I'm rather familiar with Western Amtrak service but not with the Empire Builder route specifically. Is there a particular season and/or direction that's more advantageous than the others? What about doing something like a PDX-SPK-SEA run instead of CHI-SEA/PDX? Are there any predictable PV options on this route? What are the best stopovers with regard to easy access to local transportation and natural beauty? Is there a hotel that looks/feels like a visit to "The Shining" anywhere near the Going to the Sun Road area?