7 feb 2018

The overnight train trip: a cautionary tale. Be forewarned, I get hyped up about the littlest things. Did Ryan think it was as cool as I did? Eh, maybe not as much, but he still enjoyed the adventure. Do your standards have to be set low? Yes. This is not the Hilton. But the characters on board, along with the cozy privacy of the bedroom is worth not being fussy.

We finally arrived at the train station, a different station than planned in fact. There were mudslides up the coast of Washington and so they had to bus us to the next depot just north of us. We were a little bummed because that was the only hour of daylight we’d have looking out onto the countryside.

But, here we were, happy to be boarding anyway.


As you might expect, everything is tight. (I feel like I’m turning into the Amtrak ambassador here. I even started daydreaming about a train-only vacation blog, but then time and money snapped me back to reality.)img_7873

Do you see the window? Do you see the silver door jam? That’s our room. Pack light is all I’m saying.  Two chairs facing each other (with a table in between) turn into a bed with an upper one ready to come down when needed. The carpeted end table next to me is actually the stair for the bunkbed.


You could not have pinched me harder. I said at least 1000 times, “Isn’t this fun?” We had an attendant named Gul who over-enunciated the “s” sound at the end of words: “Yesssss, your dinner serviccccccce issss going on now.”  So we headed to the dining car for dinner. (FYI: If you reserve a sleeper car, your meals are free. Your welcome, Ambassador Carolyn.)


It’s like a bed and breakfast where they sit you with strangers which… I like. People intrigue me. And there were several that made me feel like we were truly in a movie. The two young Australian friends checking off a bucket list before they head back. (They also watched a rocket take off in Florida. It was cancelled the first day because a plane flew right into it’s path before launching. So they had to defuel and refuel the rocket the next day, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. I laughed so hard. Can you imagine being that pilot? That would so be me, just minding my own business, ruining official government procedures.) Anyway, it was an enjoyable dinner, especially since Ryan could get his Australian itch scratched, talking about his college adventures there.

There was one guy we called The Major. He practically shouted everything he said and was also eager to talk with everyone, a potent combination. Every sentence was a joke where he himself laughed the loudest. Another was a lady who used to be homeless, now with a roommate and a house, traveling to Seattle to visit her homeless friends. She showed us many pictures of said house and I couldn’t have beamed brighter for her.

I’ve found that learning people’s stories, and letting them talk, has become one of my favorite things. They are so interesting, aren’t they? And I can truly say that I’ve never appreciated them more than I do right now in my life.

Maybe I’m just nosy.  But I think it’s more than that.

Bedtime was the ultimate part of the ride for me. We had our own little night lights. The train rocked side to side, gently though, and it would speed up and slow down at the stops. It was lovely. Every person I asked how they slept, said “Great!”, usually surprised at their own answer. I was just as surprised in the morning too.


Meanwhile, as we were taking in the silence, the girls were ratcheting it up at Jama & Da-dads. Gertie’s starting to act ornery which is a good and bad thing. It’s a relief for something to feel normal, but it’s annoying too. This series of pictures texted to us pretty much summed up the progression.


Thank you for holding down the fort, in-laws!! I’ll mail you some Excedrin.

When we woke up, it was early morning. I had to apply my make-up in the window reflection. Expectations low, people. I probably still asked Ryan if he was loving this like me, even while messily applying my eye-liner.


We had rented a car in Whitefish, MT so we could drive to Glacier National Park. In the winter the park rangers host snowshoeing hikes for free. I’d never been hiking in snow before, so off we went.


We stopped several times to listen to our ranger give lessons…..very….slowly. It was almost painful, how long         the         pauses        were        between        words. For all my previous appreciation of people, I was about to break down in impatience. Like, I’d started hoping the mountain lion she said to look out for would actually relieve me of my misery. I’d see it in the woods and would just walk over to it and lay down by its mouth.


After a suspenseful ten minute lead-in, we finally found out that across the river was a 50 year old beaver den.



Mamasita hadn’t eaten since 6:30 that morning and it was nearing 1pm, after a 2 hour hike. We’d heard that the restaurant at the top of Whitefish Resort’s summit was really good. So we bought lift tickets and headed that way.

Okay. Can we pause here to remember that I’ve become (ironically, unafraid to admit) AFRAID?! I’m not a ski bunny. I tremble at the thought of going down a hill with zero brakes. And let’s also not forget, I don’t have the ski lift finesse needed to fake any sense of belonging. The guy who sold me the tickets said that this one goes very fast. I said, Fine, no problem. Inside I was quaking.

We stood in line and it was very peaceful. Watching little groups getting on the lift, shuffling their way out and hopping on. And then the attendant, a lady sturdier than nfl linebackers, turned to see us next. She’d not uttered a word since we got there, but once our feet hit the front of the line, she yelled “COME UP. PUT YOUR FEET HERE. NOT THERE. RIGHT HERE. MOVE FORWARD. IT’S COMING. IT’S COMING. SIT DOWN. SIT DOWN. PULL YOUR LEGS UP. PULL THE BAR DOWN NOOOOWWWWWWwwwwwww!” And I think she was still yelling at us halfway up the mountain. If I hadn’t been scared out of my mind, I would’ve laughed at how ridiculous that scene must’ve looked to the regulars.


