2007 Canada Trip Notes
2007 07 26 – St. Louis to Chicago: Train, Train, Train or Good Grieff or Constant Gardiner: Tracy picked us up about 1:00 and we got to the, pardon the expression, train station about 2:00 and were delighted to see Robin there waiting for us. We dragged all our stuff inside and I got our tickets for the Chicago leg and for our trip to Whitefish and back from Seattle. Tracy had to leave to pick up her kids, but Robin stayed with us until we got on the train.
About 2:40, they called for us to board. We had business class seats which meant (1) we avoided the long line of people getting on coach, and (2) we had to trek up to the front of the train, get on, lift all our baggage in front of us, move through the food service (the “café car”) area and up to the front section of the car. We stowed our stuff in front of us and overhead. A bit after 3:00 we trundled out of the station and headed north going over the river somewhere near the city water treatment plant along Hall St. The train moved pretty slowly for quite a while and did not get up to cruising speed until near Alton. The coach section was pretty full, but the business class section didn’t fill up until Springfield.
As we passed by huge fields of corn, lines of grain elevators, and paralleled I-55, Marian knitted and I started Harry Potter. I don’t want to devour the book. I want it to last as long as I can make it last. I guess, though, that when I get into the guts of the book, I’ll give that up and just read, read, read.
There’s a woman two rows behind us, bleached blonde, tanned, who spent about two hours on the phone with what must have been an ex-husband in a heated, and loud, conversation. I kept hoping her phone batteries would give out! But no … she went on and on.
On the route, we have seen Isringhausen Mercedes, Rub Ford, and Grieff Monuments and Headstones. We even passed by Gardiner, the location of my poem, “Plain Fare.”
Got into Chicago about 30-40 minutes late. Rolled and dragged out luggage out onto Canal to look for a cab. Pretty much of a melee out there with no real organized taxi rank. But we finally got one and went to The Whitehall Hotel on Delaware about a half block west of Michigan. Nice room with fake mink throw on the bed. Walked over to the Cheesecake Factory to have a late supper, then back to the hotel a bit before 11:00. Nice day of transition.
2007 07 27 – To Whitefish: Time Delay or … and Cucamonga or Lounge Act: AC did not work well all night, which was one of the reasons I did not sleep well. Perhaps a full meal at 10 PM aided a bit, but hey. Got up about 8:30 and left the hotel about 10:00 looking for both food and free WiFi. I guy on the street told us that there was both at the Bloomingdale’s mall around the corner. So, we went there and up to the sixth floor to Oak Tree, or something like that, to eat. They had real rolled oats and Irish oats; we ordered one of each. WiFi allowed us to check email and try to connect visually via iChat with Tracy, but could not do it.
We had to check out of the hotel by 12:30. Thus, there was no real time to do much. After breakfast, we did very light shopping (Marian needed a pair of socks). Then we walked a few blocks and went back to the hotel. We didn’t stay long since the AC was worse (as in non-existent). We gathered up our two duffels, two backpacks, Marian’s Sportsac, my electronics/book bag, my computer, and a foam bag with two bottles of wine and headed down the elevator to the street.
$11 later we were at Union Station. We had to schlep our stuff inside and down two fast-moving escalators – exciting to wonder if the duffel on wheels behind you will come crashing down on you as you zip downward. We wended our way through the station asking directions as we went. We are VERY glad we got our tickets in St. Louis since the Amtrak ticket line was about 50 people deep.
We went into the Sleeping Car Passenger Lounge to await boarding scheduled for 1:30 for a 2:15 departure. I went out and got a sandwich and we sat … and sat … and sat. Marian did some knitting. I did some growling. All the problems were with the engine, we think. Better fix it here than to have a problem along with way. The train did not board until 3:20 and did not leave until about 3:40. We decided to haul our own luggage to our car (#730, cabin E). Well, it was a trek. The train was down the tracks from the lounge – with the end of the train nearest us. Since this train splits at Spokane with a section going to Portland and the rest of the train to Seattle, the end of the train was all Portland cars. We literarily had to walk the length of the train to the front to get to our car.
We put our duffels on the lower level and took the rest of the stuff up the stairs to our cabin. Amtrak has recently redecorated the trains: “new décor with posh blues and subtle wood veneers to warm the ambiance of your journey.” Wonder how the duct tape along the door between cabins fits in? Guess for a barn guy, it does increase the ambiance. Manuel is our porter and a nice woman came along to get our dinner reservation for 6:45, which is in the next car. When we were moving, Manuel came in with two splits of champagne. The observation car, we found out, is three cars beyond the dining car.
