Yesterday we took a day to lie low. Bill has been going non-stop with barely a nap for two solid weeks and all of you who know him know that is something completely unheard of. So he was pretty tired and welcomed the opportunity to just tour the inside of his eyelids. So I did a little of what I like to do - walking and thrift shopping. Hey. I scored a pair of $120 Not Your Daughter's Jeans for $1.79. Thank you, Seattle! I followed up with a visit to Magnuson Park along Lake Washington and enjoyed a brief stroll along the Burke-Gilman Trail.
Dinner at Duke's Seafood & Chowder in nearby Green Lake was delicious - for the first time, I was really tempted to photograph my food but it just couldn't capture the flavor. Blackened salmon over pumpkin ravioli with some pine nuts and creamy cheese sauce. So many flavors you would have thought would go to war with each other. They did not!
Today dawned another blue and gold beauty so we decided the only thing to do was complete the Perfect Vacation Trifecta - get in a bike ride to go with the train ride and boat ride. Luckily for us - and thousands of other people - the Outdoors for All Foundation has a cycle center at Magnuson Park where we were able to rent a handcycle for Bill and a TerraTrike tadpole for me. We didn't go far but we enjoyed the beautiful paved sunny surface immensely.
While we knew we would have to get home and get things cleaned and packed up, we couldn't resist the opportunity to spent a little while along the lakefront at the Magnuson Cafe & Brewery. I sipped a snappy little pilsner, munched on some of the best french fries I've had in a long time, and a big ol' black bean burger; Bill enjoyed some rosemary tomato soup and a BLT. Before we left, we crashed the party of the lovely trio of Elizabeth, Hope, and Viveca and shared a lot of laughs. I could move to Seattle and go hiking with them; although they are quite intrepid, scrambling over rocks and climbing fire towers. I might be too old, ladies, but the photographs of the Fremont Lookout Trail at Mount Rainier looked gorgeous. We were so close on Sunday!
Tomorrow we'll head downtown for the next leg of travel. Maybe we'll actually make it to Pike Place Market? But, NO, not up that Space Needle. We catch the Empire Builder at 4:30 PM and will arrive at Isaak Walton Inn Thursday morning. We'll be there for two nights and then it's back on the Builder for the closing of our circle into Chicago. Sobbing all the way.
There is no cell service at the Isaak Walton; wifi will probably be sketchy. So we will observe radio silence for a while. Depending on my state of mind, I may post again before we return home next Monday. No guarantees!
Thanks for reading,
I know it's been a few days but it's taken a bit of time to get our bearings. I never ever realized Seattle is as big as it is. I love a city, heaven knows, but I think Emerald City might be just a hair too much. And, no. I am not going up in the Space Needle.
Nevertheless, to catch everyone up. We did arrive in Seattle on ... Friday. Yes, it was Friday. A short jaunt up from Portland on the Cascades, Amtrak's "commuter service" between the two cities. We had a nice ride in business class with a good view of the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve as we traveled. I saw an eagle, a seal, and the really astonishingly clean water of the Reserve before Tacoma.
Looks from the Washington Department of Transportation website that they might be working on a bypass around this area to eliminate conflicts with freight. We were lucky; this was one section of the trip where we encountered no delays at all.
And really the trip was bright and clear in spite of this photo. Some bridge somewhere.
The real fun definitely began when we got into King Street Station and wandered out into the city. I mean, really. We were complete and utter rubes. We shuffled our way to the Chinatown station for the Link Rail and then basically just stood there mystified by the whole chaotic scene. Mind you, it was right around lunchtime on a sunny Friday so there were people just everywhere. Eventually Bill asked a young transit cop to help us figure out how to buy a damned ticket. Then he practically had to take us by the hand and lead us to the elevator. Sad, really.
We eventually got to the station we needed and then trudged up the hill to Hertz for our rental car. That I arranged in August. Only to find a sign on the Hertz rental place in the Hilton that they were having "a system error" and we were to go to one five blocks away. The Hilton doorman said that actually no one's ever there. And, you guessed it, the whole shooting match was messed up. Hertz had no cars. Literally. A car rental company with "no inventory."
Michael, the poor sod left to contend with us, started calling every Hertz outlet in Seattle (as more customers came in from Hilton reservations) and eventually Enterprise as well. By then, I was on my cell making a reservation with Enterprise myself. Half an hour later, Will from Enterprise came to pick us up in a silver Nissan Rogue (that I now love). When we got back to the Enterprise office to do the paperwork, he strolled in and announced, "Got another Hertz rescue!"
NEVER rent from Hertz. The only reason I did on this trip was that Amtrak Guest Rewards was offering a bonus points promotion. They better refund my prepaid money or there will be blood.
