The Romance of Amtrak is REAL

Riding through New England on the “Vermonter” felt magical and lovely. It was the first time Danny and I had been on Amtrak together.
The American scenes – the farms, small towns, and churches – and the gentle sway of the train felt so comforting and rejuvenating.
There wasn’t a google map to fiddle with. No wrong turns. No gas stations stops.
Instead, just being, sitting, enjoying. Reading, staring, cuddling (!).

We bought a Mexican picnic to take on board.

Danny downloaded a movie for us to watch.

We watched the snow flurries from our window.

We took delight in writing and thinking creatively to the sway of the train.

We had our laptops and wifi and our four-seater lounge. We loved to face each other. Sometimes it’s nice to just stare.

And I didn’t mind it one bit when Danny would say, “Meet me half way for a kiss.” 🙂 🙂  I don’t know how I got so lucky to be the recipient of the most loving guy ever. (Even when I have crazy bed head, no make-up, and little sleep due to our return from Scandinavia the night before. 🙂

When we can get some U.S. events scheduled, it’s our dream to take the train as we won’t actually even have a car (we are in the process of selling both of our cars right now. If anyone is interested, let us know.) And, Amtrak has THE COOLEST new writer residency program. They are offering writers the chance to ride the train for FREE as a writer in residence. They’re accepting applications now. (We found out about this from Snapdragon Inn as they are attracting some writers to their Inn, too. Yay for writer residencies. I just love the idea.)

Do you have any favorite train routes? And what are some of your dream U.S. destinations?

Me: Maine, Nantucket, San Francisco (never been!), Jackson Hole, Zions National Park, Lake Powell, Yosemite, Canyon de Chelly, Bisbee, Havasupai.

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  1. Sharlee March 11, 2014 at 11:34 am - Reply

    My biggest dream destination in the U.S. is honestly Vermont. I'd love to go in the Fall. I've been to Jackson Hole and San Fransisco, but I'd love to visit there ( and many parts of CA) with my husband.I'd also like to take him to Portland and the Oregon Coast. North Carolina, the Smokey Mountains, Savannah, Georgia, and Montgomery Alabama. ( My husband is from the South, I've created a list a mile long of things to see every time we venture " home." Nantucket, Zion's, and Lake Powell are also on my list.

  2. Anonymous March 11, 2014 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    I am quite a bit older than you, but have enjoyed your posts over the years….I came upon your site by Cup of Jo, Little Green Notebook and Design Mom.

    Congratulations on making this decision in your life and getting to that point.

    This particular post reminded me of all the train rides we took in Eastern Europe when we lived there and also Mongolia on vacation. Our family also took the train from California to Kansas City and back on a summer trip. Most of our friends in the USA thought this was a lower form of travel and I think privately snickering about it. It was amazing travel…..we went right through national forest and had a Forest Ranger on board explaining the various sights to adults and kids. We met people from all over the USA. Train travel is amazing!

    Best thoughts and wishes for you on all your travel and adventures.

    Thanks for the time in writing your posts. Even though, my life situation etc are different than yours, I come to your sight and always get good solid content.

    Thanks –


  3. Lisa March 11, 2014 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    My grandfather was the biggest train enthusiast alive. As kids, he took us to train shows (I'll never walk on a train track after seeing those warning movies!) and train museums. I know all the train routes they sing about in old songs ("City of New Orleans" "Sunset Limited"), we knew the real story of Casey Jones, and my grandmother said in their 55+ yrs of marriage they never once took a vacation without being on a train as some point. (Brilliant man that he is, he was even once able to combine his favorites with her favorites and they went on a train trip to see polar bears!) He had a picture of "East Meets West" hanging in his living room and the highlight of our family vacation one year, for him, was stopping at Promontory Point, UT to see THE spot where they drove the golden spike for himself… but the original golden spike is actually in CA, go figure.

