Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘travel’

Taking Tweens On A Train Through America

This is off topic from my usual posts; however, it is information I am excited to share.  Before this trip, I searched the internet and asked friends about experiences they had taking tweens (children between ages 10-12) on a long train ride.  It has always been a desire of mine to take my daughters through the mountain offering views they could never experience riding in a car or taking a flight high above the clouds.  But, before I committed to a forty hour train ride, I was hoping to gather thoughts and stories from people who had taken this journey before us.  The information I gathered was sparse, so I decided to devote a blog post on lessons learned and adventures gained from our Amtrak summer trip.

                We packed a few games:

Games We Took On The Train

                These could be played in our seats or the lounge car.  The lounge car had tall windows which allowed great views of passing scenery.  It also had tables wide enough for people to sit and play games.

Game time in lounge car on Amtrak

Game time in lounge car on Amtrak

Lounge Car Windows

High windows in the lounge car offered a great view

The lower level of the lounge car has drinks and microwave type food ready to be purchased.  It is also important to note you can bring your own food.  We brought muffins for breakfast and went to this lounge car to eat.

Lounge car items available for purchase

Lounge car items available for purchase

                I was a bit intimidated getting onto the train.  I was carrying a heavy suitcase.  The staircase we had to go up was narrow and had a tight corner.  It was challenging for me to get up these stairs with my game bag and suitcase.  Yet, once we made our climb it was nice and open.  The seats are wide.  They recline and offer a footrest.  Bags are kept above the seat like on an airplanes.  I was glad we took small pillows and blankets to add comfort during the night.  My children were delighted to see outlets in each row to keep electronic devices charged.  Only a few stations we pulled into offered internet.

The general seating area on the top level of the Southwest Chief Amtrak train

The general seating area on the second level of the Southwest Chief Amtrak train

                General boarding seats are not assigned until you get onto the train.  Once you sit down, they come around and put a slip above your chair with the code of the station where you will depart.  This allows the crew to know who should get off when.  The station names are called until the evening.  At this time, no announcements are made until the next morning which allows you to sleep.  If you have a stop during the night, someone comes around to wake you and let you know it’s time to leave.

                There were not many stops long enough to get out and walk around.  Albuquerque, NM was our favorite stop where we stepped out for fresh air.  They had a market which carried things like necklaces, earrings, blankets and dream catchers.  On our way home, we picked up a few souvenirs from here.  Not having many long stops was not a problem because of the freedom to walk throughout the train.

                On the way back, we reserved a sleeping car.  The cost was so high we could only afford it one way.  I hope you are able to try this.  It was great.  The only drawback was it seemed much louder on these cars, yet the privacy was nice.  These rooms are considered “all-inclusive”.  There is a shower room in the lower part of the car with soap and towels available.  A crew member greeted us before we boarded the train and helped carry our luggage up the stairs and turned down our beds in the evening.  Meals in the dining car are also included with these rooms.  Reservations are made a day in advance.

Reservation card for meals in the dining car

Reservation card for meals in the dining car

                I am a foodie and let me tell you: The food is really good!  I was expecting decent at best, heated trays.  Breakfast and lunch meals ranged from $7-$13.  Kids’ meals were also available.  Supper was anywhere from $16-$26.  Again, these meals are included in the price of a room.

The dining car is set up like a real restaurant

The dining car is set up like a real restaurant

My favorite meal was the Mahi-Mahi dinner

My favorite meal was the Mahi-Mahi dinner

My girls picked the steak dinner. Their dad should be proud.

My girls picked the steak dinner. Their dad should be proud.

The triple chocolate mousse won out though over the cheesecake

The triple chocolate mousse won out as our favorite over the cheesecake

We saw many beautiful sights through mountains and plains while traveling halfway across America.

View of a house from the train's window.

View of a distant house from the train’s window.

