Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Travelling Across The Country Via Amtrak

So you want to take a road trip across the country, but you have a bad habit of falling asleep at the wheel and/or have a crippling fear of being abducted (adultnapped) at a expressway rest stop? I know how it goes, amigos. Well, you don't have to kiss your dreams of traveling across the country and seeing all the sights goodbye. I know of a highly underrated mode of transportation that will allow you to see some of the United States' most beautiful landscapes, while drinking wine and making fun of people with mullets. Yeah, we really CAN have it all!!! It's called Amtrak, you might have heard of it. But probably only from someone saying "What's causing all of this traffic? UGH- there's a train up ahead. It says Amtrak. What's that?" It's true- the Amtrak train isn't the most popular mode of transportation, but I'm a BIG fan of it. Really, I've already explained why: landscapes, wine & mullets. GUYS- it doesn't get much better than that. 

Okay, but seriously- Amtrak is rad. It's like experiencing all of the beauty of the US {cornball!} from the comfort of your living room or whatever. You get to sit back and ride, as countryside and random little towns pass by your window. My Mom has always wanted to take the train across the country, and I was so happy to finally be able to experience it with her. My Mom and I took the train from Toledo to Chicago, then Chicago to Los Angeles last week and had an absolute blast. We sprung for a sleeper car on the Chicago to LA leg of the trip, which means we weren't in coach seats- we were in our own separate room. Definitely the smartest decision any human has ever made. Ever. We were in coach seats from Toledo to Chicago- and for those 6 hours, I wanted to die. I ended up falling asleep with my head slightly in the aisle. Let me tell you- BIG MISTAKE. I was abruptly awoken via the hip of one of the Amtrak employees walking through the aisle. Like, it was as if he intentionally hip checked me in the head. Seriously- smoked me SO hard and I jolted awake all like "Omg, where am I? Who just hit me?! Are we there yet? Why does it smell like old cheese?" It was horrible. Coach is not the way to go, if you can help it. But I'm also really into having my own personal space and being able to lay down comfortably to sleep. If you're okay with sleeping in awkward positions and sharing a train car with crying babies (seriously), then go for coach! No sense in unnecessarily spending extra money. Anyway, the Chicago to LA leg was much, much better. We had beds, albeit small beds, and our own little area to hang out and drink wine. Thank you, travel Gods.

If you haven't ever travelled via Amtrak- I've put together a little list of train tips and tricks. It might not be your first thought when it comes to travel, but give it a chance. It makes for some really fun stories, and it's a hell of a lot more interesting than travelling by plane.

1. Girrrrrrl, Get At That Dining Car- One of the major perks of staying in a sleeper car is that you get all of your meals from the dining car for free. So, really, my first tip would be to get a sleeper car. {We got a roomette, which was super tiny, but actually perfect.} But even if you are travelling coach {and there's nothing wrong with that- different strokes for different folks}, I'd recommend hitting up the dining car like a mofo. You kind of expect train food to be like airplane food, right? Gross and kind of like eating cardboard. WRONG. Train food is bangin'! Some of the stuff I ate at the dining car: lasagna, french toast, fancy salad, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese {off the kid's menu} and lots of ice cream. Yep, that's right- lunch and dinner both come with dessert. I mean, it doesn't get any better than that. Also, if there are less than three people in your group, they'll usually seat you at a table with other people. Fear not, you socially awkward freaks- they're usually super nice friendly. They also tend to be a little bit older and chock full of stories. Definitely makes for an interesting dining experience.

2. THEY DO NOT HAVE DIET COKE ON THE TRAIN- This isn't as much of a tip as it is a caution. In case you're an addict like me, you've been warned. It's Diet Pepsi the whole train ride, and that's as good as it gets. Major bummer, I know. But, when you're stuck on a train for a couple days, you'll take what you can get. Next time, I might bring a cooler with a six-pack of my liquid crack, Diet Coke. I realize that's pathetic and I should probably be on My Strange Addiction, but whatever. Just let me do me!!!!

