For our great migration north this summer, the kids and I took the Amtrak AutoTrain from Florida to Virginia. ‘Cause that’s how we roll.
I have to say, it was…idyllic.
We had a nearly-three hour trip to the station in Sanford, but the morning drive with excited, happy kids just flew by. They laughed, chatted, colored, read books, and generally made me beam. We had time for a McDonald’s lunch—the ultimate reward—and then enjoyed hanging out together while we waited to board.
Our family cabin could not have been better—a “sofa” for me and a pull-down table with two seats, just right for little ones. And when the train started…well, I have video, but they seriously spent ten minutes at the window saying, “This is so cool.” “Yeah.” Over and over.
It didn’t hurt that the track next to ours was in the middle of being replaced, so we got a close-up view of a railroad construction site, complete with holes, mounds of dirt, workers, construction vehicles and “dumpster” train cars full of debris. Heaven on earth!
Every sight brought gasps—every railroad crossing and every bridge, but also the truly extraordinary, like a smoldering forest fire next to the track, or the astonishing sunrise that S. and I caught the next morning.
Just walking around the train brought its own adventures—the automatic doors between cars made S. nervous—she didn’t want them to close on her. But Little A. LOVED looking through the crack at the track moving by below. So he would rush into the space between cars, then brake hard, his eyes glued on the floor, while S., backed up behind him, started to whimper until I stepped in, holding the door open. But they loved cruising from car to car.
|Mind the gap--the space between cars. Can you see the track two stories below?|
Dinner and breakfast in the dining car delighted everyone--the novelty of the moving view, the chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese, plus the fun of trying to pour water, milk, juice, and coffee on a moving train. And they slept soundly in their upper bunks guarded only by cargo nets, all night long.
In the end, our three-hour drive from the station in Virginia to my hometown miraculously took far less than three hours, we avoided the Bay Bridge closing for the 178-foot freighter cargo passing underneath, and we got in one last travel lunch at McDonald’s. Time to vacation!
Needless to say, the kids could not wait to share this experience with Dad on the way home. The minute he arrived Sunday, they started telling him all the cool things they wanted to show him when we got on the train Tuesday.
Well…Monday we got the call. Our train was cancelled due to all the freakishly severe storms in the mid-Atlantic. They could rebook us in five days or so.
Yipes. That wouldn’t work for our schedules, so we made a pretty quick decision to drive all seventeen hours (1,044 miles in the end). Then we had to tell the kids.
In the next installment, I am proud of how we roll…