Cross-Country on Amtrak

Months ago my sister emailed me with the dare-I-say hair-brained idea to travel cross-country on the train with our kids. (Days on end, sleeping in our seats, energetic kids, enclosed metal capsule.) At first, it was so out there I only half-skimmed the email and only half-thought she was half-serious. The moment I read it was also the very same moment I forgot. Until she brought it up again, and then I knew she was for real. Fast-forward so many months of so much planning and saving and spending and coordinating. And here. we. are. On board Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner from Santa Barbara to Union Station in L.A., then transferring this evening to the Southwest Chief, which will take us on to Chicago before we transfer again for the home stretch to New York. We've made arrangements to get off for two different 24-hour periods along the way (one in New Mexico, one in Illinois) and I guess that's all I'll say at the moment besides inviting you to join us, virtually anyway. To get a bunch of laughs if nothing else. Picture me and Corey six hours from now bleary-eyed and upright with neck pillows, fleece blankets, eye masks and handfuls of sleeping pills. P.S. Isaac just mentioned there's only 95 more hours to go >>>

July 16, 2017 || Waited in 90-degree sun in downtown Los Angeles for our transfer onto the Southwest Chief. The new train is a huge improvement over the one we're so accustomed to from many trips up and down the Southern California coast. From the glass-paneled observation car with seats facing outward to the white -linened dining car with full menu and wait staff, this long haul train has seats that recline further than any other train or plane seat I've ever sat in. The conductor's just made his last announcement of the night and all the cars have gone quiet and dark. Next stop is Gallup, New Mexico 10 hours from now >>>

July 18, 2017 || We spent 24 hours marooned in Gallup (no car/town basically has zero public transportation/we walked at least three miles from our hotel into town repeatedly), which bills itself as both the Most Patriotic Small Town in America and the Indian Capital of America. The latter seems pretty accurate, with more than 35 percent of the local residents Native American (compared to 25 percent white and small percentages of others), so it was super fitting and special that we got to see an outdoor Indian dance performance last night as the sun went down. They do them every night all summer long. There was basically nothing else to do here. Twenty-four hours was about 20 too long. But such a good lesson for the kids to learn to get the most from wherever we find ourselves along this journey, and really allow that to put into perspective for them the endless number of privileges and conveniences they have back home. We're back on-board the Southwest Chief now; next stop will be Naperville, Illinois some 30 hours down the tracks >>>

July 18, 2017 || After what seemed like too many hours to be geographically possible, we're finally out of New Mexico and into Colorado. This is my first Colorado sunset... or at least the only one I can remember from the few times I've ever been in this state. Next up Kansas, Iowa and finally to Illinois >>>

July 19, 2017 || Oh Kansas... you're just as I'd imagined you to be >>>

July 20, 2017 || We got off the Southwest Chief in Naperville, one stop shy of its final destination (Chicago). We've spent the last 24 hours here with my sister-in-law and nephews on Will's side. Don't know about you, but one of my fondest memories of summer vacations as a kid was not just spending time with my cousins, but my second cousins and my cousins' cousins and every kid relative in between, where precise familial lines were soft and blurry and we were nothing but FAMILY for that time. Isaac and Fran and their cousins on each side, these six clicked in about ten seconds flat. Huge thanks to my sister-in-law Amber for having us and making this train trip across the country even more memorable. We're on-board a little commuter train now from Naperville to Chicago, where we'll have a few hours to roam the Windy City before boarding the Lakeshore Limited overnight to New York >>>

July 20, 2017 || Spent four hours in Chicago this afternoon before meeting our last overnight train of the trip. We visited the sky deck of the building that will always be Sears Tower to me, where my kids' grandfather used to work for many years. Then we walked down to Millennium Park and ran around the Bean before grabbing sandwiches for dinner and hustling back up Michigan Avenue to Union Station. It was also 80 degrees with a million percent humidity. A whirlwind for sure, but so glad we rallied and went for it >>>

July 21, 2017 || Made it to the station in Albany, New York. One of my best friends picked us up and brought us here to Silver Bay, where we're staying put til Tuesday for the annual family reunion. We woke up this morning to rain that's been looming here all week, and a bunch of us hiked up to a beautiful lookout called Inspiration Point. I was a summer employee at this magical spot on Lake George for two summers back in the 90s, and hadn't been back to the top of Inspiration since I led a bunch of kiddie day-campers up when I was about 19. So many full-circle moments at Silver Bay always >>>

July 24, 2017 || This lake. With the dock I first swam out to at about age 10. Where Fran tried for the first time yesterday and made it almost halfway before turning back and committing to try again next year. This sand. Where I sat in my red, two-piece guard suit for two summers straight, watching this water. This exact same scene. Where I grew up playing with my cousins just like my daughter and my cousin's daughters are playing right here. I wonder for how many more generations this cycle will keep going on >>>

July 25, 2017 || Throwback to our first night, and the train equivalent of jet lag. It'd be another 24 hours before Isaac would see his cousins, who he only ever sees in this special place, and who would arrive and whisk him off for much of the next three-point-five days. If the Silver Bay bug's bitten anyone in my immediate family like it bit me so many years ago, it's been Isaac, hands-down. So thankful he knows, or what I really should say is FEELS, how indescribable this place truly is. I hate to see your face long and your eyes sad upon saying goodbye, Buddy, but if there's any place that pains you in this way, I'm glad it can be this. It makes me know you'll always find your way back. Leaving Silver Bay is a bittersweet goodbye for all of us. We're off to New York City tomorrow to start the next phase of our trip >>>

July 26, 2017 || Took a commuter train from Albany down to New York City, where we ate lunch against an epic view of the Empire State Building today. Spending a bit of time in the city before hopping a plane to Copenhagen for the next leg of our journey >>>