Anyway, off we drove (with a few wrong turns) in the craziness that is a Seattle drive and made our way to The Bird's Perch, our AirBnB for the next five days. It's fine. Not quite the accessible paradise I hoped but good enough certainly. Actually, the only real complaint we have is that Bill has nowhere to sit. The couch is way too low and the only chairs are fragile little things. But the shower is lovely, there is a garage and a washer and dryer, and a gas fireplace.
And it's reasonably convenient for getting around, although yesterday our goal was to head down to catch the Bainbridge Island ferry, cross the Sound, and rendezvous with Bill's old friends Jeff and Denise Riley. They were coming down from Port Hadlock where they have lived for several years. We headed for the University of Washington Link station (Huskies were off losing to the Ducks in what must have been an exciting game) only to find there is no permitted parking at the station. Not even for poor helpless cripples on a Saturday when there's nothing going on. Kind of ridiculous.
So we decided we would just drive down to Seattle, park somewhere and take the ferry. Well, I plugged it into the old Google maps app and the next thing you know we are driving the Rogue onto the ferry. So a quick call to Jeff elicited the suggestion that we just drive over and pick them up and head up to Port Townsend for lunch instead.
Port Townsend is nothing short of spectacular. More Victorian architecture and cool little shops than one person can stand. I need to go back. All we did was eat and then drive around a bit but as usual we were out of time. Hey, I had to stop for coffee on the way up after that long arduous (okay, 35-minute) ferry ride.
Because, really, my OTHER complaint about our digs is a Keurig coffee machine. Ugh. Why would anyone have one of those things?
This morning Bill suggested - since I spent all day yesterday gasping every time we caught sight of Mount Baker or Mount Rainier - that instead of our original plan for the Pike Place Market today we head out to drive around Rainier. So we did. We never made it around, unfortunately. We got waylaid by the road up to Sunrise Lodge in the National Park (now closed for the season). It's a wow.
I wish we could have continued the loop to Paradise Inn (also closed for the season). Next time.
Does anyone doubt the need to care for these incredible public spaces? We spent $30 to drive up that highway to the Sunrise. Worth every damned cent.
In the end, we will probably make the trip downtown (NOT up the Space Needle) before we leave on Wednesday afternoon. We shall see!
So the coastal cruise has concluded. Drat.
There aren't really words to describe how beautiful the drive on Highway 101 between Astoria and Tillamook was, and then a little side trip out to Oceanside and Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint (I love how they call them "viewpoints" here) sealed the deal. Oregon is paradise.
Seaside is a lovely little (gasp) seaside town with neat shops and an oceanfront boardwalk. Found the perfect house for a cool $2 million. Powerball is $318 million right now. Hmmmm.
We spent some time (and too much money) at Tillamook Creamery (OMG, the ice cream) and then headed out to Oceanside and the Cape Meares park for a last look at the Pacific. We wanted to check out Salem (the state capitol) last night before our return to Portland today but had another motel snafu. I don't really understand how someone can think they might substitute "another room" for the wheelchair accessible one (which was "broke") and think that would be okay. So it was back in the car and a drive north toward Portland instead. Had I known I would have just arranged another night on the coast. Sniff.
Still because we were heading north from Salem to Portland, we got to pay a little visit to Metzger, OR. You would have thought they'd have had a fanfare of some sort.
Now we are back in Portland. I told the guys at Enterprise car rental that I can't remember ever having more fun on one tank of gas. We have checked into the Inn at Northrup Station (which really is absolutely fab. They really cannot be taking better care of us. Bill's having a birthday nap and then we are off to Powell's Books for the rest of the afternoon.
We will hardly have done Oregon justice; certainly will not have seen or done all that Portland offers. But our whistles are whetted for a return visit.
Tomorrow morning it's back to the station to hop the Cascades to Seattle.
Obligatory obscure Queen lyric. So adorable. Anyhoo. Astoria. Seaside. Cannon Beach. Arch Cape. Love this place. Nope. Not coming back. If someone will just bring me my Emma, I'm good.
Okay, so we're fans.
Certainly the last couple of days have had their ups and downs. And not just because it was all about the mountains!
We made our escape from Denver on the Zephyr a bit late but arrived in Emeryville (outside Oakland) only three hours late. That would normally have cut our six hour layover waiting for the arrival of the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles for our trip north to Portland down to three - which would have been just fine. Sadly, a pedestrian fatality involving a freight train somewhere north of Oxnard brought all that to a halt. The Starlight went from seven minutes late out of LA to three hours late three stops later. And changed the arrival of the Starlight in Emeryville from 11:00 PM to 1:30 AM.
That just meant we had lots of time to stroll over to the Bay Street (pedestrian) mall a few blocks away. Dinner at P.F. Changs and a 7:30 viewing of "A Star is Born" (two thumbs up) are not a bad way to while away the time! Still it was a little wearing not to get on board until nearly 2:00 AM. Geo, our car attendant, had the beds waiting and we fell into a deep sleep nearly immediately.