It was fun to watch our train following us on tight turns

It was fun to watch our train following us on tight curves

It was hard to pick out a sunset or sunrise picture.  They were all breathtaking

It was hard to pick out one sunset or sunrise picture. They were all breathtaking

           It is my opinion that when you hear the conductor call out “All Aboard”, gather your family and jump on-board for experiences you would otherwise never be able to gain and a journey you’ll never forget.

Take a train trip and let me know about your adventures

Take a train trip and let me know about your adventure

“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.”
Francis Bacon, Sr. quotes (English Lawyer and Philosopher. 1561-1626)

Weekly Serving of Optimism: Quotes & Thoughts (Travel)

“Not all those who wander are lost.”   J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


Sail boat and cruise ship Cruising On


“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”  Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky


 “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”  Henry Miller

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” Pat Conroy


Traveling by train


“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” Judith Thurman

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” Benjamin Disraeli

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”  Moslih Eddin Saadi


“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

Thank you MorgueFile for the picture of an open road.  Make the road your own.

Thank you MorgueFile for the picture of an open road. Make the road your own.

Flying with Loneliness and Face Blindness

I find it comfortable to be in the presence of strangers.  I enjoy the opportunity to meet new people. I thrive on the opportunity to learn about different places and different cultures.  I rarely find myself lonely when in company of people whom I am not familiar with.  Generally, it is easy for me to start a conversation with nearly anyone.  Rarely do I feel lonely.  The airport though is one place I most often feel the loneliest.

Even at the airport I feel the ease of conversing with people.  I am captured by stories of where an individual may be going or what adventures await them at their destination.  The first part of the trip is always easy, relaxing.  These are strangers all around me.  It is the layover and the second plane that usually causes stress to develop.  Take for instance a recent experience that I had flying from the west coast to Minneapolis.  After that, I boarded a small plane to take me to my final destination in a smaller community.

During the first flight, the lady on my left was rather chatty and very kind.  She said that she would be on the next flight I was taking along with her sister.  The man to my right was a business man dressed nicely and cautiously quiet.  I enjoyed sharing conversation and quietness with these two individuals for the four-hour ride.  Upon departing the plane, I knew I would see them both again soon.  The man was expecting to board a plane only a few gates from mine.  Due to a thunderstorm, all flights were delayed.  I looked forward to finishing a conversation I was having with each of these individuals.

That anticipation to finish our friendly chat ended abruptly when I found an empty seat at the gate.  I was lost in the sea of new faces.  All of these individuals looked familiar, but no one looked like a person I had spent extended time talking to only moments before.  In my haste of the flying rituals, I had not taken time to observe what the lady was wearing.  There were several women sitting around in groups of two or more, so I could not effectively determine who might be sisters.  The man was wearing khaki pants and a blue button-up shirt but so were a few other men.  My traveling companions were now lost; I was once again surrounded by complete strangers.

However, being surrounded by complete strangers is different when you know you are familiar with people in the room.  Due to conversations minutes before, you know they expect you to remember them.  With prosopagnosia, seeking out faces of people I have just spent hours talking to becomes extremely difficult.  Once we have stepped apart from each other, I cannot recognize these individuals.  Nor can I meet a fellow passenger and say, “When we step off the plane say hello again because I suffer face blindness.”  No, this would not be understood in a general conversation.  Yet, it is still intimidating sitting near someone and beginning a conversation without knowing if you have just talked to that individual for hours.

“Where are you heading to?”  This question can be answered with a look of concern and dread if it is the same lady that just spent two hours telling you about the anniversary celebration she has been so eagerly anticipating for this trip.  “How are you?” This is a difficult question in case this was the man who just explained to you how he suffered a mild case of food poisoning when he was at his last meeting in Tokyo.

Yes, traveling is a fun activity I wish I could experience more regularly.  However, with prosopagnosia the flight alone can create difficulties and loneliness.  For, as I realize my enjoyment of turning strangers into friends, I realize it also can make me feel more lost and alone than ever.  Maybe I will be lucky enough to meet you on the plane.  Maybe you will be kind enough to share your stories with me.  Please, if we are lucky enough to sit together, please do not be offended if I ask you where you are headed twice in one trip.

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