sarah vs the world

Not a video game, not a comic, not a band, but an amazing adventure continues...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Special Addition Train Blog: Minneapolis to Seattle

Date: AUG 30 2009
Time: 23:30
Location: Minneapolis-St Paul

I have just arrived in my lovely sleeping car on the start of my long journey westward. I just settled down in my bed made so nicely for me by Seid my personal attendant. Then I grabbed my camera to take a happy snap of me laying down only to realise that I had enough battery left for one photo only! Will ask Seid how I can remedy this for the next 37 hours. Hopefully I can get off and buy some or something. Otherwise this blog will consist solely of that one shot and descriptions only of all the amazing things I saw. How stupid.
Here is that one photo:

But really I should have known…my ride to the train station was adventurous as we decided to listen to the GPS and not our instinct. Then when I finally got to the station, no one told me that sleeping car passengers board first. So when I arrived just before departure, Seid was anxiously awaiting my arrival so he could go to bed. At any rate, here I am, typing, in my bed, rolling along westwardly and for the first time in nearly 6 weeks (minus the few hours I was flying to Edinburgh) I am on my own. And will be for a lot more hours.
For those of you playing along at home, the train stops at the following stations:
• St Cloud, MN
• Staples, MN
• Detroit Lakes, MN
• Fargo, ND
• Devils Lake, ND
• Rugby, ND (soon to be changed to AFL, ND because it’s more interesting)
• Minot, ND
• Stanley, ND
• Williston, ND
• Wolf Point, MT
• Glasgow, MT
• Malta, MT
• Havre, MT
• Shelby, MT
• Cut Bank, MT
• Browning, MT
• Glacier Park, MT
• Belton West Glacier, MT
• Essex, MT
• Whitefish, MT (where we went skiing as kids)
• Libbey, MT
• Sandpoint, ID (the only Idaho stop because it’s boring)
• Spokane, WA
• Ephrata, WA
• Wenatchee, WA
• Everett, WA
• Edmunds, WA
• Seattle, WA

This journey should take just over 37 hours. I will eat in the dining car 4 times, sleep twice, read lots of books, watch several dvds and see many things along the way. I am hoping to blog a little bit in each interesting point assuming I am not asleep. But for now, I will watch an episode of Sex and the City from my bed and then close my sleepy little eyes. It’s been a long day today, and I am looking forward to getting some rest for the big journey into the start of the next phase of my life. Vancouver here I come….

Date: 31 August 2009
Time: 7:10
Location: just outside of Rugby, North Dakota

So I survived my first night sleeping on the train. It wasn’t fantastic, but once I realised that the bed above me makes less noise NOT in its fully upright and locked position, I was able to get some sleep. Admittedly, the sleep wasn’t the best sleep I ever had, but I did sleep nonetheless. So breakfast is starting to be served on a first (in best dressed) come, first served basis. The dining car is 2 cars behind my sleeping car and the observation car is just behind that. I have a lot of exploring to do already! I am aiming to get off the car in Minot in hopes that they sell batteries there. It looks like we should be there around 830am.
I have realised that I can take photos of the passing scenery in photo booth on my computer, so we won’t be totally lost. I took a few shot of the landscape I was passing through the window of my sleeping car. North Dakota is primarily farmland with some big carved rocks of presidents gone before us. The lady just came over the PA to tell me an interesting fact about Rugby, ND. It is the geographical centre of North America. But I am hungry and breakfast is included so best get dressed and head up to breakky. More in a bit.

Date: 31 August 2009
Time: 9:00
Location: Just outside of Minot, North Dakota (a service stop)

