by Keith Boles
The post-Christmas time at our house is celebrated with my sons birthday. This year he wanted to celebrate his 13th in Washington DC, so bright and early, (not bright, still dark) on the morning of the 26th, we departed Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, on the Texas Eagle.
As always the scenery to St. Louis is varied due to the season. In the dawn we saw flocks of wild turkeys in the fields, deer running through the frost-covered pastures and wisps of smoke through chimneys along the tracks.
A quick pause in St. Louis then passing on through under the arch to Chicago. Lots of photo ops. Due to track repairs, we were late getting in to Chicago but that was okay as we had been there many times and we were pleasantly surprised at the First Class lounge our sleeper tickets let us in to.
On the Capitol Limited, an excellent supper then a snooze for the evening hours. French Toast for breakfast and then a new experience for me was taking a shower on a moving train, be prepared to hold onto the hand rail and bumping the valve for a sudden surprising burst of cold water — very invigorating
On both northbound and eastbound trains, the car attendants were great, terrific service and helpful, One thing I have learned is that if you are two to a Roomette, only bring one carry-on into the room, not a whole lot of space for extra bags.
A word about scenery: even in the winter the view out was great, passing through the Adirondacks and Cumberland and Harpers Ferry was beautiful even in winter. I can only speculate what it must be like in spring and fall. Take your camera.
A week in DC goes by fast and in no time it was back to Union Station to drop off the bags in the Acela Lounge and spend some time last minute shopping in the station. Also across the street is the Postal Museum, excellent. Once on board the Capitol Limited, we managed to upgrade to a deluxe sleeper. Yes, this is the way to go home, more space, power plugs for laptops and video players. April our car attendant was great. The shower was great even though it gave my son a great opportunity to keep turning the lights off and on while I was in there, tough to shower in a moving box in the dark.
On board the Eagle southbound, I keep wondering who says nobody rides the train as ours was full up. I have never seen the trains so crowded, (isn't it great). The Dining Car was able to serve us all with excellent meals and service. The day we returned was actually my son's 13th birthday and I had candles and purchased a jumbo chocolate-covered donut in DC at the station and the Dining Car staff and fellow passengers sang Happy Birthday and then we divided up the donut so everyone got a taste.
Amtrak, we love you. Our whole family are dedicated train riders and we always recommend the rails to anyone. If you have a chance go to DC by train, I promise you'll love it.