I cried turning around in the seat to get this picture of the town below.



We got to the top, ordered our food. Hamburgers, poutine, and pho: a natural combo. I pushed a table to the side of a balcony and we, again, people watched. In silence. We sat there for a long time too, because I dreaded going back down the mountain. img_7919

When we got off the lift, there was the linebacker ready for us, with the same commands. It was all a blur.

We had a few hours to kill before getting back on the train, and since we’d already done the three things we really wanted to do (Pike Place Market, Snowshoeing at Glacier, & the Summit Restaurant), we decided to go to the movies. And both promptly fell asleep.

After another night on board, we woke up to watch the last bit of Washington go by before arriving in Seattle. We crossed over the fastest moving creeks I’ve ever seen. There were whitecaps all over it, just forcing its way down the mountain. It was gorgeous. We saw trees that we don’t get to experience in the south. And squinted our eyes at the constant glare of snow on the ground.


Have you heard the saying “You can travel the world, only to come back and see your home for the first time.” Or something like that. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that while we saw so many fun things and made wonderful memories, there’s nothing quite like home. It made us love it more.

6 feb 2018

Let’s all have a moment of silence for getting back into the swing of things after a whirlwind weekend. For us, that’s looking like lots of cartoons and mac n cheese. No m&c for me though, since for some stupid reason I started weight watchers a week before leaving on a trip. So dumb. In line for our flight check-in, I stared lovingly at all the foods displayed.


There was one little glob of glue next to the m&ms where I’m sure another weight watcher’s member must’ve succumbed to a candy bar. I bowed my head and gave them a moment. Later, on the plane, one snippet from the book I read had a guy getting a funnel shoved down his throat and liquor poured into his stomach, killing him. Instead of being shocked, all I could focus on was the funnel being filled with food and how glorious that sounded.

I made it through the gauntlet of stale snacks unscathed and onto the plane.

Some changes I noticed after having 3 kids:

  1. I’m a more patient, slow-moving, tired traveller.
  2. If you don’t feel like talking, I’m beyond fine with that. We can just people watch.
  3. I’ve become a scaredy cat and have to be reassured every few minutes that my life insurance is current.

Every little bump in the air had me gripping Ryan’s knee.

Before that though, we heard whisperings of a man sitting some seats ahead. (“He’s a big news broadcaster. He’s covering the Olympics. etc. etc.”) So we craned our necks and stared at him while he talked and laughed with the people around him. Ryan’s friend is also a reporter and because they are both from Denver, Ryan texted him about this guy and wrote that he was gonna get a pic with him.

Wait. What did I read over his shoulder? That Ryan was gonna willingly act the fool? For once it won’t be me? That about made the entire trip because…. read #1 & #2 again.

Once we landed, the hunt was on. We stalked him until it was obvious he was going the other way and Ryan made his move.


I know, no one knows who this guy is. But he was very happy to have his photo taken.

Anyway, here was the itinerary for our 3 day adventure. I’m including it because that’s stuff I like to read:

  • 10am Friday – Arrive in Seattle – tool around until getting on the train.
  • 4:30pm Friday – Train departs for Whitefish, MT
  • 7am Saturday – Train arrives in Whitefish
  • Spend day in Whitefish & Glacier National Park
  • 9:30pm Saturday – Train departs back for Seattle
  • 10:30am Sunday – Train arrives in Seattle.
  • 6pm Sunday – Arrive home

Another change I’ve noticed was that I didn’t really have a preference of what to see or, more importantly, what I didn’t see. There were 3 things we planned and both agreed to make an effort to do, but everything else was kinda figured out last minute depending on if we felt like it.

For someone who would normally have lists of times/events/venues, this was unusual. It made the trip a lot more relaxed for both of us.

First, The Public Market.

I’d visited before with a friend, but Ryan had never been and this was a must for him. No flying fish today. However, the croony street corner music was perfect for this cloudy, spring-like day. We walked all around and up and down, then found a restaurant overlooking the sound and ate fish tacos and fish & chips.


After that, we didn’t really know what to do. We researched a few things, but Ryan remembered that his coworker told him about the Starbucks Roasterie and how you can get a flight of coffees to sample. Next to a fire and big windows where we could people watch, this was just what these tired parents needed. (see #1 & 2).



Afterwards, along the way to a destination that got nixed mid-walk, we saw this building and I flat-out refused it’s existance. If I were offered a job there, I’d decline.


All I’d be able to think about during my 9-5 is how small of a foundation we were sitting on. (Read #3)

That was seriously the extent to Seattle, besides more food and coffee and people watching. I’d mentioned in the previous post that this was one of our best trips, and it was. But we really didn’t do much. We didn’t climb the space needle, or go to any museums. We didn’t put gum on the famous wall or drive to the sound. And we were perfectly content with that. Between the plane and train and only a few activities, it really was a refueling of sorts – no massages needed.

Up next the train! My favorite.