So I had breakfast in the dining car. It was hash brown, bacon and a veggie and cheese omelette. I had coffee and orange juice. It was delicious and a little too much food really. I sat with an older couple, Sue and Paul, from Springfield, Massachusetts who were heading to Seattle to see their son who is in the army. It did get a bit touch and go there for a minute when they wanted to talk politics. And I quote ‘Thank Goodness there won’t be any more Kennedys in politics. The last one finally died!’ Yeah, ridiculous. And what I found to be even more amazing is their frankness in sharing said information with me. Like they were so sure that I would agree. I explained the electoral process in Australia and that side tracked us for a while. Although I was wishing I had that kids book that my mom and I had seen in Barnes and Noble before I left My Life as Senator Edward Kennedy’s Dog. That would have been perfect. But of course, I was my usually lovely self and didn’t say anything to offend them. The conservatism here is pretty unbelievable, Australians. It’s kind of scary. I got off the train to look for some batteries in Minot, but there wasn’t much at the station at all. So Sue offered to let me use some batteries she had! We won’t be without photos. Thank goodness. I just took a couple of what I believe must be the only hills in North Dakota. Now it’s back to entirely flat again.
Seid wasn’t very impressive this morning as my bed is still out in my sleeping car, but apparently he will fix it up after breakfast. I think I remember these rooms being a bit more spacious, but maybe I was just a lot smaller myself. I can say having the place to myself is nice though and much nicer than sitting in a seat the entire time. I never would have done that I don’t think.
I am currently riding through fields and fields of sunflowers, which is kind of nice. But the flowers dissipate rather quickly and back to fields of who knows what. Flat, flat and more flat.
Sunflowers in motion:

Bring on the rockies. It looks like I will get there around 6pm tonight so hopefully it will be light out long enough to see some awesome stuff. I will definitely be in the observation car then. Looking forward to it.
Just did a bit of reading about all of the amazing things you can see on Amtrak in this country. The whole travelling by train thing hasn’t really caught on that much in the states, but I really enjoy it. Am thinking about doing a relatively decent trip again after I finish in Vancouver to see some family. Could be an amazing time. I suppose it is kind of sad to think that so long ago all they wanted was to have a railroad that went all the way across the country Manifest Destiny style. And now it is so under utilised, but hey times change. It is definitely the greener way to travel and perhaps that will help it make a comeback now that people are starting to care a bit more about that.
I am pretty sure Seid is on his way to make up my bed. Will write more when I have more to say.

Date: 31 August 2009
Time: 11:40 Central Time, 10:40 Mountain Time if we are there yet.
Location: Somewhere between Williston, ND and Wolf Point, MT

Out of the flatness, pretty much from nowhere just appeared the most amazing rocky hills. Surely I am in Montana now. I can’t really tell exactly where we are, but the landscape has certainly changed. I think it is about an hour until lunch, but I think I will head there closer to the end of lunch as I have been happily watching episodes of Sex and the City again. Gotta get a start on the book Jonny recommended, so I think it’s nearly time to turn the DVDs off and get cracking. More to come after lunch I reckon…
Rocky Hills:



Date: 31 August 2009
Time: 14:35 Mountain Time
Location: Havre Montana

The train has stopped in Havre, MT for a bit of a service stop. You know, just for more fuel and food and the like. I walked outside in search of batteries to replace the ones that I have borrowed from Conservative Sue, and it appears to be 500 degrees out there now. So after a quick look around, I have shut myself back up in my little sleeping car. I got called to my wine and cheese tasting (for sleeping car livers only mind you) just as soon as the train started moving. We just had 3 cheeses and 4 wines and I won a bottle for guessing a trivia question. What is the 5th busiest station on the Empire Builder line? It’s Whitefish! Where we use to go skiing. How I love winning prizes! Luckily I ran into Conservative Sue and gave her back 2 batteries of the 4 pack she loaned me. I also managed to meet a couple from Tassie. I knew they were Australian when they asked for milk for their coffees instead of cream. Americans have cream.
So I have also had lunch where I realised I had committed a dining out faux pax. I have obviously lived in Australia for too long because I realised at lunch that I forgot to tip for breakfast. Now, I ask you this. If your breakfast is included in the price of your ticket to Seattle, do you have to tip? All of our meals are included. Does this require a tip? $2 is all he got for lunch. Hopefully that sufficed. Lunch was a spinach salad with grilled salmon on it. Not the best salmon I have ever eaten, but everyone else was having it, so I gave it a try. But the peanut butter & chocolate pie I had for dessert was spectacular.
I made my dinner reservation for 715pm and am planning on heading up to observation car around 6pm to just chill out and look at Glacier National Park. Luckily it’s still summer and it will remain light out for long enough for me to get photos of mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. Apparently I didn’t get my fill in Scotland. Hard to believe I know…


