Book Tour By Amtrak: Denver to Chicago to Boston

I’ve been on the train for the past two days (with a few hours stop off in Chicago to go to the gym, shower, have some wine… thanks Christy Tyler). And I think what I want to talk about most is sleeping on the train. First. That is my for real double bed in a moving train. It’s among the best things to happen to me. When Maddie joins me from DC to Atlanta, we’ll fold down the bunk bed, and I’m pretty sure she’s mandated to let me climb around in it because I’m her boss? I might be confused on that point, but I’m pretty darn excited about the bunk bed.

The thing is, sleeping on the Amtrak is the weirdest and coolest thing all at once. At first, I had a hard time falling asleep because the train was clearly hurrying very fast, and my type-A personality thought, “The train is moving very fast! I should get up and help! Hurry, hurry, hurry.” So somewhere outside of Denver, I got out of bed and pulled the curtain and realized A) I was not in charge, B) We were right on the ground, and C) I was in Big Sky country. I gazed at the sky awash in stars, and the western homesteads rushing by, and then curled up in my double bed and dozed off.

Because the funny thing is, we talk about Amtrak as slow travel. But it doesn’t feel particularly slow when you’re on it because life continues inside at a normal pace: you have meals, you have work days, you sleep. And then, somehow, you go to bed in Denver, and wake up in the snowy white fields of Iowa… as if by magic. Or you go to sleep in Chicago, and wake up on a river in New York.

And right now, the train wheels are saying hurry, hurry, hurry. Lunch is waiting in the dining car, and Boston is waiting right around the bend.

Pictures from Instagram, where I’m documenting the trip. Follow me on Twitter for more. I’ll do a proper photo round up at some point, never fear.

**This post was made possible by Amtrak, who is sponsoring my book tour. Thank you Amtrak!**

Featured Sponsored Content

  • kathleen

    I took Amtrak from Syracuse, NY to Washington state a few years back and those days on the train- of writing and watching the sky and writing and watching the mountains- are some of the best vacation days I’ve ever had. Yeah. Enjoy it out there.

  • You’re very welcome!! :) xo!

  • Amber

    Have any of your trains been late? The time I took Amtrak, they were 4 hours late, which really put me off them and made me realize the little bit more for a plane ticket that would get me there 8x sooner is worth it.

    • meg

      Nope. But then again, I’ve had planes be way later than four hours late, very very often. Travel is unpredictable always, and you have to build in plans for delay, no matter what you do.

      • Amber

        Yeah but at least at an airport you have options for other airlines and you can usually get compensated in some way.

        Can’t get off a train, even if it’s stopped.

  • Sara A.

    Amtrak isn’t slow travel. Greyhound is. In summer 2006 I took Greyhound from Silver Spring, MD to Bozeman, MT. On the one hand it takes 3 days, which is astonishing speed; on the other hand, at no point are you going at an incomprehensible speed. The bus moves at the speed of traffic. The worst thing was going three days without being able to change my clothes, brush my teeth, or sleep lying down. I was FUNKY when I stepped off that bus in Bozeman, let me tell you.

    I will tell you though, that this trip kind of restored my faith in people. One of my best friends had just been killed through a set of strange, awful, and random circumstances. I decided to take a summer job at Yellowstone National Park so I could get away from everything I knew and deal with myself. I was thrown together with all these strangers and spoke to some and made the decision to trust a little. As I went from bus station to bus station, people looked out for me and I looked out for them. Even little things like someone telling me that I’d dropped something or agreeing to watch my bags while I was in the bathroom seemed huge to me. When I stepped off in Bozeman I had a night before the employee shuttle would come pick me up. I saw another girl about my age with all this baggage looking as lost as I felt and struck up a conversation. Her name was Vale from Ecuador, she was also going to be working in the park. After talking for a few minutes we decided to share a hotel room for the night. She ended up working in the same location that I was and we became fast friends. She has no idea how much it meant to me.

    • But for every good greyhound story (which yours is – quite lovely in fact!) you get my sister’s latest ride from Vancouver to Calgary, in which her seat mate was a felon who had got out of jail earlier that day and educated my sister on the ins and outs of prison life for a few hours. And he was less creepy than the guy who she sat with for the second half the 13 hour trip…

      • Sara A.

