Ride the iron horse?

As you may or may not be aware, Jess has been thinking/planning/wondering if it is possible to pack up the girls and make a trek to Pittsburgh this summer to show off the girls to family and use the U2 concert tickets she bought on a whim last year. I’m of the mind that this would be a huge undertaking and I’m not sure if I’m up for it… and that’s putting it mildly. Despite the fact that I love Pittsburgh and would truly enjoy another trip out there, my fear is the travel itself. The amount of crap we’d have to lug around with us would be immense. I fear the girls, cramped in a metal tube at 36,000 feet with no escape for 6 hours. I don’t want to be “that parent” that everyone else on the plane secretly loathes.

Anyway, just for shits and giggles, I decided to look into taking a train. I’ve never traveled on a train. I know nothing about where they run, or how much they cost. But, perhaps it could work. At least you can move around on a train. You could get a private room. The girls could get out of their seats and we could stretch our legs as we leisurely traveled cross country. Images of the golden era of train travel danced in my head. This could be fun, I thought.

So, I jumped onto amtrak.com and started poking around. This is what I found…

First off, despite the fact that we have a train station in Boise, Amtrak does not stop here anymore. The nearest stations to actually get on a train are in Spokane, Washington and Salt Lake City, Utah. Obviously picking SLC, I just went with everything Amtrak gave me (ie. I know we could drive ourselves to SLC, but that’s not the point of this exercise).

  1. Get on a bus and travel 7 hours 25 minutes to Salt Lake City
  2. Have a layover in SLC from 5:50pm to 3:30am (10 hours)
  3. Board train for Chicago, total duration to get there: 34 hr 20 min. Yes. 34 hours.
  4. Luckily the layover in Chicago is only 3 hours
  5. Take train to Pittsburgh, 9 hr 25 min.

We would leave Boise at 10:25am on Sunday and arrive in Pittsburgh at 4:35am on Wednesday. Total travel time: 64 hours. Oh wait, round trip… The schedule says only 57 total hours to make the return trip… Let me get out my calculator… Just a short 121 hours total for the round trip. Just travel time. For comparison, we could fly round trip, from Boise to Sydney, Australia THREE times in that amount of time.

Ooooookay…

Now, the price. The cost for the privilege to give up more than 5 whole days of our lives? Over 1,300 bucks. Yes, you read that right. And that is just for 2 seats and the girls riding on our laps, apparently. If we were interested in a private room, say for one of those 34 hour legs, the cheapest/smallest one they have (still just 2 seats) would add $600 to the total. If we wanted a private room for both of those 34 hour stretches, that bangs the total price up to just north of $2,500. Not to mention the 15 meals we’d need to buy ourselves along the journey. I’m going to go ahead and assume that food prices on a train are probably a lot like those in a movie theater or sports stadium… you know, super reasonably priced. On the plus side, some trains now have WiFi!… however, not any of the ones we’d be on.

Or, we could fly. Direct from Boise, 1 stop, 7 hours each way, round trip of 14 hours and a total cost of $825.

Needless to say, the train is much less attractive an option than I was prepared for. Maybe to those of you more familiar with train travel this isn’t as shocking to you as it was to me. But I was kinda blown away. So, you’re telling me it takes 8.5 times longer and is more expensive to boot? Gee, where do I sign up?

Anyway, back to square 1. We will continue to weigh the pro’s and con’s and see where we end up.

Pittsburgh family, maybe we’ll see ya in July… or maybe we won’t.

3 thoughts on “Ride the iron horse?”

  1. This is why the train doesn’t stop in Boise any more. More expensive & takes longer. Your girls will fly free until they’re two. Take advantage of it. Who cares if you piss people off on the plane? Would you rather miss visiting family with your girls so that you don’t annoy some strangers?

  2. I rode the train from Spokane to St. Paul, Mn 2 summers ago. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Yeah, it sucks we don’t have a depot here. Yeah, it sucks the price is so damn high. Yeah, it sucks it takes so damn long. I love flying. I hate airlines and airports. I would rather put up with 32 hours from Spokane to St. Paul than the 3.5 hour flight from Boise. If Amtrak came back, we would use it to go to Portland and rent a car when we get there. I am not so addled to think getting there is half the fun, but getting there with less stress? Yup. Traveling is part of the vacation and if you are tight going in and leaving, what good is it?

    I do agree with Chris on this; tell the ones giving you the stink eye to suck it up.

  3. Way back in the 60’s, I took trains all over the country. Granted they were slow, but the scenery was great, food, not so good. Airplanes back then were very pricy.

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