As far as I’m concerned, life is best when it’s partially-planned. Enough, say, to get you to the right place at the right time, while still leaving enough blank space on the canvas that is your day. This creates room for serendipity, which in turn, breeds a good adventure.
I apply this paradigm to most things, including travel. Planes are practical to get somewhere far, fast. Cars are best for flexibility and convenience. Buses and public transit are economical and predictable. Sure, all of these are necessary in certain situations. But for the moments that you’re not in a rush and willing to try something new, I’d suggest the train.
Once the crown jewel of of the nation’s transportation system, the railroad was the first to connect the east and west, distant raw materials with big industrial factories, and major metro areas with food and supplies to sustain them. The rail almost immediately became a great way to see the country, an early predecessor to the booming tourism industry of today.
Not long go, I had five gap days between commitments in Minneapolis to Seattle, so I decided to buy an Amtrak ticket; specifically, one on the Empire Builder. I packed a small duffel of clothes, my camera, laptop, running shoes and my bike—which costs a shockingly low fee of $25 to check—and a lot of snacks. That’s it. The less I carried on, the more stops I knew I could explore along the way. I was able to work remotely along the way, but that doesn’t make for a great story. Here’s what I found on my journey.