        I’ve had some awful trips too, public transport is a crap-shoot. The point is that it’s a kind of adventure. For every time you’re seated next to a felon (and I have), you also have equal odds of being next to someone differently benign. Like part of my trip was spent with a girl going home from Nashville who wrote country songs, a woman in North Dakota who works her family farm heading to visit her grandchildren on a horse ranch. These women’s experiences were so foreign from my own that it amazed me that we share a nationality.

  • Celeste

    LOVE the sleeper cars! My husband and I went on our honeymoon to Turkey and Greece and made it a point to take the sleeper train from Istanbul to Kayseri in Cappadocia. It was slow going, but so much fun having the compartment to ourselves, just staring at the window at the countryside and the people standing in their fields (waving at us as we went by! How friendly can you get?). We also through a ferry scheduling fluke ended up getting a deluxe sleeper cabin on a Greek ferry from Santorini to Athens for free, which was amazing. And the nice thing is you don’t have to pay for a night in a hotel.


    Amtrak was really smart to sponsor you. These posts are amazeballs.

  • Big Sky Country (which Southern Alberta is) is so starkly beautiful. Every time we drive a few hours south of Calgary to visit David’s parents, I spend much of the drive looking out the window and watching the sky. It’s a cold beauty in the winter, but in the summer when the wheat is growing and the sky is a piercing blue that you just don’t get anywhere else? How could you not fall at least a little bit in love with the prairies?

    • Sara A.

      I love that area!! When I worked in Glacier, we spent a lot of time in Southern Alberta. I just remember field after field of tiny yellow flowers with slowly turning electric windmills in the distance. All the colors are just so intense during the summer and the grays so gray during the winter.

    • Emily

      I just moved to Southern Alberta. It’s a big adjustment from Seattle, but the different beauty here is growing on me.

      • Emily – welcome to the great white north! How about the weather last week? :) Where are you living?

  • I moved our bed about two feet to the north in our bedroom a few months ago. It was several days before I got over the feeling that I was too far north from where I was supposed to be sleeping. I can’t imagine knowing my bed was several miles from where I laid down.

  • HeatherM

    What??? You came all the way to Chicago and DIDN’T have a book signing and discussion here? Come back soon!!!!

    • meg

      No, I’ve explained many times: I did not have time. I had a train change in Chicago, that could have run late, leaving me no time at all. As it was, I had time for a gym and a shower, and to throw some food in my mouth and run back to the train. Not to change, prep, and do a several hour long event. I’m doing the very best I can, going to as many places as I can, and paying out of pocket, and I’d love if you guys could give me the gift of trusting my choices are reasonable, in return. I’ll also be on NPR on Thursday, if you want to hear me!

      • I just liked knowing you were here even if just briefly. And that you were taken care of (by someone I adore at that). Hope you continue to enjoy your journey. Chicago will always be here!

  • I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying sleeping on the train :-) I feel the same way about sleeping on a ship. There’s a lot to hate about sea duty, but I really miss the ocean rocking me to sleep! I clearly remember the first time I came home from a long underway and slept in my own bed on land… the stillness kept me awake all night! Anyway, enjoy the rocking!

  • and hey, it even looks like a REAL double bed, not a New York hotel room “double” bed :)

  • amigacara

    So cool! I didn’t know trains still even had sleeper cars on Amtrak…awesome!

  • Meg, first welcome to Boston! I can’t wait to see you tonight! Second, a question of self-interest from a curious train-travel-wannabe: The last time I took the train from Boston to upstate New York, the dining car I stumbled into served up a sad, sad sandwich and not much else. I’m not sure I could eat that for multiple meals in a row. Do you have the same dining car in the sleeper compartments? What’s the food like?

    • meg

      I should write about the food! I would say it’s surprisingly good, given the rather obvious constraints. You have a full menu to choose from, and deserts and everything. The quality seems to vary a little (the food out west was served with slightly more love on it ;) but over all it’s pretty darn good. Personal favorites so far are: the crab cakes (weird! I know!) and the chicken fried steak. What you’re thinking of is the *snack* bar, not the *dining* car, which is a whole different thing. Plus! If you’re in sleeper, all your meals are free. Yayyyyy!

      • Thanks Meg! I’m so happy to hear that if I take a cross-country trip I wouldn’t have to survive on, what I now know is, the snack bar food. I’d already thought of packing a cooler for my hypothetical trip! I’m definitely adding “Eat crab cakes” to my list of things to do on said journey. I’m loving your travel descriptions. Keep them coming!