Monday, December 31, 2012

a little catch-up

I am a little bit lacking in blog updates lately, and this morning seems finally like the time to do something about it.  I woke early and the house is quiet.  Bob is in Whitefish, MT, this morning, soon boarding the train to head back to St. Paul.  So it is appropriate that I am now showing some of the pictures from our trip to Whitefish about 4 weeks ago!

We decided to try something new for us, and we booked our travel on Amtrak.  This also accomplishes something from my bucket list!  We have traveled by train in Europe, but never here at home.  So when I realized that the Amtrak route runs right from St. Paul to Whitefish (and points beyond), I investigated.  The price was about comparable to airfare.  On the way westward we booked regular coach seats, which as you can see, are a lot more comfortable than an airplane coach seat.  They do recline a lot, allowing for sleep on our 20+ hour trip.  On the way back home we switched to a "roomette", which was a 2 person sleeper room.  That turned out to be way more comfortable.

The train was not full, so we had some liberty with taking up space in adjacent seats if we wanted.  Also made good use of the observation car and dining car.  It was a fun experience.

After reaching Whitefish and reuniting with Dan, we hauled our baggage to our timeshare condo for the week.  One thing about train travel is that you have a lot more leeway with luggage, meaning you don't have to pay for any of it and you can basically take whatever you can haul along.  Which is dangerous when packing because I tend to pack way too much when there is no limit!

Although most of Glacier Park is closed at this time of year, we were able to drive to Lake McDonald for some sightseeing.  It was a beautiful day and only about 6 other people to be found!

The lake below is Flathead Lake, which lies south of Whitefish.  We drove along it on our excursion to Missoula.  I would love to return there in the spring, because along the east side of the lake there are cherry and apple orchards, which would be so beautiful.

I loved the town of Whitefish, it has succeeded in preserving and maintaining a small town feeling while still being a major destination for visitors.  They have a thriving main street, complete with quaint Christmas decorations. 

At the far end of this street, not really visible in this picture, is the train depot.  And the backdrop of Big Mountain with the ski resort is perfect.  I think part of the key to the success of the town is the fact that almost all of the businesses are local, specialty, non-chainstore enterprises.  All of the "big box stores" can be found 12 miles south in Kalispell, so still convenient but not right in your backyard.  Dan's apartment is located just 2 blocks from main street, so very handy to walk to shops, restaurants, taverns, brewery, coffee shop, bakery, etc.  I was impressed by the fact that there were no empty storefronts on either side of the 3-block-long main street.

One really big plus factor in the use of the train system rather than the highway system was very evident on our return home.  It had started snowing in Whitefish the night before we were to leave, and continued snowing all night, all day as we progressed east across Montana, part of North Dakota, and was even snowing when we pulled into St. Paul.  Driving those roads would have been less than ideal, and we probably would have had to change our plans and dates.  But sitting in the comfort of the train and watching the snowy scene pass by the windows was a pleasure!

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