On the Road . . .

day1_01

The plan was, as on our 2017 Northern Tier ride, Denise would take the ferry from MI to WI, I’d pick her up, she would stay with emJay and me and the next day Mary Jean would take us to Columbus where we would board the Amtrak  Empire Builder to head west!!! The ferry arrived right on time , , ,

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. . . and soon we were seated at the Milwaukee Public market having a nice lunchy and catching up on the last two years.

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After a dinner at Beuenveutos, we all slept great. Our train did not leave Columbus until 5:02pm so I had the day to show off Madison  during a bike ride around the city on the Cap City Tr. A stop at Budget Bike and Machinery Row, so I could buy some booties and a helmet cover (wet weather predicted ahead) and a ride around the Capital rounded out the morning and early afternoon.  Ms. Forward in the top circle and Lady D, as Ron coined Denise, in the lower circle.

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We got to the Columbus station an hour early and had a nice time catching up with our train buddy, Bob. He works for a contractor that supplies station services to AMTRAK. His day job had been a prison guard for 33 years at one of Wisconsin’s prisons. AMTRAK pulled their employees out of the Columbus station 5 years ago when they stopped selling tickets there.

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Bob explaining the finer points of the Empire Builder line line.

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The train arrived 1 hour 45 minutes late because of ‘mechanical problems’. One of which was the two locomotives pulling the train were put in the wrong order and the seconded engine kept ‘rebooting’. It took a half hour to switch the engines and there were other ‘issues’ along the way.

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Soon the three of us took one last photo, I kissed Smoochie goodbye, and Denise and I boarded the train, heading west!!

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After riding in a coach car two years ago, Denise and I decided to ‘upgrade’ to a couchette (sleeper) this trip. 10 roomettes, 5 deluxe rooms, 4 bathrooms and a shower AND all meals, with premier seating times, included. Your choice of anything on the menu and dessert is included. Alcohol is EXTRA!!!!. Our car attendant, Kenny, appeared and introduced himself. He will be attending to us for the next 53 hours. He’s stationed in the berth right behind us so we could bang on the wall if we needed anything during the night!!!

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The couchette is cozy, about the size of a closet with two bunks.

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But it is big enough to have it’s own closet!!!

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Some people don’t do to well with claustrophobic conditions!!!!

day1_09

. . . but can certainly mellow out later in the day!!!

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We were soon in the prairie pothole area of North Dakota . . . ‘land spreading out so far an wide, skip Manhattan and give me that countryside’!!!

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Mid afternoon our dinning room hostess, Amanda, stopped by to take our dinner orders . . . nice!!!

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The meals are included with the roomette and you have a new set of dining companions at every meal. Here was Kathy and Earl from a small town in southern Illinois heading to Seattle,  then down the coast to San Francisco and back to Chicago. All on AMTRAK!!!

day1_16

With the meal plan you can order anything off the menu, including salads, soups, entrees and dessert. Here was Denise’s ‘surf and turf’ which included an Angus steak and large lump crabcake, $38 if you were in coach and had to order it off the menu (not worth it!!) I had the Norwegian Salmon, with a special sauce, rice pilaf and double chocolate torte, two nights in a row. Veggie burgers for lunch. Vino was extra!!!

day1_18

After finally arriving in Seattle we had an hour wait for the next AMTRAK Cascade train that would take us the final leg to Bellingham . . .

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. . . and of course at this point, about 56 hours into the trip, we MADE SURE our luggage and bikes were transferred to our new train!!!!

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Arriving in Bellingham it started to drizzle. We schlepped our stuff about 1/2 mile to the Fairhaven Inn (Denise carried most of it!!!) where we left our bikes for the night with Rich and took an Uber to our home for the night, the Comfort Inn.

This train trip was quite the experience compared to other rail trips. Although we had the roomette, which was nice for sleeping’s, the train ended up being seven hours late into Seattle which meant we missed the bus service transfer from Seattle to Bellingham and had to take another train instead. The seven hour delay was caused by a number of ‘keystone cop’ type mishaps, like starting out from Chicago with the wrong engine in the lead. It took them a half hour to change that and round and after several more issues, arrived in Columbus 1.5 hours late. Along the way, during the middle of the night,  a tree had fallen across the track, taking another 1.5 hours to clear the rail. Various other mechanical problems developed, including air conditioning problems. All went into accumulating to a seven hour arrival delay into Seattle

No plans set yet on how I am going to get back to MSN from San Diego in seven weeks, but I think I might fly!!!

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