A Ride On The Empire Builder

Feeling the crunch of time we made a decision to use Amtrak’s Empire Builder to speed us west to the lush coast of the Puget Sound. Leaving from Whitefish we boarded our first long haul train, it was an enjoyable one despite a delay and equipment issues. We arrive in Everett ready to continue our adventure on two wheels.

Opting to ride out of the picturesque Glacier National Park through the West Glacier entrance we passed the Amtrak Station that brings so many travelers into the park. Tossing around the idea of a train ride we stop a the station and speak with the attendant. No such luck. West Glacier has no baggage handler therefore we would not be able to bring the bikes… Oh well.

Highway Evangelists

Needing more groceries we rode to Columbia Falls, restocked the pantry and ate lunch. Still mulling over the idea of transit by rail we started calculating the distance left in our trip. Recently we agreed to work at the Christmas Tree Farm again this year and need to be home by October. Trying to calculate multistop bike routes on bicycle using a smartphone is nearly impossible, thus begins the search for WiFi.

Our love for coffee shops is seemingly endless as long as the serve us fresh coffee, baked goods, and internet. Montana Coffee Trader offered just that. Armed with Google maps, Excel, and a calendar we quickly came to the conclusion that we were running out of time. If we wanted to see the West Coast and California’s parks skipping some milage was a requirement.

Whitefish was the closest station with a baggage handler and Everett, Washington was the end goal. We would skip 550+ miles of Washington’s Eastern Desert, fruit farms and the Cascade Range. A short ride following the advice of fellow cyclists landed us in Whitefish. We purchased tickets and two extremely large bike boxes, repacked our bags and handed it all over to the cheerful attendant.

Whitefish, MT

A few hours later the train arrived and the mass of humanity boarded. Boarding the train was a painless process absent of any TSA style security probing, carry on baggage size inspections, etc. We found two adjacent super wide seats with ample legroom and began our journey.

All Aboard!!

Underway we took the advice of a veteran traveler and snuck off on at a time to the sleeper car for a shower. Clean and relaxed we spread out to our own benches occupying four seats in total and falling asleep for the night ride.

Light pouring through the cracks in the curtains morning had arrived and by the level of tension on the train we could tell something was awry. A bit of sitting and slow crawling the train made no progress for an hour. Eventually we were moving and the conductor broke the radio silence to advise us that an engine had malfunctioned in the middle of the night and they were able to secure and attach a freight engine from BNSF. Although moving once again we would be traveling a bit slower due to the slower top speed of freight engines versus passenger.

Not worried about arrival time our gaze fell out the window to the expanse of desert, irrigated fruit farms, and eventually the cascade range as it came into view. Our ride was educational thanks to a knowledgeable Trails & Rails Volunteer who took his time to point out various facts along our way.

Scenic by Train

Arrival at Everett, Washington was a swift and efficient affair; hand over baggage claim and off we went. Bikes transformed from boxed object to our efficient traveling companions in little time thanks to Amtrak’s excessively large boxes. Bags were repacked and in relatively no time we were pedalling north.

Well rested and back on schedule thanks to Amtrak.

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