Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Treating the Grandkids to an Amtrak Adventure.

Mealtime in an Amtrak dining car is almost always a surprise. With family-style seating, you never know who’ll be sharing your table; and in the course of many long-distance train trips I’ve drawn everything from a Japanese doctor specializing in organ transplants to a 300-pound biker in a tank top.

A couple of years ago, I was having breakfast in the Crescent’s diner, en route to Washington, D.C., from New Orleans. I had just ordered breakfast when the steward appeared and seated three youngsters at my table: a brother and sister, plus a cousin – all between 9 and 13 years old.

It took a few minutes, but we finally got a conversation going. All three were from Calhoun, Georgia, and they had boarded the train the night before in Atlanta. They were being treated to an overnight train ride to Washington by their grandmother and were going to visit relatives and tour the Black History Museum. And they were pumped!

That struck a chord: my grandparents had treated me to my first overnight train ride. It was unimaginably exciting and was clearly the start of my love affair with train travel. What kid wouldn't love eating in the dining car and snuggling down into a real bed at night while cities and towns and fields and mountains pass by just outside!

And so, sitting there across from those wonderful kids from Georgia, I resolved to take both of my granddaughters on overnight train rides. The older of the two, Olivia, is nine and lives with her parents in San Diego. She got her ride last April.

Along with her mom, my eldest daughter, we rode Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from Los Angeles overnight to Seattle. The trip was a big hit with both girls.

My other granddaughter, Lehua, who lives here on Maui, is not yet 5. But her trip is now tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2013.

She can’t wait.

You know what? Neither can I!

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