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This image is from the beginning of our trip to the Canadian Rockies last fall. We took Amtrak from St. Louis to Chicago and caught the Empire Builder to Shelby, Montana. There we rented a car and drove north for about 2½ weeks and then rode the train back again. I had never done this before, but it was not unlike living aboard a Navy ship for a couple days - we had to travel light, too, because we could only take what we could carry.

When you get a sleeper cabin on the Amtrak, meals are included in the price. This is a shot of the dining car. I had Flat Iron Steak and my wife Linda had Salmon. I popped for a couple Sam Adams. Beer and wine is not covered, unfortunately! Space is limited in the dining car, so we got to share our meals with a bunch of other people from all over the country, traveling Amtrak for all sorts of reasons. That was one of the best parts of the trip to Montana and on the way back.

I highly recommend this method of travel. It was very relaxing and convenient. You don't have to get a sleeper, but it's nice to be able to stretch out in a bunk. I woke up in the middle of the night and walked the length of the train - there were folks sacked out all over the place, on the floor, in the club car, you name it. Some of the passenger cars smelled kind of funny, too, so I was glad for my wife that we had that sleeper. If you started in the passenger car I'm sure you didn't notice that, though.

The food was pretty decent and they had little wine and cheese tastings for the folks that had sleepers. We also had our own steward for our car - he reminded me of the train stewards in the old movies - he was a handsome black man with a friendly, but no nonsense demeanor. He went out of his way to make sure we were comfortable. Well, except he didn't have any coffee ready at 5am when I got up, so I went to the club car and paid for some. I have a hard time sleeping in a moving vehicle that is not a ship, and I think I may have been one of three people awake on the whole train, so I can't fault him for that.

This train was full to capacity and we had a hard time getting a reservation with a sleeper cabin even a month and a half ahead of time, so if you are considering a trip like this, be sure to plan way ahead. We finally got a travel agent who hooked us up with our entire itinerary - if we hadn't we would have had a real hard time getting reservations anywhere for this vacation!

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Additional Photos by Reed Radcliffe (rlrad) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 250 W: 18 N: 393] (1845)
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