3. Check out the Observation Room- On most Amtrak trains, there's a room called the Observation Room that is basically made of all windows. It's a great place to sit and talk, play a game of cards or even just listen to your iPod while watching the sights go by. I know it sounds so cheesy, but there are so many beautiful things to see in this country. One of the easiest ways to take it all in is via an Amtrak train. It'll just drive you right through some of the country's most gorgeous spots- deserts, farm land, mountains, etc. It's really beautiful. Also, sometimes you'll drive through little podunk towns. My absolute favorite is when people stop and wave at the train. It's partially pathetic and weird, but mainly just adorable. By the end of the trip, I was waving back because, like... 'Merica and stuff!!! 

4. Bring a Rolling Suitcase- Even if someone tells you not to, ahem- Mother, just do it. We brought bags that we carried on our arms because my Mom read online that there isn't room in the sleeper car to store a rolling suitcase. Turns out, those fuckers were dead wrong. Not only did we have room, we would have been WAY better off with rolling suitcases. We had to lug our bags on our shoulders from the train in Chicago, to our layover, then back on our train to LA. It was a debacle. And by the end of it, I wanted to just leave my bags behind. "They're not worth it! Leave them! Leave them!" Oh, and we were legit the only people in the sleeper cars without rolling suitcases. Oh well, lesson learned.

 5. Dress Like You're In Bed- Seriously. Pretty much the whole time, I was in a sweatshirt or a t-shirt and shorts. There ain't nobody to impress on the Amtrak train. Everyone is in loungewear and rockin' some seriously questionable body odor. Felt just like being at home. Which brings me to my last and final tip....

6. Shower!- If you're in a sleeper car, there are showers located on the lower level of your car. I can't tell you what a difference it makes to be able to shower on the train. Even though you're not getting dirty or rolling around in mud or whatever, showering while in Amtrak is pretty much a necessity. Sharing a communal space with so many people for a couple days just made me feel like I needed to douse myself in hand sanitizer. I would have probably gone crazy if it weren't for the showers on the lower level of the train. But be smarter than I was- bring your own soap, shampoo and conditioner. I had to literally wash my hair with free bar soap. It was pathetic. Still- now I know for next time!

Well, there you have it ladies & germs! I'm telling you- travelling via Amtrak makes for a fun little adventure. And I wasn't even paid to say that!!! That's how you know I really mean it! I wouldn't do every single trip on Amtrak, but it's fun every once in a while. Anyone else have any Amtrak travel experience? Love it or hate it?

xo! Carmen


  1. loved this post. never even thought of taking
    Amtrak but now I want to. and you're hilarious as always. who doesn't love a good mullet

  2. this is something i never thought of doing but am certainly intrigued by it now! thanks for sharing :)

    xo Britta

  3. I LOVE THIS. I want to ride a train so bad - only time I did was as a child and I cried. :\
    It looks like so much fun!

  4. Love taking trains! My bro and I took Amtrak from Louisiana to Illinois a few years ago and it was rad. Such a cool way to see the scenery. And I totally know what you mean about those hip-checks...I got one myself from another passenger -- not the best feeling, but the food and the observation deck totally made up for it!

  5. I'm not going to lie---definitely want to try doing an amtrak roadtrip. Now I just need to convince my boyfriend.

  6. Ok, you have no idea how much I love this post! I've always wanted to travel by train, it just seems like such a dreamy, old-fashioned way to see the world (minus the stinky people, haha).
    Love your blog, you have a new follower! :)
    xo Mandy

  7. I love this! I recently took Amtrak from Virginia to Florida. It too had it's highs and lows, but I will definitely travel via train again.


  8. I love this! I now want to take the Amtrak. Also: You are adorable.

  9. YES! I went on a trip with my sister last year and we got the Amtrack from Spokane to Portland, then from Portland to San Francisco. I was totally in love with it! Sitting playing cards in the observation room and watching the sun rise is amazing. Best way to see America!


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