Romancing the Rails: A Trip on the Empire Builder
Meals and sleep
New companions come with each meal. Moscow University professors offer monosyllabic descriptions of life in Russia, and a New York City pair marvel at all the open space. The food is more predictable. Menus are short, and heavy on simple classics (pancakes and eggs for breakfast; sandwiches and salads for lunch) because all the cooking goes on in the compact lower level. But it's well-prepared, and portions are plentiful.
At night, after the windows go dark, realities descend. First, I learn the hard way, get whatever clothes you need from suitcases in the car's lower level. (I haven't thought so much about where my underwear might be since Girl Scout camp.) Take turns at the sink before transforming the cranky couch. There won't be room afterward. Latch the shoilet so the door doesn't bang. By day two, we're moving through these steps semismoothly -- not a ballet but at least a mildly jerky jitterbug.
Pictured: Cheese tastings on westbound trains include premium Wisconsin selections.