Vacation, Part 1: Getting There

comments: 71

Almost two weeks ago (we're home now), Andy, Amelia, and I left for our vacation to visit Andy's family for his parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. We took the train from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago, Illinois, then drove up all together (with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) to Door County, Wisconsin, to spend a few days in the places of so many of both of our family vacations in the past. We left Portland on a Saturday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. and arrived in Chicago on Monday afternoon, around 2:15 p.m. (So, that's two nights on the train.) We had a wonderful time. Amelia did amazingly well. On the train, I took all of my photos with my iPhone. (If you follow me on Instagram, you saw some of these in real time.) The train, called the Empire Builder, follows a route from Portland (or Seattle — two parts of the train meet up in Spokane, Washington, and go the rest of the way across the country together) through Washington, Idaho, Montana (right through Glacier National Park), North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Illinois to Chicago. (And to those who have asked, we had two Superliner Roomettes, right across from each other.) Here's a chronological photo-log of the first part of our vacation, the train trip from Portland to Chicago.

Would you like to join us?



Vacation2aPortland, Oregon





Vacation7Columbia River Gorge








Vacation17Glacier National Park

Vacation18East Browning, Montana
























Vacation42Stanley, North Dakota








Vacation50aSt. Cloud, Minnesota






Vacation54St. Paul, Minnesota












Vacation65Union Station, Chicago, Illinois

Thanks for riding the rails with us. I'll be back soon with Part 2. :)


Looks wonderful so far! Your daughter seems like a seasoned traveler in those shots--looks like she really enjoyed the trip. Was it cost-effective? Better choice with a child? Curious.

Can't wait to see what else you share from your trip. ;-)

We moved from Spokane WA to Massachusetts when my husband retired from the air force two years ago and took Amtrak, so the pictures are very fimiliar ! Have a safe and fun trip!

What a magical way to start your vacation! Can't wait to see more.

My son and I rode the train from Connecticut to North Carolina when he was a little younger than Amelia. He is 26 now and he STILL remembers it. Precious memories.

I'm happy to hear that Amelia did so well on the train. We did a 3 hour train ride with my 4-year old son, and it was a little tough at times. :) Beautiful photos. I took the train from Seattle to Detroit with my mom and my brother and I remember the same scenery.

Thanks for letting us see some of what you saw, Alicia. My oldest sister and I drove from Portland to Omaha, NE and back several years ago and loved the long stretches of prairie and farm land we saw...the feeling of being in big sky country! I'm glad you had a safe and happy trip and I look forward to seeing part 2 :) xx

Hi Alicia,

As someone who is thinking about doing a long distance train trip with littles, I'm curious--what size car did you get? Was it roomy enough for all three of you? And would you consider doing the same size again in, oh, say five years when your daughter is older and bigger?


What a great start of your vacation!!

Christine says: August 11, 2016 at 12:46 PM

I enjoyed so much following along on Instagram and it is lovely to look at these photos all together. I'd love to do this with my kids but I think we would need a shorter train ride.

i've been dreaming of taking the empire builder for years, and these pictures are only making me want to more. i don't comment here very often but i always enjoy your posts so much - thank you!

What a beautiful journey, Alicia.
My ultimate compliment to you is, you are a youngster but an old soul!
Thanks for taking us along; I look forward to the rest of your trip!!

Spent many wonderful vacations in Door County, looking forward to the photos . We always stayed in Fish Creek and spent every evening at Sunset park. I think we need to go back there :)

I took that same train trip, but from Newport News Virginia to Pasco Washington, with my grand daughter. It was 3 years ago and she still tells everyone about her train trip. It is such an fantastic way to travel. Just big fat fun.

These pictures remind me of riding on the back of my dad's motorcycle---you don't feel that you see the landscape as much as you become a part of it. One of my knitting friends wanted to ride on the Empire Builder to go to Portland for a sock knitting event, and I didn't go. She went on her own, and just a few months later, we found out that she had terminal cancer. I have always felt bad that I didn't go with her---I missed the trip, the knitting event, and time spent with my friend. Thanks for sharing your pictures---I'm glad you guys had a great time and made so many memories.

What an incredible journey, thank you so much for sharing it here. Travelling with a toddler is never easy, but mine loves the train, and it looks like this was a great adventure. I can't wait to see the second part! I have been sharing (well, reading really) your stories here for many years now, and even treated myself to some ornament kits a couple of Christmases ago, but had never realised you also had an IG account, so I'm off to find and follow you! All the best,
Just like peony.

Wow, some fantastic photos there. Amazing skies. It looks like quite a trip. I shall look forward to seeing more. CJ xx

Oh what a trip and what a cute is she? You all are:)Looking forward to part 2:)

Wow! Thank you again for coming soooo far! 🚂

What a glorious trip! Even though air is faster, there is nothing like seeing this country from the ground. Look forward to reading and seeming more.

Welcome home!!
What a wonderful adventure!! 😍
I'm enamoured with your photo's of the passing storm, rainbow and sunset. I sometimes forget just how beautiful our country really is.
I was born in Kalamazoo Michigan and lived in Three Rivers until I was 7 yrs old and then again when I turned 16. I remembered Chicago as it was in the late 1950's, oh such a different city today, especially Michigan Avenue. Love the museums!
Looking forward to Part 2 of your travels. 🚙

I took this very same trip from Chicago to Portland and back in early spring. How lovely to see the scenery a little greener than it was then and amusing to see similar photos to ones I took, for example the adorable little pats of Land O' Lakes butter. I enjoyed the journey and the staff onboard the train were wonderful, but my experience with Amtrak Corporate was disappointing.

What beautiful memories you made, Alicia! Your photos have me thinking of the possibility of a train trip next summer. A lovely way to travel.

Fantastic! Can't wait for the next installment.
Train travel is such a fascinating mixed bag... and Maria and I discovered it's kind of self-imposed crafting opportunity. She picked up embroidery while I crocheted. Plenty of time on a train, and plenty of gorgeous views.

Oh, how wonderful. You know I'm from the East Coast and haven't been back there (live in PDX now) for 10 years b/c I hate (or am too scared) to fly. Now with 4 children, getting back home looks grim, but you have inspired me. I love trains (taken it up to SEA a time or two) and it would be soooo cool to see the western states. I really liked your pictures - amazing how different the states look as you go East. Thanks for a wonderful post!

Bridgette says: August 11, 2016 at 03:56 PM

I followed your journey on Instagram and thoroughly enjoyed it! I noticed that your little love is potty trained, I'm a bit envious. The twins are nearing 3 1/2 and so far it's a no go😳 Also, how nice it is to see your lovely face :)

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at