Finding Love on an Amtrak Train: Part 2

Last updated on: Nov 16, 2018

(Last Updated On: November 16, 2018)

Here’s the next chapter of Finding Love on an Amtrak Train: Part 1, the story of how I found the love of my life while riding on an Amtrak train…..

So, I finally knew the girl’s name, Brenda.

In the smoking car and with some folks in the dining car, we began to learn about each other.

She was from Wisconsin, a town near Milwaukee.

I didn’t tell her this at the time, but I’m still really glad that she was afraid to fly. If she had successfully taken that flight, we never would have met.

In any case, to backtrack a bit, the Empire Builder leaves Seattle a bit before 5 pm. That means that just as you hit the Rocky Mountains it’s turning to night time. The train rides along the Columbia River on its way through the Cascades, so the trip is mostly flat, but then when you hit the Rockies, the sun is going away and the land falls away from the train.

This sounds like a metaphor, but on much of the ride, it’s really true. If you’re on the correct side of the train, you can look out the window and see massive drops into mist-shrouded valleys. The train rides on small ledges cut into the mountains.

Brenda’s fear of flying might come from her fear of heights. She was terrified to look out the window and not see trees, but a deep, all-consuming blackness. Frankly, and I’m not skittish about planes or most heights, I can’t blame her.

The night brought card games and snacks in the snack bar. She and I were in each other’s orbits, but that’s about it.

In the morning, you wake up on the top of Heaven.

You’re now at an elevation over 4,000 feet and entering Glacier National Park. Sadly, the glaciers are mostly gone, but the view of the mountains and the location are breathtaking. The air is clean and crisp. The primary way, as I understand it, to get to the East Glacier Park Lodge is via the train.

(Oh, an important note: You can get off the train and stay overnight or a week, and get on the next day’s train. Double check that the policy hasn’t changed, but that’s what it was when we rode the train.)

In case you’ve never seen real mountains – mountains where the snow doesn’t melt all year – mountains that have never had a vehicle at the top – you aren’t really ready for the Rocky Mountains. Even if you’re not religious, you’ll feel closer to God in place so high and isolated that, until 100 or so years ago, only mountain goats and eagles saw the view.

We began the slow descent on the east side of the Rockies. Brenda and I began to spend the morning together, laughing and having a great time.

Montana is a strange place for anyone who has never been there. Firstly, it’s a state that’s larger than the entire nation of Japan. There are only 1 million people there.  In my life, having grown up in Union County, New Jersey, we fit half the population of Montana in a single county.  I lived in LA where millions of people were stacked on each other.  Here – read this from Wikipedia – “The District of Columbia has a density of 9,518.7 people per square mile.  With only 6.5 people per square mile, Montana ranks 48th nationally in population density.”

Ok, so you get it. It’s a lot of open space. We spent a lot of time in the lounge car, in the smoking car, and wandering around.

At about 1 pm, Brenda turned to me, and asked if I wanted to get off the train and get a shot.

“What are you talking about?”

“Do you want to jump off the train and go get a shot?”

In Havre, Montana, you can jump off the train and run over to PJ’s Lounge, Restaurant, and Casino.

We got off the train and ran over.  The bartender who probably dealt with a hundred fools a week doing this, mosied, and I mean mosied, over to us to ask what we wanted.  We were excited and scared.

“What do we do if we miss the train?”

She said, “We’ll find some place to crash and get on the train tomorrow.”  Her tone was so casual I knew that I was in love right there.  “Find some place to crash!” Awesome!

We got a couple of shots of tequila, knocked them back, and made it back to the train in time to have a smoke in the sunshine.

To see what happens next, check out the final post, Finding Love on an Amtrak Train: Part 3.

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Bob Peryea
Bob is freelance writer based in Wisconsin. He spent decades in the hospitality business and has traveled extensively in the US. He lives with his wife and two cats in a quiet town in the land of Cheeseheads.

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