Getaways: The Amtrak Adventure

All Photos by Rachel Levitin

I have a confession to make. I have always wanted to pull a Jack Keroac and hit the open road and take an adventure in homage of the classic American novel “On The Road” published in 1957. Feel free to blame this on the Literary junkie inside me but it just always seemed like a good idea. You know, the whole getting caught up in the amber of the moment thing (Kurt Vonnegut pun intended)? I always liked the sound of that. The way I figure it, each and every day is a good excuse for an adventure.

This past Thanksgiving I had to make a decision — spend Thanksgiving with a friend in Philadelphia or chock up the dough to spend Thanksgiving at home with my family in Chicago. Suffice it to say, I would have been perfectly fine with an impromptu trip to Philly. The only other time I’ve ever been there was last summer for one hour while my friends and I ate some hoagies and then turned the car back around toward D.C. The reality of the situation is that my heart wanted to spend some time in the Windy City, so it was an easy choice.

My final decision led me to book a 23-hour Amtrak train ride from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to Union Station in Chicago, Ill. Why? It was double the price to fly so I decided to pass on getting close and personal with TSA.

The last time I rode an Amtrak train before Thanksgiving 2010 was about four years back when I visited my sister at the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. The duration of that ride was about 20 hours less than my Thanksgiving trip from Washington to Chicago, but I suppose there’s something to be said for someone who is willing to sit on a train for that long. It’s always worth the trip as long as the final destination is on your list of favorable places to visit.

Before this trip I had only ever been to Union Station to see a movie, go shopping, or eat a tasty meal. I must say the accommodations in the station for riders are quite nice. They’ve got all the bases covered as far as seating, food, and entertainment (should anyone need it). Walking out onto the train platform is always a treat and never gets old. The act itself sends me back in time and makes me reminisce about the days when people would dress up in their Sunday Best just to take a ride on the train. Granted, I wasn’t alive during those Golden Days of American Travel but I have seen James Cameron’s “Titanic” so I like to imagine those Golden Days were akin to the likes of First-Class Titanic riders.

I’ll admit I was wearing jeans, cowboy boots, and a sweatshirt for my train ride. My oh my, how time flies and things change.

The ride itself was mostly enjoyable aside from the fact that it’s practically impossible to get a good night’s rest on an Amtrak recliner. Next time I take an overnight train ride I’m springing for the sleeper car, that’s for sure.

Taking the Amtrak was quite possibly the most efficient use of my Thanksgiving trip. I was able to successfully catch up on the entire first season of Glee all while seeing Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. We’ve got some seriously stellar views from along the Amtrak rails. The two views I saw this time around included the Capitol Limited and the Cardinal routes. I was treated to a sunset in the West and a sunrise in the East, snow along the river banks, ponies, horses, dairy cows, lush farm lands, and some really random abandoned vehicles among other things.

Let it be known that there are some seriously cute small towns reminiscent of the quaint Stars Hollow, Conn. as seen on Gilmore Girls. Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia are down right adorable along the rail lines and worth taking a stroll down the towns’ respective Main Streets.

Other than that, nothing beats a Panoramic view of America. I got quite a nice cross-section in just a 24 hour period. Imagine what you could see with a week!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the live-tweet journey that was The Thanksgiving Amtrak Adventure from Washington, D.C. to Chicago and back:

In closing — I would like to leave you with the following words of advice, compliments of the Quad City DJs: Come on, ride the train.

Rachel moved to DC in the fall of 2005 to study Journalism and Music at American University. When she’s not keeping up with the latest Major League Baseball news, she works on making music as an accomplished singer-songwriter and was even a featured performer/speaker at TEDxDupont Circle in 2012. Rachel has also contributed to The Washington Examiner and MASN Sports’ Nationals Buzz as a guest blogger. See why she loves DC. E-Mail:

Facebook Twitter YouTube 

4 thoughts on “Getaways: The Amtrak Adventure

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Getaways: The Amtrak Adventure » We Love DC --

  2. I’m curious to know if you met interesting people on the train ride, or if in this day of technology most people find themselves too preoccupied with gadgets.

  3. I’m sad to report that most people outside of their time spent inside the dining/lounge car were tied down by the cables of their technology-driven toys and wireless devices. The most talkative folks were found around the hours of 8 p.m. – 12 a.m. with pre-purchased alcoholic beverages in-hand. Next time I take a multi-hour train trip I’m going to look into talking more and observing a little less. I’m sure there are a good amount of characters out there!

  4. I took the train across the country about ten years ago and met a man who used to be Mayor Koch’s bodyguard and had been on the NYPD. Fascinating! Because of the seating arrangements in the dining car, you get to meet varied and interesting people. Last year we went to Missouri and had time between trains both coming and going to spend quality time in Chicago exploring and having dinner. On the train, I love to settle in with a good book (we had a sleeper) and watch the world go by. Loved it!