On the Rails

By Beacon Staff

It started sometime in early January, between the wintry days of grey and blah and, well, more days of grey and blah. I had the travel itch. By early March I was starting to feel desperate and googling for cheap plane tickets to remote locations. And just a few weeks ago, it struck full on when within a day of each other my boyfriend and brother suggested a weekend train trip to Seattle. Normally my type-A personality doesn’t do spontaneous; this time, I was all in.

My boyfriend and I left from Whitefish late Thursday evening aboard an Amtrak train bound for Seattle. It was my first go at travel by train, and I didn’t hold any romanticized images of pleasant country jaunts by passenger train. My impressions of Amtrak were dictated by the perennial news of their money woes and a few disaster stories I read online in the days leading up to the trip. I was somewhat convinced our weekend getaway stood a good chance of becoming a moderately expensive disaster.

But, after the 13-hour outward-bound trip – almost all of it at night – I was becoming a convert. The coach seats were a comparable size to what you’d find in first-class on a plane, and the extra legroom was much appreciated by someone of my height. There were no derailments or three-hour delays and the views during daylight were spectacular.

Of course there were still the usual travel menaces. The man who intimately acquaints his unsuspecting seatmate – and anyone within 30 feet – with each of his four children by name, career and stock preference. The love struck teen mumbling on his cell phone for hours, “No, you hang up first.” A younger duo holding a lengthy discussion of their various degrees of substance abuse over a few beers. But all in all, I’d recommend the train – just maybe not as much as reporter Ed Kemmick of the Billings Gazette who recently hit the rails, or this guy, who’s ridden 1,064,209.8 miles by passenger train.

Once in Seattle, my younger brother, a sophomore at Seattle University, acted as our tour guide for a three-day trip filled with adventures in food, bus transfers, local monuments and one of my favorite pastimes: people watching. A small snippet of observations/lessons from my weekend in the big city:

Bubble tea, a tea-flavored smoothie with balls of gooey tapioca floating in it, is all the rage. Something tells me they won’t be opening a Kalispell branch anytime soon.

There was either a Hello Kitty convention in Seattle this past weekend, or Halloween-esque cat ears and tails have become a popular fashion statement for teen girls. I’m still not sure which, but ardently hoping for the former.

Another fashion trend: Men in really, really tight pants. Perhaps even worse than the baggy, down-to-the-knees, boxer-baring style.

After last night’s mostly-sleepless 14-hour train ride, my eyes are baggy and drooping and I still feel as though I’m in perpetual motion, swaying side to side in my office chair. But my itch to get out and see and do something totally different has been quelled. At least for now.