A movable feast: Luxury rides the rails

"There is always a chance a trip could be canceled if people don't book it," GrandLuxe spokeswoman Jane Andrade says. But she says the company's regular train tours are a go for 2008.

As for future Amtrak/GrandLuxe collaborations, "it's still up for discussion," Andrade says. "We went into it not knowing how it would go, and the Zephyr did seem to resonate" with passengers.

Indeed. It's hard to peel away from the window, even at 2 a.m., when dark woods and fields are flying by. But sleeping on a train is as comforting as being rocked in a cradle (even if the sleepers with bleach-scented sheets can't compare with cushy hotel beds).

As the flat, silo-dotted farmland of Iowa, small-town Main Streets and the mighty Mississippi whiz by on Day 3, when asparagus-boursin cheese omelets and yet another gooey chocolate dessert are served, Silverstein muses: "This is quite a show. There's a tone and texture of America that you can't experience anywhere else."

While Champagne corks pop to celebrate the train's arrival in Chicago, passengers gather one last time in the club car.

The Sears Tower glides into view, and passengers snap photos and exchange addresses. Glasses are raised, and Lebeaux takes her place at the baby grand to strike up a rousing version of Chicago.

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