1 feb 2018

This is the face of someone excited. Like, crazy excited. I haven’t been on a plane WITHOUT KIDS in seven years. Ryan and I are leaving tomorrow on a quick trip to the Northwest, jumping on an overnight train, and spending the day at Glacier National Park. You guys. No one can bring me down today.

One of my goals this year is to write longer stories and I’m hoping this trip will inspire me. Weeeeeeeee!

Yes, it’s finally part three.

I arrived outside of Seattle to meet my childhood friend. We hadn’t seen each other for quite awhile, however our families still keep in contact via Christmas letters and, now, Facebook.

Problem is, you can’t squeal very well over the internet.

And poor A just wasn’t used to it.

Her first taste was on the way home, through this tree-lined street.

Can it get better than this??

And then I squealed over breakfast. French toast with fruit and yogurt.

Uh, hello A. I’m moving in.

Later I paused to take a nerdy photo in the farmers market.

But it didn’t take too long before I squealed over a collection of the world’s largest shoes. It cost 50 cents.

And was well worth it.

The next day we stayed around her neighborhood and ran by the water.

I stopped a few times to “tie my shoelace.”

And ended the visit with a tea room lunch. You know, I had never been to one before? Loved it.

A wouldn’t wear a hat. Hey, I can’t bully around everyone.

But I’ll try.

I had such a great time and cannot believe it took this long to catch up again with an old friend.

Spring Break – Part 2

I have become a train lover.

It took a bit of prodding and pulling, but by the end it happened.

The train I took from San Francisco heading to Seattle left at 9pm. It arrived the next evening at 7:30.

And I didn’t get the sleeper cabin. [Gasp!] Yes, I actually planned to not shower. Sue me. Wait, don’t. Garage sale season is coming up and I need the money.

I sat at the station like an excited little girl waiting patiently with arms crossed around my luggage (wishing it were a carpet bag). When I heard the announcement of the trains arrival, I of course was the first standing on the platform.

Off came a few passengers for a smoke break and on came me. I found my seat and sat down eager for what, I didn’t know.

It didn’t take long before I did. About an hour into trip, the train came to a halt. I stopped watching the girl in front of me making a move on the guy sitting across the aisle, and looked out the window.

A man was dragged off the train, thrown on the ground and pinned there by several policeman. We later found out he had carried weapons in his baggage.


The flirt in front of me finally made the move of all moves and boy accepted. They ended up leaning against each other for a snooze.

I had no one.

So I scrunched up in my seats and tried to make the best of it. A couple hours after I finally quit hearing slurping sounds from seats 22 A&B and started dreaming, the shouting started.

“You B@$*&#! You stupid F&*$)#& B*$&*!! ”


I sat up to watch the verbal form of the wood chipping scene in Fargo unfold. Man, it was bad. And scary.

The train attendants pulled the man down to the first floor. Then we heard them call the sheriff in the next town over to meet the train in ten minutes.

As the train slowed down in the middle of a pasture, out walked an old-fashioned looking sheriff, straight out of 1888. Or maybe I was still dreaming. All I know was that it felt surreal at 3am.

Off they dragged guy #2 and drove him away.

I tried to convince myself that this was the reason I didn’t want the sleeping cabin. But when I went back to my scrunched position I immediately disagreed.

But then I woke up to this: a sunrise in amongst Oregon countryside, complete with smudge marks on the glass. I immediately smiled and pretended I was camping. It was lovely.

I was still tired.

Over the speakers, they announced that tour guides would be boarding the train through a particular part of the trip.

I tripped my way up to the cabin and listened for a good hour or so. The two ladies above were the guides and they were adorable.

We passed through some great scenery and even saw a bald eagle dip down to a lake and then back into the sky. Everyone gasped and pointed. It was fun.

Later I saw another bald eagle in a field and yelled “look!” (completely out of nowhere too. I normally don’t make a sound in a group of strangers when I’m by myself.)

So I yelled “Look!” A group of people laughed and said that it was a cardboard cut-out. And couldn’t I tell that it was at least 10 feet tall?

I laughed. Then cried. It was embarrassing.

But the majority of the time, I sat quietly watching the different scenes go by. I knitted a bit. And read too.

I hardly talked though. And, to me, that was a wonderful experience. Watching people and countryside in silence…. laughing to myself, soaking it all in.

I would love to do it again. Maybe next time with a sleeper cabin. And also a friend.

I’m back

I tell you what. I hit a wall, man. A big one. Almost to the point where I didn’t feel like continuing the blog. Can’t explain why, but I think it had to do with the sun peeping out from the clouds and warm breeze in my hair.

That, and the chocolate cake I made recently. Yeah, that took up most of my time.

But I’ve survived this funk and am back in it.

So I’ll pick back up where I left you… albeit a few weeks late: my Spring Break trip to the west coast. I haven’t had a spring break since college, so was eager to use it. J came with me to the Napa vineyards where we met up with an old college friend.

Then I took a 24 hour train ride up to Washington.

Where I hung out with a friend that lived on the same block with me in grade school.

My blast from the past Spring Break, up next.


No, really, I’ll continue.

I’ll just dangle a piece of chocolate cake in front of the computer screen.