Thursday, June 25, 2009

Empire Builder

Hello Friends. Thought I would pass on a few thoughts after having spend 2 days on Amtrak's Empire Builder (that is the train that runs from Chicago, IL to Seattle, WA). It was a great trip. We left a few minutes late from Chicago but that wasn't a problem. The trip through Wisconsin was great. The scenery was what you would expect of Wisconsin. Penny and I enjoy a great dinner in the dining car. She had a steak, which was cooked well but was a little tough. I had a braised lamb shank - which was excellent. We met Hugo and Charlie from Cleveland, OH. They were a nice couple to visit with.

Returned to our compartment (a private room which had a lounge chair, couch, large windows, and its own bathroom - that was great) to relax. We watched the WI countryside pass by, and then into MN. Traveling along the mighty Mississippi River was spectacular. Having the beds turned down, we turned in as the sun set in the west, the direction we were heading. Stopping in the Twin Cities in MN, I got out because we saw the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha. It was dark but I tried to take a few pictures. Leaving out of the Twin cities, we rolled on into sleep. It was a great night of sleep.

Waking up in North Dakota, we got cleaned up. Let me tell you that showering in a moving train isn't as bad as shaving. Thankfully I didn't cut my throat or it would have been a short trip. I can say that while North Dakota is pretty, it got pretty stark and bare. Moving into Montana the countryside became REALLY wide open.

There were flag stops and smoking stops. Since the Builder is a non-smoking train (they tell you regularly that if you are caught smoking on the train you would be put off at the next stop), they would stop every so often so the smokers could have one. Penny and I got off a few times. When we got off in Havre (Have - er), Montana, is was cool, but it was a dry cool. LOL. Whatever that might mean. It was cool, and it was dry. Not like the heat we left at home, where there is so much humidity you have push hard on the screen door just go get out the air is so heavy.

Watching Glacier National Park from the dining car was wonderful. It was also our 25th anniversary! Antonio, the waiter in the dining car, announced it to the car and they acknowledged it. It was great. Penny loved it. Gave her a new diamond ring. She gave me a great Chicago Cubs game time watch. Thanks Penny, for the watch and the 25 years of love and support!

Falling asleep in Montana (it was over 700 miles across the state!) and had another good night sleep. We woke up in Washington state. The high desert wasn't what I expected. It was so different from the Midwest. We went through the Cascade mountain range. That was something else. The Cascade Tunnel, 7.7 miles of tunnel under Stevens Pass, was something else. I couldn't believe the engineering that made it possible.

As we came out of the tunnel, things changed. It became lush, green and amazing. When we passed along Puget Sound, we hoped for a sea lion or seal but didn't see one. Saw some blue herons and lots of sea gulls. Was really pretty.

Arrived ON TIME in Seattle, WA. And it was cold! OK, not cold, but windy and cool. Quite a change. I will share more thoughts on Seattle later.

Was the Empire Builder worth the trip? YES! It was great. Today is the Coast Starlight down to Sacramento, CA. I'll let you know how that goes. Have a great day.

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