The alteration in the schedule meant that we slept through Redding and I didn't see much of the damage from this summer's notorious Carr Fire. By the time I was up, we were past the worst of it. I did NOT sleep through Mount Shasta, though. Shasta is my favorite mountain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Shasta) - I just love the way she rises out of "nothing" and is just there in all her (this time of year even) snow-covered glory. And the Starlight circles her for several hours. I didn't get a lot of really great pictures - she's a tricky little minx. Whenever we were on the side where I would have had a clear shot, she kicked up clouds to shelter her from my lens.
Yeah, there's a big snow-covered mountain back there.
We arrived in Portland at about 7:00 PM instead of 3:00 PM. In the rain. But we only had a few blocks to go to the Portland streetcar that would drop us right in front of our hotel. Easy as pie. Except I managed to get us on the wrong streetcar (which travels at about a walking pace) and we wound up going the wrong direction. By the time we got ourselves turned around it was 8:00 when we arrived. And I was in meltdown. Thankfully, Bill was all over it. Calmed me down and got us back on track. Literally.
Only to discover that they had lost our reservation. The one I made in February. Uh. Not happy.
The desk clerk found us a room "right around the corner" so off we went. Through a residential neighborhood with awful sidewalks. In the rain. Me dragging the world's largest orange suitcase and Bill trying to navigate with his new motor. We made it. At 9:00.
When the substitute hotel told us that the rate for our second night would increase to $200 we decided that we were over Portland. Having intended to take a day on the Oregon coast and return on Thursday for Bill's birthday, we opted instead to bug out of town a day early and go to the Pacific. Reservations made in Astoria; car rental modified; good-bye Rose City.
Portland's a beautiful place and the mess-ups are not going to color my perception of it. My walk to the car rental place took me through great neighborhoods (can there really be a coffee shop on every corner? Why, yes, there can - and they are not Starbucks either) and the people are very friendly (even as they are apologizing for sending you out in the rain).
The drive out here to Astoria was gorgeous, even in the rain. We had the most spectacular dinner last night at the Silver Salmon Grille (if ever you find yourself here, do not hesitate - go there). Have the spinach and smoked salmon salad.
And the manager at the hotel that messed up our first reservation in Portland is comping us a stay on our return to Portland on Thursday night.
For now, it's off to enjoy the coast - which some of you know has been the part of the trip I have been looking forward to most. As I look out the window here in Astoria, I see the sky has turned blue and I think the forecast might be wrong.
We arrived safely in Denver yesterday morning - late. In fact, the Capitol was late into Chicago as well. We have no complaints about it really. The ride was generally comfortable even in the upper bunk where I spend my nights. In fact, I slept like a baby both nights on the train.
I admit I was a little surprised to find myself suffering a slight case of altitude sickness when we landed. I had a really awful headache and was actually dizzy a bit walking to our home away from home (Hostel Fish: www.hostelfish.com/). A lot of water and an Aleve and I was ready to rock. So last night we dined at Rio Grande in LoDo (that's Lower Downtown to us hip Denverites) with Bill Beagle and Susan Davies, friends of long-standing, who relocated to Colorado Springs from Pittsburgh (by way of Cleveland) several years ago. Susan is Executive Director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition (www.trailsandopenspaces.org/) so three cheers for her!
Today we took Denver's rapid transit train out to the airport just for the ride. Highlight for me were prairie dogs and a coyote strolling through the open spaces between Denver and its insane airport. It was enough for us to ride out, scout it out, and turn around and come back. Bill's taken a couple billion pictures which we will post at some point.
For now, we are plotting which of Denver's 17,000 restaurants to select for our last night. Tomorrow it's two days of travel with the trip over the Rockies to the end of the California Zephyr line in Emeryville, CA. Then after a six-hour layover (depending on delays, of course) we will hop on the Coast Starlight for the trip north to Portland. Opening our hearts to new adventures!
So several years ago a good friend told us that he had taken a big ol' train trip out west and the train fare hadn't cost him a dime. Well, not a direct dime.
All he'd had to do was get an Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card and his normal credit card purchases earned him points, exchangeable for Amtrak dollars. Or pennies. Or meters.
Next day, I signed up. And charged everything.
The years went by and we would say to ourselves, "This is the year we take the Empire Builder. This is the year for the California Zephyr. This is the year ..."
When 2018 dawned, we said it again. But this time we meant it. Of course, it means a delay to the completion of The Great Allegheny Passage Companion, but there you are. As Bill has taken to saying, "This book's been a month late for five years now." We'll get there!
But for anyone who'd like to follow along with Ol' Crippled Willie and the Trail Goddess as we set off to see America, this is the place to do it. See you in October!
The Great Allegheny Passage Companion