For our Spring Break last year we took the Amtrak train from Omaha, Nebraska to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Our goals for this trip were to enjoy the scenery and to be as economical as possible. We needed our spirit of adventure and the willingness to tolerate some inconveniences since we chose not to pay the extra price for a sleeping berth.
At the train depot college kids, parents with children of all ages, as well as older adults crowded the waiting room. We stepped over ski equipment and around luggage to find a seat. Guess we weren’t the only ones with this idea.
Our train left late in the evening and traveled all night. My husband is able to sleep sitting upright. I’m not. Early in the morning he went to the observation car. I took advantage of the extra space. My two-hour nap refreshed me immensely. After our 6:00 a.m. breakfast in the dining car we found a place in the observation car to view the mountain scenery. The conductors reminded everyone to share seating because this was the most popular part of the trip.
Upon our arrival at Glenwood Springs we noted the lovely older Hotel Denver directly across the street from the train station. Also, Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge was within easy walking distance north of the train station across the pedestrian bridge. However, we weren’t looking for easy. We were looking for cheap. Errr, I mean economical. We waited for a ride to our basic motel.
After checking our accommodations we stowed our luggage and walked around the area. Attractions included: Glenwood Hot Springs Pool (you can swim even if you don’t stay at the hotel, check with them for current prices), a small museum, shopping, and a giant swing at Exclamation Point. See that yellow thing flying over the cliff? No. I did not swing. I’m not THAT adventurous.
Before we boarded the train for our return trip we walked to the Polanka Polish restaurant on the north side of the bridge. The food was freshly prepared right before our eyes. We ran across the bridge to the depot with our potato pierogis and sandwiches. As we took our seats in the full observation car, several people sniffed the aroma appreciatively. One person said, “You didn’t get those on the train.” Others murmured and nodded.
We only made one mistake. We should have gotten the largest order possible of those potato pierogis. They were worth every calorie we burned to get them.
• How vital is sleep for you?
If sleep eludes you in an upright position and/or if sleep is important for your mental health or that of your traveling companions, by all means upgrade your ticket to a private berth. You’ll arrive better equipped to enjoy your visit.
• Relax and allow the clackety-clack, swaying, and squealing metal on metal to lull you to sleep.
• Take your own pillow with two pillowcases. Some seats are quite dirty.
• If you’re a writer, don’t tell anyone.
You’ll meet a wide variety of interesting characters on the train—great research for character development. Don’t make my mistake, though. I met a few Vietnam veterans on the train ride back east. They were headed to the VA in Denver. One told me interesting details about his life and time in Vietnam, but clammed up the minute I pulled out my notebook. Rats! Almost had an exclusive.
• Be prepared to share your table for meals in the dining car.
It’s another way to meet new people. However, not everyone wants to talk. Some simply wish to wolf their meal in silence and leave as quickly as they came. Be sensitive to the social cues of those who share your table.
• Check out the Polanka Polish restaurant. ‘Nuff said.
• Take snacks and fruit with you.
The train’s snack bar has a limited selection (especially of fruit) and it is less expensive than the dining car, but not as cheap or as healthy as we needed it to be. We did like their microwaved pizza, though. Or at least I did.
• Be alert and discerning about the people on the train just as you would in any public place.
We met many wonderful people, but not everyone was trustworthy.
• Always pack your sense of humor. It’ll lighten most burdens.
Travel Light Humor
Earlier I mentioned the interesting characters on the train. One middle-aged man claimed to be an ornithologist/biology teacher taking his annual spring break on the train. He entertained nearby passengers with bird calls: duck, turkey, etc. He also accurately mimicked the sounds of a cat fight and a model T Ford.
Birdman acted as tour guide to three college-age girls, telling about the wildlife outside the observation windows. He convinced them that beavers’ tails made the straight-line trails in the snow. While beavers may have made one meandering path, it would have been unusual for two beavers to travel side by side equally distant for miles.
Do you think beavers know how to cross-country ski?
Until next time…Travel Light,
©2016 SuZan Klassen
8 thoughts on “Economical Spring Break”
I desire to visit Colorado, but want a way for Geoff and I to enjoy the scenery along the way. Why did I not consider train travel?! Now I need to do some research and discover the possibilities for our own economical spring break get away 🙂
I think Amtrak has two trips through the mountains, but I think the other one goes to Flagstaff–might not be as economical. Not sure, but I know how you LOVE research. Have fun!
What an awesome Spring Break idea! I’m adding it to my list.
It was an enjoyable adventure. We met a few families on the train. They only spent one day and night in Glenwood Springs, then turned around and took the train back just like we did. A Mom of teenagers even gave me one of their apples. Oh did that taste good. Be sure to take some favorite snacks if you go. It helps with the budget vacation.
I take Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from Portland to Oxnard, California several times a year–coach, as you did, with a stash of my own food. It took me a while to discover that Tylenol PM was just the thing for sleeping in coach. I enjoyed your article, SuZan. Those of us who enjoy traveling on the cheap are awesome. Happy travels!
Thank you Laura. Nice to hear from another economically minded traveler. I’ll have to check into the Portland to California train.
I love traveling by train and want to someday go to Santa Fe by rail. But I will definitely need quality sleep.
Ahhh sleep. I was able to handle it very well on the way to Colorado, but it was impossible to sleep on the return trip. Maybe I’ll get some writing fodder out of that part of the experience, too.