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poohmomof5 08-14-2008 08:46 AM

21 day trip report LIVE from Amtrak, Disneyland & EB Repo through the Panama Canal!
First some introductions…

Me: Nicole, 38
DH: Jay, 39
DS: Andrew, 16
DD: Sarah, 14
DS: Casey, 13
DD: Emily, 10 (turning 11 on Aug. 19th!)
DD: Jessica, 3

Trip plans: (Obviously, always subject to change)

Monday, August 11, 2008:
Take the 11:00am train from Milwaukee to Chicago
Catch the 3:30pm train from Chicago to Los Angeles
We will be on the train for 42 hours. I realize that seems a little bit long, so DH and DD3 are flying to Los Angeles on Thursday. So it is just my Big 4 and me for some quality time to relax and recover from all the packing insanity!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Still on the train!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Arrive Los Angeles train station about 8:30am. We are up in the air about our transfers to Disneyland hotel, I am not sure if we will take the Amtrak to the Anaheim station, call Super Shuttle or just grab a taxi. We will have to see.

Thursday, August 14, 2008
Disneyland and DH and DD3 fly in late this evening. It will be great to have the family whole again!

Friday, August 15, 2008 and Saturday, August 16th
Disneyland and California Adventure fun, some friends from the LA area will be joining us as well.

Sunday, August 17th, 2008
We are going to attempt Early Entry at Disneyland to get in some last minute rides. Then our Shuttle from the hotel to the Port is scheduled to pick us up at 10:30am.


poohmomof5 08-14-2008 08:48 AM

Day 1
Day 1: Monday, August 11th, 2008

Right now it is 11:40 and we are on the train from Milwaukee to Chicago. WHEW!!! We made it. I am a last minute kind of person and have missed a train and a flight before, so this is a true accomplishment! We actually made it to the train station 29 minutes before our train left! Go us!

My mom drove us to the station in downtown Milwaukee and then she was off to a Brewer game. GO BREWERS! They are on a 5 game winning streak now!

Packing over the last week was okay, I didn’t completely freak out, but it sure isn’t something that I really enjoy. I have 3 problems packing…1) I have to have ALL of the laundry done before I can even consider packing. 2) I have to have the house clean. 3) I want all the kids to help me and to do it at the same time. If you knew my family, you would know that getting all of them home at the same time is next to impossible. But we managed to get together and accomplish packing and watching the Olympics (we really enjoyed watching women’s gymnastics and volleyball). Most of us were in bed before midnight and all the suitcases were packed when I went to be at 12:30. Not too bad!

Then I woke up this morning and realized I forgot a pile of stuff from my boys’ room and I forgot my swimsuits and the little gift bags I had for the kids for embarkation. Then I realized that the suitcase that Sarah packed was broke. BOTH wheels had broken off. So, I spent this morning unpacking 2 of the suitcases and moving the stuff to 2 bigger suitcases. That didn’t take too long and then we were set. We left the house at 10:07. I knew we HAD to be on the road by 10:15 to catch the train at the first station. So we were in good shape.

We have 10 suitcases and 7 carry-ons. People always stare at us in disbelief when we go by. It makes me giggle! I warned the kids that the most difficult part of our journey was the leg between Milwaukee and Chicago. There is no luggage service on this part of our journey. Can you imagine the 5 of us getting on the train with all our stuff? Of course we got on the end of the train car that was opposite of the luggage rack, so we had to roll our luggage down the ENITRE train car. We stationed Emily at one end to watch everything while the rest of us went back and forth carrying everything. The people in the middle of the car got a good laugh at us going back and forth. I did try to explain that we were just leaving on a 21 day vacation… :rotfl: :rotfl:

Well, we are just getting into Illinois now and making good time. We should be going by 6 Flags Great America any minute. Hi Cheryl and Pamela from our cruise. I will see you in a few days!

poohmomof5 08-14-2008 08:51 AM

Update #2
Update #2, Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Right now I am about an hour away from San Bernardino, CA. We are almost there! The train is moving quite fast and we are only about 90 minutes behind schedule. Not bad for a 42 hour trip!

Well, we have had a great time since we last talked! We transferred trains no problem in Chicago. We had a 2 hour “layover”. Getting all of the luggage off the train and checked in to go to LA was pretty painless.

We have 2 suitcases that are staying with us on the train and the rest of the luggage was checked and we won’t have to deal with it until we get to Union Station in LA. Because we are sleeping car passengers, we got to go to a nicer waiting area with TVs, soda and coffee. We dropped off our big suitcases in there and went to McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

Then we got to board the train! All Aboard!!!! We are on the Southwest Chief.

We have a family sleeping car, it officially sleeps 4, but we have 5 of us and we fit just fine. There are 2 upper and lower bunks in an “L” shape. The lower long one is pretty wide and Sarah and I fit on it no problem. The room is on the lower floor of the train in the back of the car and goes all the way across, which means we have windows on both sides! I estimate that our room is about 8-10 feet wide and 5 feet deep. Cozy!

