Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blogging on a Real Train

8-4-10: Whitefish, Montana up to West Glacier, Montana in an Amtrak Superliner

Yea, I’ve been pretty lax in the blogging for the last couple of days. And with good reason, I mean seriously, other than doing an adventure - where life on the road can be funny, crazy, scary, the whole gamut - my regular life is pretty mundane, so I find it kind of laughable to think that it’s necessary to just “blog” my little “non-adventure” nothings and ramblings onto the net on a daily basis and believe that people are going to wait with baited breath to read such gibberish. So maybe like two more blogs to go then I’m going to pull the plug and get back to my day to day existace.

Spent the last two days in downtown Seattle, up in the Capital Hill district at my sister’s friend Duane’s appt. Duane was one heck of a great sport hosting me for 3.5 days. He has cats, and a couple of them are pretty skittish, so I was hoping I wouldn’t have the “Gladden” curse on them as my sister had a year or so back, where Duane eventually had to take one of the cats in to the vet due to a “bashful bladder” episode. Luckily, the cat felt more at home pissing in the litter box with me there than my sister! That made me feel good – take that Kim.

Now Duane has a great location, being just about 1.5 miles up above the downtown area. And his view out of the living room window is to die for, let alone one the roof where we hung out a couple of times and just knocked back a few brews and watched the sun set over the Sound. Saturday we strolled downtown and checked out the market place and scoped some places to eat. Ended up going back to that Vietnamese place where I had the massive spring rolls….then to this pretty tasty Indian restaurant. And that was pretty much the story of my stay there – walk around a bit (and leave the appt for a bit so Mr. Blue, the kitty with the bashful bladder, could have some piece and quiet so he could take a leak), eat, walk, eat, walk, and on and on. Have to say that I’d eaten more Vietnamese food in that 3-day stint in Seattle than all the combined Vietnamese sittings in various parts of the world. I was just STUCK on the Vietnamese food thing! Just love their soups – hearty, massive, spicy and filling.

It’s just been glorious to NOT have to ride for the past several days, yet I was still waking at around 5:30 each and every morning while at Duane’s appt. That’s still my rhythm of life, and I hope this train ride breaks the rhythm what with trying to sleep in a seat for 3 nights in a row. Boarded this #8 Empire Builder Amtrak Superliner yesterday at around 5:30 PM for the 2-day trip to Chicago. I had cooked some food for this trip at Duane’s appt. – fried chicken, chicken strips – and then purchased some additional items such as jerky, sport bars, trail mix ……..and a great big bottle of chocolate stout and a pint bottle of prime aged bourbon whiskey. Now alchohol is not allowed to be brought on board unless you have a sleeper car. Guess they figure that if you’re paying a thousand bucks to do a sleeper you deserve not to have to pay six bucks of a one shot mixed drink or four bucks for a bottle of beer.

But hell, you know me – scofflaw that I am – I’m bringing my own private stock by God! So anyway, we got rolling after a one hour delay and got my seat. Now the seating situation on Amtrak has changed since the last time I rode this – about 20 years ago I went 15 thousand miles all across the US. And back then you could just get any seat you wanted, and I always went for the bulkhead seats due to them having tons of extra room. Well, on this train, and it’s probably the way they do things now, they put up “reserved for parties of two” signs all over the coach, and the bulkheads were prime party of two areas. I laid out my Bob yak bag on the floor in front of me because it contained my food and drink, than and my computer where right alongside my seat. The ride goes along the very Rt 2 that I had ridden, and it was so much fun watching that road from a different perspective – especially seeing that the wind was blowing hard out of the west.

The train went north out of Seattle, right past where I finished the trip at the beach and lighthouse, and then veered to the right to go easy up to the Steven’s Pass area in the Cascades. I was a fantastic run up into the Cascades as we went over the Skykomish river numerous times on the climb up to the pass. That’s about the time I cracked open my chocolate stout – ahhhhhh, fantastic even slightly warm. Had some chicken and trail mix for dinner out of my bag. Which leads me to the next rambling: eating on Amtrak. Well, eating on Amtrak is analogous to eating in an airport – freaking stupid expensive. The meals in the dining car are fun, kind relaxing, and a neat experience, and I’ll likely have ONE dinner in the dining car out of the 3-day trip. But they’re portioned just a smidge bigger than airline meals, and they’re just too much money – like 13 bucks for pasta dishes and 18 bucks for meat dishes. They also have 10 dollar breakfasts and lunches, along with a café car where they sell sandwiches, small pizzas, beer, wine, pop, coffee etc.

So I brought enough food to last me all the way to Chicago allowing for just one diner car dinner. Anyway, after my chicken and trail mix dinner, it was starting to get dark and that was my chance to pop the top on my finely aged bourbon whiskey, and pour some into one of my strategically placed water bottles – ahhhhhhhh, wonderful! Just sipped whiskey as we climbed up over and then descended the Cascades. That was it, and the next 8 hours was positioning myself in like every crazy sleeping position possible on the two coach chairs I’m in – so far no one has decided to sit by me so I have two seats. I mean I was twisted up like a freaking pretzel at times trying to sleep. Had my camp pillow and an Amtrak pillow. I did sleep but it was about a 2 on a scale of 1-10, with one being just total shit! Woke at my customary 5:30 AM – Mountain Time Zone – and ate more chicken and trail mix, this time for breakfast.

Oh, get this, and this happened yesterday evening. I took my shoes off to relax in the seat, and I guess my socks and feet kind of stunk, I mean really stunk. And I had a foot on the very back of the armrest of the seat in front of me. Like it was nowhere near the lady’s arm in front of me. And in a bit this lady turns around and looks at me and holds her nose and says: “could you please move your foot, it smells!” And I’m like, “wooooooow, sure, no problem.” My feet seemed to smell like my feet do after having climbing shoes on for about two hours – stinky as all hell. I had specifically taken a shower just before I left for the train, because I knew I wouldn’t have a shower for 2-3 days. And I was kind of freaked, because all of a sudden I could really smell them. So I changed socks fast for the second time in a day - and then grabbed and took a whiff of my shoes – holy *&%&$^$#%^# - they were the main culprit, just absolutely horrible! And those shoes were right under this lady’s seat. I quickly got a plastic bag out of my yak bag and tied the shoes up – suffocating that rancid, rotten shoe smell. That did the trick and now I only take those stink bombs out of the bag when I need to hit the head or go get some coffee in the café car.

So we’re heading into West Glacier National Park right now, and there’s good old Rt 2 right out the window to my right. Feels fantastic to see that road from here, from a different perspective. Now I tried to use my air card on the train, but most areas are just totally blank with bars. I had to wait until we got to Whitefish to plug in, where I thought there’d be cell service, and then I quickly got on line and sent and received my emails – still pretty slowly. As soon as we got like 5 miles out of Whitefish the signal was gone. I’m hoping to send this blog out when we get to West Glacier where I think there will be some cell towers. If not I’ll have to wait until Browning, Montana or a bigger place that has cell service. Right now looks like a cloudy, overcast day out in the Montana Rockies. It’s funny, I’ve been on the train for like 16 hours. On my bike going west, that stretch had taken me about 7-8 days to complete. I’m really looking forward to getting on to the Great Plains and watching that gnarly stretch just flash by.

Well, that’s about it. I’ll do like one more blog from the train and then that will be it for this year on my blogging. Look forward to getting home and seeing everyone. All the best……..Pete

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