Date: 31 August 2009
Time: 20:45 Mountain Time
Location: Glacier National Park, Belton West

Just got back from dinner in the dining car. Steak, veg and baked potato with chocolate Haagen Daas for dessert. Awesome. Now I am awaiting the arrival of Seid in the next hour to turn down my bed. Or at least turn my table and chairs into a bed. Got quite into my book, took lots of photos in the Obs car, and have managed to NOT drink the wine I won. Drinking on your own can be a bit sad. Sat with a couple from Rochester NY at dinner that were actually very hilarious at dinner. Also sat with a young logger guy. Yes ladies, a logger. A real man’s job. In his family, all the men are loggers. He could tell me all the different types of trees. The trees he was logging were made into lumber and sent to Home Depot (American Bunnings). Randy and Lori (from Rochester) decided that the logger and I should get together. This is found hilarious because Logger Bill had only been as far east as Idaho. Not too compatible for the dual citizen.
The train has been slowly climbing all the way through the Rockies. It really makes realise that there is so much to see in all different parts of the world. My travels, although they have been so far and wide, have only covered a tiny part of this magnificent planet.
Glacier National Park:



As I sit back in my car, getting ready for finishing series 4 of Sex and the City and read more into the world of young teenage revolt (it’s a great book thus far), everything is seeming a bit more real. The entire 6 weeks of holiday is nearly coming to a close. Work will begin the day after Labour Day, and I will work long hours until I need another holiday to recover from it.
I am already planning where else I can go on the train post Olympics. There is something so calming about this way of travelling. I almost wish it wasn’t nearly over with. 37 hours on a train…could it possibly not be enough? Maybe not for this train lover.

Date: 1 September 2009
Time: 5:35 Pacific Time
Location: Hmm…somewhere between Ephrata and Wenatchee, WA

I slept much better last night. In fact, I think I was asleep by about 9pm Pacific Time, even though I wasn’t quite in that time zone yet. I woke up around 230 or so and read a bit. Then at 330 we were in Spokane. At Spokane, not only does Pacific Time start, the train itself splits into 2, with one part headed to Seattle and the other part headed to Portland. Pretty amazing stuff. Luckily the dining car is still with us, so I am just about to head up to breakfast. It’s served pretty early today since we get off the train around 10. Will get up there, refuel and start packing up my room. Seattle is so in reach it’s scary!

Date: 1 September 2009
Time: 8:40 Pacific Time
Location: About an hour east of Everett, WA

It appears as I found out during breakfast that the train had a few issues just outside of Spokane. Rumours were ripe about a freight train hitting a car on the tracks and our train getting held up by that. I am not sure. I did wake up when the train was splitting, but I just assumed this was taking longer than it usually should. At any rate, we are a little bit late but it looks like we will pick up some time between Everett and Seattle. After an interesting breakfast (the company was quite random actually), I decided to lay back down for a bit. As it was they ran breakfast over since they are running a bit late so I didn’t need to get up so early. But then the scenery started to get really pretty, so I have tried to capture a few photos of this section of the trip. It is mostly mountains, rivers and lots of evergreen trees. This is all part of the trip I never saw before so I didn’t want to miss too much. A man keeps coming on the PA telling us what we are seeing but if you blink, you miss it (and surely the shots on my digi cam reflect this!).
Photos in the Cascades:


I also just overheard the guy in the sleeper across the hall from me saying that he left his luggage in East Glacier Station. How could you do that? He just said god bless ya to the lady who has his luggage. Surely god should have prevented you from leaving it there? I guess not.
It does make me laugh a little bit to think about the fact that soon seeing mountains will be a regular occurrence. But for now, the girl who grew up in the Midwest and spent most of her adult life in Australia where they kind of don’t really know the definition of mountain, they are still an anomaly and worth staring at. But I am pretty sure just in the distance from my solarium in Vancouver you can see snow capped ones all year round.
I have a little under 90 minutes until I arrive now. By this time next week, I will be at my desk, turning on my computer and getting started at the Winter Olympics. Will definitely be enjoying the last few days of holidaying before moving up north.

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