The giant silver pill of germs lurched into motion northbound. We were taking the train from Portland to Seattle for spring break, not because it’s cheaper, or because of any romantic attachment to the rails. After many years of bumper-to-bumper traffic, gas station bathroom terror, and two cracked windshields courtesy of Interstate 5, we have come to value our last strands of sanity.
Besides, all Little E cared about was the dining car. She’d seen movies where men in red waistcoats doted on passengers like overbearing mothers and chocolate fondue fountains dripped from every table. She was under the false impression that eating from a train kitchen was fun.
Of course, my wife and I had prepared snacks at home. We knew the reality. We knew that the dining car is a challenge only the most iron of stomachs survives. And we knew that if you want healthy, nutritious mobile grub when you hit the road, skies, or rails, you need to pack your own.
The recipes below pack up nicely and will keep the squad in motion until you can settle in at the next destination. Are they “travel hacks?” Call them common sense. Here is one version of what they could spare you:
We thought we’d be good, sensible people by waiting for the train to actually start moving before we headed to the dining car. Rookie mistake. Between “all aboard” and leaving the station, the line to eat became something out of a Disney World holiday weekend.
Little E ran headlong into the fray. As we closed the gap on the end of the line, a bachelorette party swarmed in front of us, shriek-talking. A pony-tailed man holding a 64-ounce can of Budweiser boxed us in from the rear.
Little E is six now. She gets daddy’s gallows humor. I had no problem pasting an overly cheery smile on my face, flaring out jazz hands and singing, “Welcome to the dining car, honey!”
“Dad,” she whispered to me, fingers draped across her mouth in horror, “this place is kinda scary, and it smells like a bathroom.” Her dreams of dining car utopia dashed, we shouldered our way back to our seats. There, we happily ate our homemade snacks to the lonesome clickity-clack of the tracks.
“Next time we should just fly to Seattle,” Little E said, finally breaking the silence. “A kid at school said all the food is free and it’s really good, too.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her otherwise.
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