So, we played with our computers and looked out the window until dinner time. And dinner turned out to be quite pleasant both from the aspect of the food and the company. Sitting across from us were John and Linda Fuchs from the Philadelphia area. She’s a nurse and he manages commercial properties. They are up here to meet friends and do biking in the Glacier area for about 10 days … on a tandem bike that’s in pieces in a couple of cases in the baggage car. Nice people and a fun conversation all the way through dinner. Marian and I both had meals better than we expected: roasted chicken and lab shank (guess who had which).
Got back to the bedroom around nine and watched the setting sun as trees flew by our windows. Marian knit for a while and I did this log and finished with downloading pictures. We’re going to both sleep on the lower bunk and use the upper one for luggage (so we won’t kill ourselves in the middle of the night trying to take a pee. With the lower bunk down, there is six inches between it and the sink. Will be interesting trying to wash our faces and brush our teeth. Might have to do some of it sitting down.
2007 07 28 – Whitefish: S to the Fourth Power or May I Make an Observation? Minot? or To Havre or Havre Not: We shared the lower berth, which was wide enough for us to sleep comfortably. We left the curtains open so that every time we got near lights Marian could pop up and look outside. We both slept, but fitfully. Dawn was about 5:30 and we are still running 2.5 hours or more late.
I got up after 7 and wedged myself over to the sink and then into the shower/toilet enclosure for S cubed. Shaved at the sink afterward. Shower was nice and hot and refreshing. I went to the dining car and put our name on the waiting list for breakfast. Marian got up and dressed and we waited a bit for our name to be called.
Breakfast was fair, at best. Luke-warm instant oatmeal for Marian and a barely warm omelet with instant grits for me. One did have the option of a Bob Evans scramble. Yum. At least the coffee was decent. And the wait staff are all very friendly and good. We stopped in Devils Lake, ND during breakfast. Sitting with us for breakfast were two 14-year-old boys from Madison, WI who, along with 10 or so others, are going to a Rocky Mountain Adventure camp in Glacier.
We went back to our deluxe bedroom where Manuel stuffed all the sheets, blankets, and mattress onto the upper bunk and clicked it into its ceiling brackets. We gathered stuff and walked back four cars to the lounge/observation car only to find that it was crammed full of folks. No dome car – just this one lounge/observation car. The attendant there was asking folks to guess how many people are on the train right now. The answer was 413. So, there is one dining car (capacity about 40) and one lounge car for 413 people. Near as we can figure out, there are two sleeping cars on the Seattle (front) part of the train and two or three on the Portland (back part). All in the middle are the coach cars.
Back in our own space, we listened as the conductor told us that we were nearing the geographical center of North America (somewhere between Rugby and Minot, ND. Look at a map, folks, and help me understand this geographical center. Guess Alaska has something to do with it. Our next long stop is Minot, about 20 minutes there.
Got out at Minot (remember being there on the last trip) for a brief stretch. Then onward and westward. Lunch was about 12:30 MDT as we approached the Montana border. Uninspired salad for Marian and lunch meat roast beef and Swiss for me. Nice conversation with a couple from NJ (right across from NYC). He had once worked for Amtrak for a year or two in the 90s and they do a lot of traveling by train both Amtrak and in Canada on VIA Rail. They had come via train from NYC to Chicago. Then they’re going to Seattle on our train. From there, train down to San Francisco for a family reunion and back by train to Chicago, finally to DC from there. All told, they are gone a total of two weeks – seems most of that will be on board.
After lunch we returned to our bedroom where I read Harry Potter and am a bit over half through. I called our Whitefish accommodation to tell them how late the train was already and to ask about our rental car fro Hertz. They assured me Hertz is used to the train being late and that our keys would be waiting for us at the terminal. We shall see! Later in the afternoon the engines heated up too much and we stopped to check them out. We’re now running about three hours late with not too much of a chance to really make up time. Guess we’ll be in Whitefish around midnight (which is 1:00 AM from the time zone we started with this AM). Our next stop is Havre, MT for fuel. That’s the last scheduled long stop before Whitefish, but who knows?
The answer came during dinner where we sat at a siding in Shelby for a very long time. Seems like there is a fire going in Glacier and we have also had really slow going since the rail signals have not been working well overall. You can see smoke in the sky and a hazy sun. But dinner was good especially visiting with a couple from the St. Paul area and discussion about his motorcycle. They are going to Seattle for a few days and then back again on the train. Back to the bedroom about 8:45 to wait to see how late we’ll be by the time we get to Whitefish and to enjoy a smoke-induced sunset.
We got to East Glacier about 11:00 and had a long stop there since about 70 people left there. Not long after we pulled out from the station, we could see fires raging on the ridges not that far away. Got a good pictures. Really strange seeing wildfires that close.
