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. :)


What an amazing journey you just took me on. Thanks! You are a gifted storyteller, both with words and images. :)

Loved the photos of your travel .. the scenery is fantastic.
Amelia looks like she coped brilliantly on such a long journey (in fact, she probably coped better than I would have)
Hope you all have a brilliant time with your family. I look forward to part 2

My heart is racing and I am on the verge of tears. Beautiful. On our bucket list.


We are doing the very same trip this year, going to Seattle and driving around Washington State. Looks like fun. How's the food onboard?

Wow! Thank you for sharing the journey!

Di Hunter says: August 12, 2016 at 06:54 PM

Those clouds!
What a fabulous journey! I love a train ride so I'm adding this to my bucket list.
So nice to see you with your gorgeous girl, we usually only see your husband, naturally, because you are the photographer. :-) She will love those memories made with you both. Looking forward to part two.

I saw the photos on instagram and was enthralled by the sense of space, the vastness of the country and the beauty of the landscape. What a thing to experience. I felt like I got some idea of the whole scope of the thing. The nearest best thing to experiencing it myself - in tiny UK this is just not going to happen.

It looks like Amelia had a gem of an experience, and a magical tour of mystery and wonder unfolded in front of her. Why would you travel any other way in comparison? It seems like a marvellous experience to have.

The photos of the changing landscapes are rather wondrous. You prove the point over and over that it is the eye of the person behind the camera that is the important factor in getting good pictures. Yours tell the story.

Wow - what a wonderful trip and vacation. It's amazing to see so much "big sky" and love that you shared your trip with us. So many beautiful parts of America! I love those cute, little towns! Waiting to see the other pics too! Sounds like Amelia was a good little traveler too!

Looks like a great vacation! Your little girl will remember this forever! Our kids still remembers vacations we took when they were only 4-5 years old. Thank you for sharing this with us Alicia!

Susan from Tsawwassen says: August 13, 2016 at 10:19 AM

So awesome! I've been looking forward to seeing your pics. Thanks for sharing. Thoroughly enjoying. Can't wait to see more!

Two days in train! I will pass! I love the photos anyway!

Wrennette Aagaard says: August 13, 2016 at 04:43 PM

Oh how I have enjoyed your pictures. I have wanted to do this same thing for many years but it is always cost prohibitive for us. Now, you have given us a genuine gift of getting to see what it is like...the window size by your seats, the dining car, etc. Perhaps you were sitting in an observation car when you were taking pictures of the scenery. We are from Kentucky and I am of the age where we used to drive back and forth from Northern California to Ky. 2,800 miles. We were usually three children sitting in the back seat and two adults up front. My cousins and I still laugh how we would wrestle with our elbows to try to seek out a fraction more of space...silly. But point being I remember each trip and the beauty of what I was seeing out the window and there were only Diners and restaurants then and that was how we learned to behave when going out to dinner or breakfast..eating out. I still remember my Aunt running down the rules before we went inside. Giggle. So you treated many of us to "memories". It was lovely to see you in the pictures. Thank you so VERY MUCH for sharing with us...I look forward to Part II.

Wonderful photos! They tell a very full story of your trip from Portland to Chicago!

Sheila Lammers says: August 14, 2016 at 05:56 AM

Oh, my Gram has the same sheets as you have on the pillow you brought along! And what a lovely trip for you all and so nice to get to share in the experience a little bit!

Dear Alicia, I hope you won't think this is strange but after reading your posts for years and purchasing some of your lovely kits, I've come to think of you as a friend, even though we have not actually met. I'll bet I'm not alone in that, either. Anyway, I am currently reading the Harry Potter series for the first time (yes, better late to that party than never!) and I am loving it and definitely recommend if you have not read it yet. Mimi will love it when she is older. My older daughter has read the series at least 4 times. Now, with your recent sharing of your train trip pictures, it occurred to me that I have never read the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series, and I remembered one of your posts where you had read The Long Winter and loved it, "Well, Alicia said it was great, so I have to read this", I thought, as if you'd told me over coffee😉. Last night I went searching for the post to see exactly what you said (December 31, 2012,) and it was such a beautiful, warm, cozy post as always, which made me feel even luckier to "know" you. So thank you, friend, for the beautiful posts and the book recommendations and pictures of your trip. Looking forward to our next "coffee"!

I love all your photos and comments and have followed since before Amelia was born, which is a short time really. What a wonderful country such a shame that this side of America is not shown more often. All we see in England is Trump/Clinton and people complaining. Of course, we know it is not like that but what a country you all live in. I loved all the photos but the ones I liked the best is Amelia asleep and your hubby yawning, what cracking photos. My uncle who died twenty years ago at 90 once travelled from the east coast of Canada to the west on a train, he said it was one of the best train journeys ever. Much love Andie xxx

Michaelanne says: August 14, 2016 at 07:42 AM

Such beautiful pictures!!! Thank you for posting Alicia! Looking forward to Part DEUX :)

What a glorious vacation! All the water pictures are stunning. This type of vacation is the stuff of childhood dreams, and what great memories for your family!

lyn lindsay says: August 16, 2016 at 02:59 AM

One fabulous looking holiday, keep enjoying, looks wonderful, hope you all return fresh and full of memories.
Lyn, Australia

Susan Wells says: August 19, 2016 at 04:54 PM

What an amazing inspiring gift you are.

We are taking our two year old daughter on this trip. Super excited to find these photos and your story.

Any suggestions on where she could sleep? (Other than in the bed with one of us.) Does they train have playpens or other options for toddlers? Any other advice on making it an enjoyable trip for all of us?

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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




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.