    One year, he came to visit us in NH and realized we were right across the river from White River Junction. (So named b/c it is on the White River and was a major train junction. See, I know these kinds of things. Ask me about Helper, UT.) There is an Amtrak station there. We all went down to watch the 7pm train come in from NY. When we moved from NH, he offered to come up and help us drive our cars. I'm sure he to be helpful, but I KNOW he was partly motivated by the opportunity to take the train into VT during the fall, something he'd often told me he wanted to do. He took his trip and he loved it.

    Another favorite of his was the Auto Train. We took that a few times when I was a kid, including once when the train was delayed 12 hrs overnight. Memorable. They used to have great cheesecake. When my friend was getting married in DC, I asked my grandfather if he'd drive up with me, He said he'd think about it. The next day he called me and said he'd booked us on the Auto Train. I nearly missed the train b/c of a communication goof and when I showed up, they pulled me on, shut the door, and departed. The cabin stewardess said, "Your poor grandfather is a wreck!" I found him in the lounge eating peanuts.

    Thanks for this trip, Mara. It makes me happy that Amtrack is still loved.

  4. Lynnette Harkness March 11, 2014 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    My hubs and I would love to visit Hawaii, Seattle, and New York City. I've never been anywhere in the New England area, and I hear it's so beautiful! But my *real* US dream vacation is taking a road trip and visiting every single state. One day when we're rich, right? We'll see.


  5. zben March 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    I love trains so so much. The California Zephyr runs from San Francisco to Chicago and is a dream. It has larger seats and an observation car that's all glass. The train picks up the Colorado river near Green River UT and stays with it all the way to it's headwaters in the rocky mountains. Just at sunset you crest the Rockies and head down into Denver. I took it when I was 20 years old and heading to NY to leave for a year of living in Italy. It was magical.

  6. lauren March 11, 2014 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    i am so glad that you had a wonderful experience with amtrack! i use them frequently to go from new haven, ct to grand central and i always enjoy my time on the train. i am wishing for more time to travel! right now, my dream U.S. destination is KY (to visit a good friend) and the area surrounding the grand canyon. 🙂

  7. Dana March 11, 2014 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    If you come to San Francisco, I hope you will venture slightly north to wine country, and I hope you will let me host an event for you here! Or, we can just have a lovely dinner together. 🙂 I'm serious.

  8. Katie Elizabeth Hawkes March 12, 2014 at 1:37 am - Reply

    Shut up right now about that writing residency! I MUST INVESTIGATE

    • Katie Elizabeth Hawkes March 12, 2014 at 2:41 am - Reply

      Oh snap. Totally got excited and applied right away, THEN checked out #amtrakresidency on Twitter to see what people are saying. Now I'm all worried about them having rights to the writing I submitted for my application, based on everything I saw on Twitter (with links to multiple blog posts about it). Do you have any insight into this? Words of knowledge that can allay my new paranoia? Haha. But f'reals. I'd be happy to hear if you know anything contrary to the controversy!

  9. Anna Kuehl March 12, 2014 at 2:07 am - Reply

    Totally agree—the train is so romantic! We frequently take the train up and down the east coast (Northeast Regional) for weekend trips. It's the most relaxing way to get to New York. Some day, I hope to fit in some of the longer cross country and west coast routes. Definitely looking into that Amtrak residency 🙂

  10. Andi N March 12, 2014 at 3:43 am - Reply

    I just found your page… Love your blog… looking forward to following your blog as I am just getting mine up and started at:

  11. CeeBee March 12, 2014 at 5:02 am - Reply

    My husband and I took the train from Rome to Turino at the beginning of our honeymoon to Italy (and a few other places throughout the trip). It certainly wasn't a stand out day compared to other things we did, but it was definitely lovely and special. An entire day to relax, read a book, make jokes together or sleep and oh yeah, enjoy the lovely Italian countryside from the comfort of an empty train. Pure bliss.

  12. KAM March 12, 2014 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    a favorite train ride was from Sacramento to Glenwood Springs Colorado…sleeper car…wrote, read, stitched…on the way to and from a week long writing retreat with five friends…brought a wonderful supply of fresh produce from an organic farm near where I lived on the Trinity River… a great time away from managing a great rural library….want to take the train from Spokane across the country to Vermont…one day will do that…love the train

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