacation, that is exactly how I would feel. Even before the train chugged in to the station, I would start identifying all the landmarks. This time too, I identified the Edmonds-Kingston ferry, the Golden Garden beach, and the Pier 70. I knew I was coming home. Seattle is home.
My fellow passenger was on an even longer ride, traveling on a train all the way from West Virginia. That's at least 16 hours extra, compared to my 46-hour long ride.
"It's beautiful, isn't it? It's my home", she said.
"Mine too", I replied.