One of my longer Amtrak trips, I don't think I wrote this up, in fact I took this trip before I joined AU. A nice ride, even if it included my personal all-time longest Amtrak delay. My cross country ski club had a Yellowstone trip planned for that winter, lodging, bus transfer from Bozeman, transportation inside the park. If you've never been to Yellowstone in the winter, I highly recommend it. Less crowds, incredible winter scenery, and lots of wildlife, it's sort of like the snowy Serengeti of North America. There's only one road in the park open to cars, all the other are snow covered and groomed for tracked vehicles. The concessionaire (it was Xanterra at the time) maintains the hotels and runs the snow coaches and other activities. Using the snow coaches you can see most of the park that you can see by car. The attraction to us was the cross country skiing and snowshoeing combined with wildlife viewing and seeing the thermal features. Unfortunately for me, by the time I decided to sign up, it was sold out. But the trip leader said I would be more than welcome to ski and hang out with them if I made my own travel arrangements. Naturally, I thought of including a train ride in my plans. First, I found another guy to share my room with me. He would fly out with everybody else, and I would meet him at the Bozeman Airport and we would carpool. After looking at the map, it appeared that the closest practical place to approach Bozeman by Amtrak was to take the Empire Builder to Havre, which is about 200+ miles on the opposite side of the state. However, there was a Budget rental car agency in Havre, and the train arrived and departed in both directions at a reasonable time (about 1 PM or so). My plan then developed into Northeast Regional from Baltimore to Washington, Capitol Limited from Washington to Chicago, Empire Builder to Havre, an afternoon rental car drive to Great Falls, and then a drive the next day to Bozeman. The following day I would go to the airport to pick up my roomie, and then a drive to Mammoth Hot Springs in the park to start the ski trip. This is February, mind you, and I had some qualms about massive western blizzards turning my vacation trip into the motorist's version of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. However, I found out that unless a storm is actually coming through, it might be cold out there, by there's actually very little snow until you get to the high mountains. And it turns out that Montana is mostly a few high mountain ranges surrounded by lots of plains, which is where the roads are. The schedule ran two noights on the train, one night in Great Falls, one night in Bozeman before we got to Yellowstone. Then three nights at Mammoth Hot Springs, 4 nights at Old Faithful, and a night a Mammoth Hot Springs before I drove my roomate back to Bozeman and then I continued on to Great Falls and reversed the trip. I didn't think to program nights in Chicago in case of missed connections between the Cap and the Builder, and I had no problems either way. I left on a weekday at my usual ungodly 5:30 AM time, as I was going to work before I rode out. Instead of taking the MARC train, I took NER 67, mostly because it had usable overhead luggage racks. I had checked my major luggage (ski bag and a large roller duffle with snowshoes, ski boots, backpacks and all sorts of winter paraphernalia) through to Havre two days earlier, just to be sure the stuff would be waiting for me when I arrived in the middle of nowhere having to get out of town immediately. I was carrying a smaller duffle and a backpack with the stuff I needed on the train trip. NER 67 arrived on time and I wasn't late for work that day. Because the Cap leaves before my normal (former) quitting time, I took a couple hours leave and got back to Union Station at about 3 PM. I had roomettes on both the Capitol and the Builder, and these were paid with cash, as I don't think I had enough AGR points at the time to redeem a roomette trip. The ride to was uneventful. I know that there are chowhounds among you who think that eating gourmet cuisine is the point to train riding, but I'm sorry to report that I forget what I had for dinner, though I do remember that the dining car food in 2007 was better than it is now. We passed by Harper's Ferry with the Potomac frozen over, which doesn't happen all that often, and then it got dark. We woke up the mext day to snowy weather, but nothing too heavy. Arrival in Chicago was a bit late, but I had plenty of time to have lunch in the old Metro Deli and make my connection to the Builder. My roomette was in the Portland sleeper, which was at the end of the train. I had some fun looking out the railfan window. We left Chicago in a reasonably heavy snowstorm, which didn't seem to affect the operation of the train, though I heard from one of my fellow passengers that the airports had just closed down. A bit after Milwaukee, the snow stopped, and it stayed light enough for us to see some of the curious rock formations at Wisconsin Dells. After that, it got dark, and I went to dinner, noticing that at that time the Empire Builder was using real plates, not the plastic disposables used elsewhere. I do remember that I had the Flat Iron steak for that meal. After some riding around in the dark, we finally arrived at St. Paul, which was a long stop, because they refueled the train there. It seemed like most of the coach passengers got off there. I went out on the platform, which might not have been the brightest idea, because it was COLD. I went to bed before we left St. Paul and tried to sleep, except the track was some of the roughest I've ever ridden. I did eventually get some sleep, though, and awoke the next morning somewhere in North Dakota. We had two fresh air stops before Havre, one in Minot and one in Williston. The car attendant said something about it being something like ten below (farenheit) out. I was cold, but I sort of enjoyed being out in the fresh air for a short period of time. Here's Minot, including some very frozen trucks. Here's Williston: Some views of North Dakota and eastern Montana, not a boring as everyone thinks. I can imagine that the early European-American explorers, more used to the eastern part of the continent, were pretty amazed at the wide open spaces and big-sky country. Finally, we got to Havre. First, though the train had to be refueled. The fueling stop was not at the station, but a little bit east. So we cooled our heels while they pumped the diesel in. We did get to see a lot of container traffic. Finally, into Havre, where my checked bags were waiting for me. A quick call to Budget (which was actually the local GM dealer -- they sold everything form Chevys to Cadillacs to GMC trucks) resulted in my ride arriving some after. It was still cold, at least to me, but I suppose 10 or 11 below isn't that bad for the locals, and it was nice and sunny. I rented a 4WD SUV, though it turned out I didn't need the 4WD, but it was February in Montana. Soon I was driving down US 87 on my way to Great Falls. By 2007 Montana abandoned it's old policy of no speed limits, but the 70 mph speed limit on this well-paved 2 lane road was more than adequate for my needs. The road was clear, but the winds blew the powdery snow in sheets across the highway like you see in pictures of the Sahara desert. I made a short side detour to see Ft. Benton, which was the head of navigation on the Missouri Rover and was the gateway to Montana in the days before they built the railroads. I managed to slip into Great Falls just as it was getting dark and found my motel in the center of town. The motel, the O'Haire Inn, is locally noted for its tiki bar and mermaid tank (don't ask). A couple of drinks at a tiki bar on a 10 below night in Montana was not a bad way to end the day. Little did I know however (because I didn't bother to watch the weather report on TV, and I didon n't have a smartphone then) that I was going to experience the noted weather phenomenon known as the Chinook. More about that later.