Getting Started for my UNCOMMON JOURNEY thru BEST OF THE WEST Vacation 2012

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Message from Gigi: Day 1 – Final preparations for this very special trip with my mom. I said goodbyes to family & grandones leaving maps with promises of postcards to come along the journey to teach a little geography and US history. After servicing the car, I headed to St Louis. Arrived at mom’s at about 10pm after driving 6 hours, much of it through horrendous thunderstorms. Mom fed me homemade stew, and I gave her birthday presents. Today is her 74th birthday and we begin our adventure. We visited, she had a couple of surprises for me (an Airstream travel trailer bird house!!! and a red glass pitcher like her mother’s that is very special indeed). We discussed our packing, consolidated some, I showered, mom watched StL baseball game on her new BIG wall TV in her newly decorated bedroom. Finally I have ended my day and am in bed at 12:45pm CT. We leave 10:30am tomorrow to catch a train in Kirkwood, MO that takes us to downtown StLouis then we are onto Chicago where we spend the night near Grand Central before we officially embark on the Best of the West Train trip toward Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and 5 of the best national parks of the west. We are excited!

Vacations By Rail website states, “Traveling daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, Amtrak’s Empire Builder provides the perfect way to experience the rugged splendor of the American West.

The mighty Empire Builder takes you on an exciting adventure through majestic wilderness, following the footsteps of early pioneers.

From Chicago, you’ll have magnificent views of the Mississippi and see the glowing night skyline of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Awake the next morning as you cross the North Dakota plains and travel over the spectacular Gassman Coulee Trestle. Skirting the Missouri, you’ll cross into the Big Sky country in Montana. As you pass Glacier National Park the panoramic windows of the Sightseer Lounge make for the best seats in the house. From Spokane, you can continue on to Seattle or head down the Columbia River Gorge toward Portland for spectacular views of Mt. Hood and Beacon Rock.

A Place Touched by Magic wrote the Great Northern Railroad about Glacier National Park in 1937. Truer words were never written. Consistently Glacier National Park is among the highlights of the entire holiday with our guests, year after year. With towering peaks, rushing rivers, emerald forests and the epic Going to the Sun Highway, Glacier Park ranks among the most stunning of all National Parks. Our guests enjoy a traditional visit, arriving by train at the great Glacier Park Lodge on the Eastern end of the Park for an overnight stay at the Izaak Walton Inn before a glorious day of travel, across the Continental Divide by red open-air ‘jammer’ bus. We make a loop through the park traveling down the west slope to alpine Lake McDonald. There is no finer start to ‘The Best of the West’ than a full day in Glacier National Park.

The evening of July 19,1805, was a hot one in the wilderness that would later become Montana. On the Missouri River, not far from present day Helena, the hardy members of the Lewis and Clark expedition toiled to move upstream. Rock embankments made towing from shore impossible, and the deep channel forced the men to row rather than pole their boats forward.

Suddenly, there loomed before them towering rock formations unlike any they had ever seen. From both sides of the river, limestone cliffs rose to a spectacular height of 1200 feet. “In many places,” wrote Meriwether Lewis, “the rocks seem ready to tumble on us.” At each bend in the waterway, great stone walls seemed to block passage, only to open like gentle giant gates as the expedition drew near. In his journal, Meriwether wrote: “I shall call this place: “GATES OF THE MOUNTAINS”.

The name stuck, and for nearly two centuries travelers have ventured down this stretch of the Missouri to marvel at its natural wonders. Today, most visitors enjoy the beauty of the Gates of the Mountains from aboard tour boats.

Highlights:
Train travel from Chicago, Seattle, or Portland to Glacier National Park, Montana aboard the famous train, a speedy scenic overnight trip. ‘Empire Builder’
Fully hosted by professional tour manager to handle all of the details.
Two-night stay and full day in stunning Glacier National Park including the famed ‘Going to the Sun’ Highway across the Continental Divide by red open-air ‘jammer’ bus..
A blissful overnight stay in Fairmont Hot Springs with plenty of time to enjoy the healing waters (admission is included).
Gates of the Mountain cruise on the Missouri River so vividly described by Lewis & Clark, a visual feast.
Two-night hotel stays in Yellowstone, Jackson Hole and Arches National Park.
Complete sightseeing throughout including all admission fees and special treats such as the scenic float trip on the Snake River in Jackson Hole, all at no extra charge.
Luxury hotel stay in Salt Lake City, a nice ‘urban indulgence’ during our tour.
Many meals including breakfast daily.
Train travel from Utah to California through the Sierra Nevadas or to Chicago aboard the ‘California Zephyr’ train with a spectacular daylight trip through the Colorado Rockies over the storied Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad ‘Mainline through the Rockies’.

Quotes from
Vacations by Rail & Uncommon Journeys
Website

To find ALL of  MY BLOG entries of BEST OF THE WEST Vacation By Rail and my pictures, 

please go to: http://bestofthewestsuedarnellellis.posterous.com

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