|After riding Amtrak's Empire Builder to Minneapolis to help son Troy move, I
thought it would be fun to take a longer trip—in a sleeping
car—and talked with Pam about it.
She agreed, and we started thinking about where to go.
We have longtime friends in San Diego and Pam's maid of honor is in Idaho so those were opening thoughts. Nephew Tim is in Portland, and we wanted to see him, too.
Decided to head to Southern California and then to Oregon and Idaho.
Pam suggested spending a few days in Yosemite while traveling north through California.
That turned out to be a great idea.
It was a looping trip that would take us about 5,500 miles through 12 states and a national park.
Planning started in November 2013 and we settled on a Wednesday, April 30, 2014, departure and Monday, May 12, arrival back.
These dates agreed with the schedules of the people we would visit.
Checking with Amtrak, I learned about a service called Amtrak Vacations, which I initially thought was part of the government rail system but learned is an independent travel agency.
Kerrie LePagel, marketing manager for the company, replied in an e-mail: "We are Amtrak’s national vacation provider which is to say that we are their official tour operator and we work in partnership with them to promote their long distance train travel. There are other companies out there that also provide Amtrak vacation packages but Amtrak Vacations has the national partnership agreement directly with Amtrak."
AV's Joanne, a friendly and competent east coaster, took care of the connections from our start on the Hiawatha in Milwaukee to our return on the Empire Builder; she also booked our bus trip to and from Yosemite and our accommodations in the Lodge at the Falls.
I reserved a room at the Ace Hotel in Portland and another at The Davenport in Spokane for one night each, otherwise we slept and showered on trains or at our friends' homes in San Diego and Idaho.
Overall, everything went well.
Naturally there were a few bumps and the unexpected and slightly unpleasant along the way.
Nothing terrible, though, except the on-board marijuana bust.
This story has two sides: personal and public. Mostly I'll write about the public.
First stop was Milwaukee's Intermodal Station.