This was another highly complex multipurpose journey involving planes,trains,automobiles,ferries etc-I left Salt Spring on April 18th and flew to Toronto on good old Air Canada,arriving about 1100 pm.I then was subjected to the Toronto taxi mafia program and spent $55 to go Mississauga where i was staying with John Roe ( a fellow Habitat GV leader) Most cities that are in Toronto's weight class have public transportation to and from the airport...
In any case the next day John and I went out to get "supplies" for the HFH conference, then drove out to the Bolton Y camp. We checked in at 4.00 or so and then enjoyed the first nights dinner and reception. Nice to meet the GV staff and other leaders.
The next 2 days went by quickly and everyone learned a lot from the sessions and from each other. It was also great to meet GV coordinators from a number of Latin American countries plus Hawaii. We also learned a bit about GV trips to New Mexico and Louisiana. I ended up signing up to lead a trip to Chile in October 2014. Another very helpful thing was the opportunity to talk to 3 leaders who
had previously led trips to Ethiopia.
On Sunday we said our farewells and went our separate ways.John drove me to the Brampton Via Rail station for the next leg of my trip which was a train trip to London where Jim Hignett (a college friend) met me at the station. The next day we walked around their neighbourhood, did lunch and then it was off to the airport for my flight to Chicago.(United Express-cheap ticket but they charge $25 for luggage)
I haven't been to Chicago for a few years but I like the city. After clearing Customs and Immigration, I took the long walk to the CTA terminal to catch the train for downtown.While I was standing in front of the ticket machine, a lady came up and gave me an unexpired full day pass (good until my exit the next day-great welcome to Chicago) The next step was the blue train down to the loop then a switch to the Brown line and an exit at Fullerton. The Chicago Getaway Hostel was about a 15 minute walk from Fullerton Station. This is a good place to stay and I paid about $60 for a private room
with breakfast and free WIfI. After eating at a great Italian Restaurant (Basils) I am on the lookout for a good marinara sauce recipe...
The next day there wasn't a lot of time so I checked out after breakfast and caught the Brown line back to the Union Station stop. In the USA the hot dog is an art form so I had to have one for lunch in the Union Station food court. After that it was into the first class lounge to check in and wait for Train number 7 (The Empire Builder) to depart at 2.15 PM. (this is not a youthful crowd)
The train left within 30 seconds of on time so we were off to a good start. The Amtrak roomette is about the same as Via Rail but no toilet- The shared washroom is down the hall (as are the showers). These are double decker cars and the toilets are all on the lower level but the links between the cars are on the upper floor.
Amtrak has a reservation system for the evening meal. I went for the 6.45 and was seated with a couple from Madison, Wi. Every meal
involves meeting different people - I think I was the only Canadian on board but there were some people from Europe. The menu in the dining car has enough variety to survive 2-3 days and night one was the steak selection-not bad.
As we rolled through Wisconsin into Minnesota it seemed that the spring melt was still underway as the rivers were all quite high.We seem to be running on CP track and there are lots of oil tanker unit trains- seems the environmental movement hasn't noticed that oil is being moved this way?
A good nights sleep (I missed the Minneapolis stop at 10.30) and then in the morning we got through Grand Forks around 6.00 am -lots of snow on the ground.The train was about an hour late due to freight meets and slow running.
Day two was somewhat uneventful as most of it was on the snow covered prairie. A lot has to happen to the snow before I motorcycle through on the 15th of May. I read 2 books and did some sleeping. Later on in the day (in anticipation of the mountain views) I took station in the lounge car.
Day two dinner was chicken (perhaps better than the steak) There was also a 3.00 o'clock wine tasting and I ended up with a leftover bottle-perhaps it made the chicken taste better? We went into the mountains at dinner time (this is a low pass) and arrived in Whitefish just as it was starting to get dark. (memories of spring breaks long ago)
Another good sleep and then up for the last part of the trip. The on-train shower is a major travel break through. We are now over the pass and on the down hill run to the coast. It appears that the timetable design has put us back into the black and we actually arrived in Seattle early. I then proceeded to waste the extra half hour by heading in the wrong direction to the American Hostel (HI). It is within 10 minutes of the station but only if you go in the right direction. The location is pretty good but you do have a bit of a gauntlet of interesting characters to walk through for the last block or so...
This is an HI facility ($72 for a private room )and they run a tight ship with NO DRINKING. I spent the afternoon on a walking tour of downtown Seattle including Pike's Market which is a triumph of marketing over substance.
In the evening it was off to Safeco Field for a major league baseball game-Seattle Mariners vs Los Angeles Angels. Not sure of the ticket program as they were lots of private vendors (would be scalpers?) with tickets for sale as I walked to the stadium- the stadium is about 15 minutes walk from the Hostel. I went for the box office plan and had my pick of almost any seat in the stadium-not an in demand event. As it turned out I paid $28 for an upper deck ticket behind home plate.There were apparently only 11,000 other tickets sold for a stadium which holds about 47,000... Maybe they make their money off TV and other things like beer and food ( I had a beer and hamburger for $16 US)
The Mariners looked like heroes the night I was there (an infrequent occurrence) and they won the game 6-0. Half of their runs were knocked in by a Canadian from Trail, BC. I pulled a Winnipeg exit after the 8th and walked back to the hotel. Lots of people in the common area- this is a great feature of the Hostel scene.
I had an early day coming so went to bed after a quick WIFI check (it is free) Friday it was up early for the usual free breakfast and a shower. I then caught the Amtrak Cascades north to Vancouver (about 4.5 hours) Easy trip through Canada Customs , then on to Sky Train, ferries etc to arrive at house at about 6.30 PM.
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