Daughter Visits: Thanks Amtrak Empire Builder For Date Night!

Dear Amtrak, we want to thank you and the Empire Builder for your usual tardiness, which resulted in our having an actual date night on July 18th, seeing a fantastic live band called Big Daddy Love perform at The Craggy Range in Whitefish, MT.

You see, my daughter departed Chicago on July 17 and was riding the train solo for the first time. Having lived in Montana for eight years in her youth, she knew the train was often late – but none of us expected it to be THIS LATE.

Yes, I kept in close contact with “Julie” – your virtual employee – watching online as well as the arrival time kept getting pushed back further and further…and that was on day one. She had a 32 hour train ride ahead of her and by the time 1/3 of the travel was behind her, she was hours late.

Anyway, on July 18 she was due to arrive at 8:56pm…but when did she actually arrive? About 1:40am. Given that our rv campsite in Trego is about an hour away, and that we old folks could never sit here keeping our eyes open until midnight, we spontaneously decided to go on a date in Whitefish.

We walked the streets downtown and heard live bands everywhere…so which to choose? A sign outside of The Craggy Range said a band playing “Appalachian Rock” was performing (on tour, from North Carolina) so liking what we heard outside, we went on in. They were fantastic!

About 11:30pm we decided we were hungry little carnivores and wanted MEAT. Not chips or junk, actual MEAT. All restaurants and fast food were closed down, so we hit the grocery store. Not much luck there except some leftover rotisserie chickens. Yes! This would do just fine!

The cashier looked at us a bit odd, but we’re used to that anyway (heh, heh). So we paid for our chicken, took our napkins, plastic forks and knives, went out to the parking lot, lowered the tailgate and sat there in the cool Montana air, devouring our one puny chicken, looking like we hadn’t eaten in years. Grease everywhere, Jim trying to “carve” the bird with a cheap plastic knife…it was hilarious.

Of course, we had to go back in the grocery store to wash up – and the cashier looked at us even more strangely this time. But to put his mind at ease, I told him simply “waiting on the Empire Builder” and he immediately understood. He said, “you’re not the only one tonight!”

We went back to the bar and stayed until Amtrak pulled into the Whitefish train depot, which was one block away. Off stepped my “baby girl” with enough suitcases and bags to provide three outfits a day for the next four months, without doing laundry. She had that long train ride look we’ve all had getting off Empire Builder each year since she was a little girl. But she also had a big smile. We threw her stuff in the pickup truck and drove the pitch black two lane road back to the rv. Exhausted and every shadow from the headlights looking like a deer, it was a slow drive home.

We got to bed at 4am but all slept until 10am, then ready to start our day. My daughter grumbled about the delays on the Empire Builder…but Amtrak, we want to thank you for our unexpected date night – just don’t tell my daughter that!

Amtrak Train at Marias Pass, Montana, USA

Amtrak Train at…

Chuck Haney

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