|All aboard in Chicago|
We boarded the Amtrak's Southwest Chief at Chicago's historic Union Station, then spent the next two days traveling 1,699 miles to Flagstaff, Ariz., making brief stops along the way at Fort Madison, Iowa; Kansas City; Dodge City, Kan.; La Junta, Colo.; Raton and Albuquerque, N.M., and Winslow, Ariz. (we didn't have time to get off the train and stand on the corner).
Mary and I had a small, semi-private roomette on one of the sleeper cars. The full sleeper area had a bit more space and included a shower. Some folks opted to travel in the coach cars, which didn't offer any privacy but had comfortable reclining seats where they could sleep.
The guided tour, offered by Vacations by Rail (check the Internet for other tour companies), attracted 47 people including folks from Denmark, India, and Australia as well as Alabama, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois. We were the only Kentuckians.
Although most of us didn't know each other before the tour (there was a family of six people on the trip), many of us bonded and developed friendships over the two weeks. That was one of the highlights of the 4,500-mile journey.
Our friendly, knowledgeable, personable and tireless guide was Kileen Prather, a former school librarian as well as a travel blogger and romance (boomer lit) novelist. She kept us in line, and on time, while adding some side trips that enhanced the entire experience. She's a fun gal with lots of stories, puzzles, and jokes.
We also had someone who handled our luggage and other duties when we were bused to places where we couldn't ride the train. All we knew him by was Clair, a man of few words (often wearing a western hat) from Idaho who always got things done ahead of time.
Over the next few weeks I'll have posts about the various places we visited -- on and off the tracks.