When we boarded our train, the Southwestern Chief, we were directed down the steps to our tiny room. Our beds were ready for us. There's no room to dress and undress in a closed cabinette, we learned, except to stretch out on your bunk and put on your jammies lying down... no room to change in the bathroom, either. In the cabinette, there was barely room for our shoes when we removed them.
Cliff insisted on taking the top bunk because I'm not too agile, thanks to my knees; he was afraid I'd fall in the process of getting down. I argued with him, because the top bunk is smaller and Cliff is the larger of us, but he insisted. As it turned out that night, neither of us slept anyway, except for brief periods of dozing.
The stretch of train track leaving Kansas City is rough! We were rocking and rolling in our bunks as we traveled southwest through the night. Add to that the constant tooting of the train whistle, plus our excitement and confusion at doing something totally different... it was a long night. Neither of us are spring chickens, so of course we had to get up for the bathroom a couple of times. As luck would have it, the bathroom was right outside our room, so it wasn't a long trip, except that Cliff had some difficulty climbing down from his bunk. See, you can't actually sit up in the top bunk, so you must roll over and somehow slither down to the foot of the bed and cautiously place your foot on the top of two steps, then cautiously descend.
The bathrooms are tiny, but that's a good thing, because if the train rocks a little and you lose your balance, you just put out your hands and grab a wall or a sink and you can't possibly fall down because there isn't room. Oh, let me warn you: The first time you flush the stool, you'll think you've been shot. The air-assist flush sounds like a gunshot! Just look for the word "flush" and push the button beside that.
After a long, long night that I spent mostly trying to see out the window in the dark (Cliff didn't have a window), I told Cliff to join me on the bottom bunk so he could at least see outside. We chatted and bemoaned the lack of sleep (and my backache) until breakfast was announced. You have to choose a time for your other meals, but breakfast is first-come, first-served. Meals, by the way, are paid for when you have sleeping quarters on the train.
I'm inserting this as an afterthought: Our lady train attendant (porter) put our beds down at night and put them up in the morning, but our first morning, Cliff felt funny about pushing the button to call her, so he figured out himself how to fold the beds out of the way.
Now, three-fourths of the seats may be unoccupied when you enter the dining car, but you can't just choose a seat: The waiter will lead you to a table and seat you across from two strangers who may or may not be traveling together. If you are a died-in-the-wool introvert, the only way out of this is to have your meals in your roomette. Trust me, you'd have to be more committed to your solitary nature than I, because by the time you've spent several hours in that tiny space (even with the best of companions), you want out of there for awhile. So I met many, many people on our trip. Here are the first folks we dined with, from California (I asked their permission to take this picture).
To be continued...