Once we got settled into our room and made dinner reservations, we just chilled out. The kids read books and we played a lot of card games. The views were of rolling hills and lots of farm fields. We saw a deer grazing along side the tracks and a beautiful sunset.

Because we are in a sleeper, meals are included, so we had a nice sit down dinner with steak, veggie lasagna, salmon, baked potatoes, rolls and salad. It was pretty good food!

Yesterday was our long travel day. We were on the train all day. The kids slept through breakfast so I got to eat with a nice dad and son that were on their way to the Grand Canyon and a single woman that discovered train travel about 2 years ago and now takes at least one long train trip a year. The dad and son also take at least one train trip per year and have been on a lot of trains!

This brings me to my reasoning for taking the train to LA instead of flying. I LOVE TAKING THE TRAIN! It is such a different experience than flying. Here are my thoughts:

1) You actually see where you are going. The journey is part of the adventure on a train. When you fly, you just get from place A to place B. On the train, you see and enjoy the land. I spend a lot of time just gazing out the windows. On this trip we have seen lots of farm animals, hawks, and eagle, white tail deer, mule deer, etc. The train staff said that on the trip out here, they saw a mama grizzly with 2 cubs and typically you will see a lot of Elk, but I think I slept through that part.
2) People are so much nicer! The crew, the passengers, the wait staff. Everyone knows that we are all in this for the long haul, obviously, no one is in a hurry (or they wouldn’t be taking the train) so they are pleasant and relaxed and typically a chatty bunch. If you are in the dining room and don’t have 4 at your table, they will seat others with you. I have met some really neat people in my years of train travel. I have chatted with 2 Berkeley professors, a guitarist in a band, the inventor of a crucial piece of medical equipment, etc.
3) I get to force my kids to spend time with me! I love being a mom and I love spending time with the kids. This is such a fantastic time to just chat with them and kind of reconnect. It has been so good for my soul!
4) I arrive READY for vacation. When I fly somewhere, I usually arrive with a headache (I hate flying and I get stressed and well…you know how that goes). I have probably spent the night before packing and didn’t get enough sleep and on and on. But with the train, I got to take 2 naps, read, chill with the kids etc. I am so chilled out right now…I sure wouldn’t be that way if we were flying!

poohmomof5 08-14-2008 08:52 AM

Update #2 continued
Back to our adventure…I think the only “exciting” thing happened in the middle of the day. The engine was having some problems and we were very very low on power. So they turned off the air conditioning (we were in New Mexico…HOT!) and stopped serving food to conserve energy so we could have enough power to make it up a 7000 foot incline. That was interesting…but when it got to be quite warm, they turned on the air for a little to keep it tolerable and they made several announcements to explain what was going on so we felt very informed. With a little “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”…we made it up the hill and the engine was quickly serviced at our next stop (it only took about 30 minutes) and we have been fine since then.

Every once in awhile, they have a longer stop so we can get out of the train and walk around for about 15 minutes. So we got to say we were in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. In Albuquerque, they even had some vendors selling Native American jewelry and snacks too. We bought a few things for the girls and I. They boys didn’t get out of the train, but I don’t think they would have wanted jewelry anyway. Oh, and it was VERY hot there. We didn’t get to get out of the train in Arizona as we went through during the night. We also went through a long tunnel at one point. We were in New Mexico somewhere at that time and they talked about how the railways worked out an agreement with the Raton family to run through their land. It involved feeding the natives in exchange for using the land. It was a nice little bit of history. When we were in the tunnel, it was pitch dark. We weren’t expecting it and we loved it. We want more tunnels!

Some things we have done to pass the time:
We have tried to stuff each other in the small closet, I am pretty sure it is 6” deep, 5 foot tall and 18” wide. We were laughing so hard, I was crying. We got everybody in except Andrew and me. Andrew is too tall and I am well… bustier than the others! ;)
We made up new rules for old card games.
We played “train walker” (we try to walk around the train without touching the walls…it is nearly impossible to do as the walk ways are probably 3 feet wide and the train is very bouncy!)
We snacked away on treats I packed for the trip.
We only watched 1 movie (Airplane!) and tried to watch another last night (Seems Like Old Times with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase), but we all fell asleep.
We have lots of little goofy things to remember too. Andrew always updates us on how many “bars of service” we have on our cell phones and Emily gets really excited every time we see water! Well, that is it for now. I will be back to report on our next leg, getting to Disneyland! TTFN!

WAIT! I almost forgot…I woke up at about 4:15 this morning and peaked out of the window and I was AMAZED at how many stars I could see. Earlier there was an almost full moon but the moon was nowhere to be found so I could see stars and more stars. I was just enjoying the view when I saw a shooting star! So I made a wish and right when I was done, I saw another! Hopefully that is a sign of smooth sailing ahead!

E&BMom 08-14-2008 08:53 AM

Great reading so far!!! Can't wait to hear more!! Have a great trip!!

TCB in FLA 08-14-2008 09:11 AM

I LOVE your train trip report! It's the best way to travel! My father is a huge train fan and has taken my mother on several cross-country trips; DH and I have taken trains around Europe when we lived in England. Now that my DSs are getting older, I'm sure granddad is going to be getting them on the track with him.

Looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventure!

nikkistevej 08-14-2008 09:40 AM

Can't wait to hear the rest!!:banana:

Nutty4Disney 08-14-2008 10:04 AM

Great report
Great start. Look forward to meeting you on the Magic and reading your report when we return. If I had the extra time I would love to take the train. DH is a train lover and took the train cross country when he was younger and traveling from CA to OH.

PapaOohMowMow 08-14-2008 10:09 AM

Good to hear from you.
We are all fine.
Jessie has been very good. We put her in bed at 10pm and she sleeps all night.
We are registering for her Fall Classes today.
Going to the lake tomorrow and will return Tuesday.

Relax and have fun.

Luxo 08-14-2008 10:51 AM

Did you say you want to go to Disneyland the day we leave?!? OMG!

Not packed yet and a bit stressed out! Looking forward to seeing y'all tonight!

Love, Luxo

poohmomof5 08-14-2008 11:03 AM

Day #3, Disneyland resort
We arrived at Union Station at 8:52am. We were only about 38 minutes late when the trip was said and done! We really enjoyed the train ride and I highly recommend it!

We had to wait about 20 minutes for our luggage and went to the taxi line. We were very lucky that the first cab in line was a large minivan with a very pleasant driver. So we stuffed ourselves and our 10 suitcases in and made our way to Disneyland Hotel. The ride was probably about 40 minutes. Our driver was a chatty guy with very interesting perspectives on the war, politics, the situation in Russia/Georgia. Listening to him helped pass the time and I found him to be very thoughtful. He was from Armenia.

Once we got to the hotel, we had a very pleasant experience at Check in and began the waiting process for our room. It was about 11:00 once we were all said and done with check in, luggage etc. But of course our rooms wasn’t ready. So we headed up to the Concierge lounge (I splurged and went with a concierge room as I have 3 teens to feed, it is well worth the extra money, as we eat most of our meals in the lounge!). We had lunch there, (I warned them that they should make sure to be well stocked with PB&J uncrustables) checked Facebook and emails etc, then went to ESPN Zone. We spent $40 and played games for about 1.5 hours. It was fun and no one was there, so we had our choice of games etc. I think the best game was Furlong, it is a horse race simulator and you could have up to 4 people “race” against each other by rocking little rocking horses. The faster you rock, the faster your horse goes. It was so fun to play and even funnier to watch! Then we went back to the hotel and asked the bellman if we could get our swimsuits out of a suitcase (luckily I knew which suitcase they were in) and we swam for about 2 hours. It was really nice and they have a very nice pool for the kids.

I keep looking around wondering if any of the people that are on our discussion board for the cruise are around me, but I have no idea how I would know any of them. My son said I should wear a jersey with “Poohmomof5” on it.

Anyway, once our room was ready we headed up and showered and changed, grabbed some food in the lounge and finally headed out to the Parks! We decided to go to California Adventure and hang out at Paradise Pier. We were so thrilled because it was almost empty!!!!!

We went on almost all the rides with less than a 5 minute wait. We basically walked right on. We did get fastpasses for California Screaming so we didn’t have to wait 25 minutes.

We did the Orange Stinger first, it was fun because the ride host was really chatty and was interacting with us during the ride. Then Mulholland Madness, Orange Stinger again, Maliboomer 2 times, used our Fastpasses at California Screaming, went to do the Golden Zephyr and then…well our first glitch of the trip happened…

Timon 08-14-2008 11:05 AM

Great job so far :thumbsup2 Will you be posting on the ship?? :confused3 Here's hoping :thumbsup2 :goodvibes Have a great time!!!!!! :cool1:

poohmomof5 08-14-2008 11:05 AM


Originally Posted by PapaOohMowMow (Post 26911207)
We are all fine.
Jessie has been very good. We put her in bed at 10pm and she sleeps all night.
We are registering for her Fall Classes today.
Going to the lake tomorrow and will return Tuesday.

Relax and have fun.

Hi DAD!!!

So excited to hear from you. I will try to update this as much as possible, so you guys can follow along! Tell Jessie we can't wait to see her tonight! :)

Say hi to mom and follow along...just wait for my next update. We have a dental emergency...guess who?!?

poohmomof5 08-14-2008 11:07 AM


Originally Posted by Luxo (Post 26912191)
Did you say you want to go to Disneyland the day we leave?!? OMG!

Not packed yet and a bit stressed out! Looking forward to seeing y'all tonight!

Love, Luxo

This is so exciting to hear from you! YES, we want to go to early magic to you later!

poohmomof5 08-14-2008 11:17 AM


Originally Posted by Timon (Post 26912514)
Great job so far :thumbsup2 Will you be posting on the ship?? :confused3 Here's hoping :thumbsup2 :goodvibes Have a great time!!!!!! :cool1:

I am going to post whenever I can. What I am trying to do is type up my reports on my laptop, then I should be able to log in quicky, cut and paste and post! :) Hopefully not wasting too many of our internet minutes!

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