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Day two – in retrospect…landing in Chicago in the morning and having a few hours to “kill” while there we decided to take in the Field Museum. AEB was in need of an adventure off the train to stretch her legs and give her the sense of freedom that the train cannot provide. It’s important to figure out how one can give a short person those moments even in an environment that doesn’t seem to be able to do so. Without tearing up the sleeper, without hanging from the ceiling and without making everyone else on the train completely nuts.
Chicago, Chicago… (our girl’s a Sinatra fan so we had to!)
A few hours to make use of before heading out again on the rails so we went out and about to show Amelia the Field Museum. She got to see Sue, the T-Rex, check out the Elephants, meet the man eating lions (which, by the way, we did not tell her that’s what they were) and were “shrunk down” to bug size to explore under the earth, had a lovely lunch at the bake shop and then back into time to pick up our luggage and grab a red cap and board the Empire Builder to Portland, but with a stop off for us at Glacier National Park.

Our girl has been a really great traveling companion so far, but the late nights at her dad’s are starting to catch up with her now and she’s starting to get impatient about just being some place for awhile. Dealing with the tired tyrant isn’t easy, but understanding where the behavior is coming from helps – a lot!

welcome aboard the empire builder

Now it’s time to hop onto the Empire Builder and head from Chicago to our stop off at East Glacier Park, Montana. We each have stops that we’re wanting to do more than any other, though the entire trip is awesome and awe – some! This bit is my bit because I’m going to get to see a former student. Back in another lifetime ago, so it seems, I taught English and Drama at a school in Tennessee. I had some great students, not so great students, students I would like to have given personality adjustments, etc. But that’s adolescents. That’s the mix of the lot either in public or private education. So, I’m most looking forward to catching up, in person, with a student now living in Whitefish, MT. I know that as a high school teacher I’m more likely to catch up with former students than an elementary school teacher, but it still feels wonderful when a former student “friends” me on facebook – though sometimes I feel like I’m collecting baseball cards when “friend-ing” so many folk. But back to the rails…
We have decided that we’d like some guidance as to what is expected of travelers, sleeper car or otherwise, before heading off. I don’t mind following rules, but I’d like to know what they are before I break them rather than being chastised for breaking one.

For example, the dining car. There is definitely a protocol for entering and being seated. On the Empire Builder there was no explanation for showing up and being seated. We were told when to show up by signing up for dinner, but not what to do once there so we got fussed at for going too far into the car to be seated. There was no sign, no little printout of instructions, just a fussing fellow yelling at us to go back, wait to be seated, etc. Fine. But I don’t like being yelled at like a naughty child when I don’t know what the protcol/rules of engagement are in the first place. The dining car is mostly set up as “community dining”, meaning that if you are a lone traveler you will be placed with folk you don’t know. The tables seat up to 4 people so the crew wants to fill up the seats as they can. I think this is nice since you get to meet interesting folk along the way. There are others that do not and if you’re not prepared to sit next to a complete stranger it can be a shock to the system. We are up for the adventure, but it was clear that a few were rather put out by having to share a table. So, if you go – be prepared to share a table.

The observation car was packed, not a chair or a table to be had. Disappointed six year old, oh well. We were lucky to find a table going from D.C. to Chicago and our room did have a nice large window to look out from, but the observation car is rather lovely with curved windows up on the ceiling and walls of windows. Sigh.
But it was time, after supper, to head back to the sleeper and fall into bed knowing that in the morning we’d be somewhere North Dakota and that much nearer to Glacier National Park, MT. but still a ways to go…