It’s hard to believe we had never taken a real train trip. The stories that friends have told, about experiencing the views along the rolling tracks, have intrigued us. It is just that we have always fallen back on the reasoning that we would need our car for convenience. The day finally came when we had to set aside the excuses and planned our first Amtrak escape. It seemed that a day trip would be best so that we could ease into the idea of going carless. As we planned for the excursion, our minds were filled with the romanticized perceptions of the golden age of rail travel. We pictured ourselves moving along the side of the train, as the conductor gave the final “All Aboard” warning, and the doors slid closed.
Day Trip Destination
The Amtrak has a route that runs through Kansas City, our hometown. Looking at the possible destinations, Hermann seemed a logical choice. This Missouri town is steeped in the German tradition. Our timing would allow for a visit during their annual Oktoberfest. An early morning start had us waiting in anticipation for the start of our trip. Before long, we made our way to the cars and found ourselves all alone in the business class section. We quickly determined that it was a worthwhile upgrade that allowed us more room to explore. About four hours later, our Amtrak escape pulled into the station in Hermann.
After the long ride, we had two things on our minds. The first was to really stretch our legs, which came immediately upon stepping off the train. Our Amtrak escape had deposited just a block off of the main drag through town. This made for an extremely convenient starting point. Having visited Hermann in the past, we already had a firm grasp on the lay of the land. Just a short stroll away, we discovered our lunch destination. While this town is filled with plenty of German cuisines, we were anxious to sample a newer restaurant named Doxie Slush. The unique combination of frozen cocktails and chef-inspired dishes worked its wonder on us. By the time we left the restaurant, we were ready to do some major exploring.
Hermann, Missouri is certainly an out-of-the-ordinary experience. It may not be a huge town, but it is packed with fun and friendly people. We followed the steady stream of visitors who were checking out the local shops. While our ability to carry a lot was limited by our mode of transportation, we still like to spread tourism dollars whenever possible. Hermann has some cute boutique-style shops that offer a wide range of products, so we had no problem finding a few new treasures. As we stepped out of one shop, we found this pair waiting on a bench. The warm fall day was perfect for sharing a snack (or a selfie) with a friend.
I had researched the town and determined a path that allowed for maximum pleasure in our five-hour window. The Amtrak schedule can be a little loose, so it is wise to return to the station on time. Even with these limitations, we found plenty of time to enjoy the local history museum. We enjoy finding places like this because it gives us some additional background on the destination we are visiting. This particular museum is filled with stories of the German heritage that permeates the community.
Oktoberfest to Remember
Our Amtrak escape was designed to happen during Oktoberfest for a reason. In the past, this annual event would find the town swarming with visitors. Any plans for an overnight stay required months of advance preparation. Since this was just a day trip, we were confident that the traffic would be more manageable. Little did we realize just how much of a damper the pandemic would put on the celebration. Even though the restrictions had not completely been implemented, the growing concern had obviously kept droves of potential partiers away.
The Best and Wurst
With the thinner crowds, it allowed us more room to roam. Our past visits have always fallen outside of the town’s festivals. Even an average summer weekend can draw astonishing crowds. While Hermann was abuzz with festival activity, we realized that it was still an off-year. This meant that we almost had run of the place, and made popping in and out of various shops fairly simple. Two of the main draws are the readily available wines and German cuisine. Even though the departure hour was approaching, we still had plenty of time to do some sampling of the wine and wurst available for purchasing. Of course, not having a car limited the amount of product we could carry home.
Down by the Station
Time was winding down, so we started back to the Amtrak station. Having it so close to downtown is very convenient. I had downloaded an app on my phone that allowed me to see how the train was doing on its schedule. Obviously, it had run into delays at another station, so we found ourselves with a little extra time on our hands. Just behind the station is a riverside park, so we wandered over for a look-see. It was a nice diversion from just standing around with the others and since we had business class seating, we knew there would be no rush on our seats.
Watching as the day waned, we thought back to the time we had spent in Hermann. The fall day was turning toward evening and the chill air began to descend. Our hope had been that we would see the beauty of the changing seasons, but it seemed to be lagging this year. Still, here and there we would spot some colors poking through and we knew the chillier evenings were fast approaching. We are betting that this town is beautiful when the fall colors are in their prime.
Even before we heard the whistle of the approaching train, the crowd began working their way toward the gate. It was apparent that others were using the Amtrak app, as well. We saw no reason to rush since the train wouldn’t be leaving until everyone was on board. Sure enough, once we climbed back aboard, we found plenty of open seating in our car. There were a few others, which we had picked up about halfway across the state. We listened to their stories, as the train lurched down the tracks. The final portion of our ride was spent in solitude, just watching the passing lights and darkening landscape beyond the windows. Our inaugural Amtrak escape went swimmingly, so who knows what the future will hold.