First Days, Friday into Saturday and the Train
|Erika had a
plethora of snow days in February, which led to
school scheduling school this day, when it was supposed to be a
student day off. Despite our strong feelings against taking Erika
out of school for anything frivolous, we did have train tickets that
were expensive and couldn't be changed, only canceled. So she
went for half a day. Luckily we live near the Lorton, VA Autotrain
loading point, so we arrived around 1 pm and our car was taken
and loaded right away.
We had discussed this with her teacher before hand and she had told us several kids were missing the whole day and that after the time we took Erika out of class there was no more learning scheduled. So, we felt a little bit better.
|We checked in, reserved our dinnertime
(choices 5, 7 or 9 pm)
since we were there early we got one of the popular 7 pm slots.
We then settled down in the waiting room with tuna sandwiches
we brought from home. It being a Friday in Lent, our food options
were limited. After eating we had a bit of time before we were
allowed to board the train. Doug and Erika wandered off to the
gift shop, and before I knew it, Erika was the proud owner of her
own Autotrain t-shirt. *sigh*
Let the vacation
What Kaz doesn't realize is that I saved over $40 from what Erika wanted in the gift shop.
|The train left on time, right around 4 pm. We were settling
our Family Sleeper room, and Kat was hungry. So I sat down to
nurse her and afterwards Doug, Kat and Erika went off to explore
the train. Heaven! Time alone to sit and read... COMPLETELY
UNINTERRUPTED! They came back and told me about the
dining and lounge cars and also brought food! Crackers and cheese
and an apple, along with some pretzles and chips. Yummy!
Our Porter, Mike, came around and discussed dinner, the dining and lounge cars, told us about a wine tasting that was currently underway, and scheduled turndown for our beds that night. He also talked a bit how the morning, breakfast and room makeup would work.
|After he left, Erika befriended a woman a little older than Doug and I and her teenage daughter. Erika gave then a tour of the train, and when they returned the teenager went to their room in our same sleeper car and the lady came and sat with us in our room and talked for awhile.||Before we knew it it was time for dinner. Since we paid for a
Sleeper, dinner and breakfast and snacks were included in the
price. We also had about 6 small bottles of water in our room,
with access to ice, water and coffee out in the hall of our sleeper
car. We had a
bedroom that slept four, so it had a window on either side of the
train, which meant we could see the view on both sides, which was
nice. The only drawback was no bathroom in the room ,so we had to
go out and use a community bathroom. That was not so bad, since
it was very close.
||We all ordered salmon for dinner, and it came with string beans and rice. The beans were a bit dry, but I spread some butter on mine and that helped. The salmon was yummy and Erika almost finished her adult sized portion! For dessert we all selected ice cream with chocolate sauce. I didn't like the vanilla ice cream much. I'm not sure if it was "lite" or what but I just didn't like the flavor.|
|We got to enjoy a beautiful sunset during dinner, and after
we made our way back to our room. The train swayed quite a bit
and I wound up bumping into the walls more than once. I had at
least one bruise when we left the next day!
After we got Erika into bed, Doug and I and Kat got out the DVD player. We were watching a DVD when our porter showed up to make up and turn down the beds for the rest of us. Kat had fallen asleep, so Doug and I stepped out into the hallway while Mike worked his magic. Unfortunately by the time Mike finished, Kat had woken up and it took repeated attempts to get her back to sleep. I took a nap, and then Doug went to bed, and Kat finally succumbed around 3:30, which has unfortunately been her bedtime for weeks now. She woke briefly at 5:20, but I rocked her/her bed a bit and she fell back asleep without needing to be picked up or fed. Yes, I LOVE the irony of 'rocking' a child on a train that is already rocking!
|Our alarm went off at 6, and Erika and Doug took their
while Kat and I slept a little while longer. We went to breakfast
around 7, and during breakfast they announced we had been
slightly delayed by something during the night and we'd be getting
in about an hour late. After breakfast I wanted to see the Lounge
Car, so we went there and sat down for awhile. It was the
overflow area for the people waiting for breakfast, though, so it
got crowded pretty quickly. I eventually asked Doug if I could
sneak off for a nap, and he agreed to stay in the Lounge Car with
the girls. I got a nap AND a shower, and by 10:30 we were off the
train and waiting for our car. At breakfast, we were shown to our
table, and the people at the table across the aisle from us were the
same people sho had sat in the same spot the night before for
dinner. We talked and all agreed that the train was the only way
to travel from DC to Florida.
||The train was pretty much full to capacity and there were
200 cars on board! Let the waiting begin!
The indoor waiting area was awfully crowded, but when I ventured outdoors I noticed there were lots of smokers out there, so after checking out the (way overpriced!!) Gift Shop, I gratefully returned to our smoke-free indoor area and settled in.
Periodically they'd tell us how many cars were left. First we
halfway mark... and then 3/4.... and then there were only 18 cars
left... and we were still waiting! We were so happy that we had
planned a very relaxed day. We just wanted to check into our hotel
and buy our tickets for the rest of the week... so when we got our
car and there were only about 10 other cars left to be unloaded we
were still in a good mood. The
people we had 'eaten' dinner and breakfast with got their car at the
same time we did. We still all agreed that train was the only way
Click here for the next day (Sunday)