Got to Whitefish about 1:00 AM. Hertz guy was there in the booth (nice man who raises Timothy hay). Loaded our stuff into our Ford Crown Victoria (a car only one size smaller than a tank) and drove the few blocks to The Duck Inn. After fumbling around in the lobby looking for a note about our room, a couple of really cute blondes came down from upstairs and offered us to share their bedroom. Alas, the owner arrived with some guests he had picked up at the Amtrak station and we were shown to our own room – a huge walnut king bed and a balcony overlooking the river. Got to sleep around 2:00.
2007 07 29 – Glacier: Elevator, Man! or Logan’s Walk or Icarus’ Highway: Arose about 8:00 having a good six hours of sleep. Nice bed! Went into the living/dining area around 9:00 for breakfast and a long conversation with one of the owners who talked about her son and the problems he was having and his time at a Christian farm camp learning responsibility. Good discussion. Also talked about how she furnished The Duck Inn, how long they had lived in Whitefish, where they both came from, etc. She grew up in PA and went to a Catholic college in Philadelphia. She has a Masters degree and taught high school for a while in CA.
A bit after 10:00 we headed east toward Glacier National Park entering at West Glacier. After getting maps and water at the Apgar Visitor Center, we headed up the Going-to-the-Sun Road – about 50 miles through the park with about 25 of those going up/downhill to/from Logan Pass (around 7,000 feet). Nice and twisty. We were lucky since there are signs all over to expect up to four hour delays due to major road repair (it’s the first time they have done a full redoing of the entire highway) but there was no construction work at all today.
At the top of the pass, we parked (which is a feat on a Sunday in high tourist season) and walked through the visitor center and onto a 1.5 mile (each way) trail to Hidden Lake lookout. Did a lot of panting on the uphill part of the climb. And we had left our water in the car. Nice? Part of the trail is a boardwalk with steps, part is just gravel or big rocks. Some small streams to cross over, too. Saw a couple of mountain goats along the way. Lots of wildflowers everywhere.
Hidden Lake was worth the climb. Great views of the lake and of the surrounding mountains. The walk down was not as hard. I think it took about an hour each way. Back in the car, we drank our now warm water and headed downhill from the pass toward St. Mary, a town at the east end of the road. There we tried a couple of places to find a snack. I settled for a Klondike Oreo ice cream sandwich.
From St. Mary, we drove north and reentered the park near Many Glacier and Lake Sherburne. Got to Many Glacier Hotel (along Swiftcurrent Lake) to find out that (a) our room was on the third floor of a wing with no elevators (and there were no rooms available elsewhere in the hotel) and (b) our “standard” room has a shared balcony that looks out onto a hill that separates the hotel from the parking lot (oh, okay, you also can see some nice mountains). The other side of the building looks out over the lake. It’s a huge, old National Park hotel and has no modern amenities like AC or TV in the room. Naturally, Internet access is out of the question.
We had a nice young bellman schlep our duffels up to our room. We went downstairs to the shop and purchased a bottle of Ernest and Julio’s finest for $12.45, got a couple of paper cups, and sat out on the hotel balcony toasting in the sun, looking at the lake, and drinking wine. It had quite an effect since we had no food really since breakfast. The sun was toward the west, right in our eyes. But that made the mountains lovely in shadows.
At 6:00, Marian took our stuff upstairs and I went to the Ptarmigan Dining Room and got in line. Marian joined me at our table. We shared an appetizer of elk and bison sausage with a cherry sauce. Dinner was respectable (trout, rib eye). Close to 8:00, we went to our room where Marian crashed into bed sound asleep. I fiddled with pictures and writing and, around 9:30, went back outside on the hotel’s balcony to see the fading light behind the mountains and over the lake post-sunset.
2007 07 30 – Waterton: Czech, Please or It’s Not the Height, It’s Your Altitude or “Prince, Prince, Prince of Wales, Prince of Wales” or Next Generation Kilts: I had fitful sleep, but Marian slept like a log. Got up about 8:00 and went down to the breakfast buffet near 9:30. Nice waiter from the Czech Republic, Vojtech. Packed up all our gear and got a resident Sherpa to carry the heavy stuff downstairs. I hiked (and I do mean hiked) uphill to the car park and came down to get all loaded.
About four miles north on highway beyond Glacier you turn toward Waterton Lakes and Canada. Around 10 miles later, you are at the border where there is a U.S. Customs station for those coming into the U.S. and a Canadian Customs station a few yards later for people like us. Two young agents were there, both dressed in Kevlar vests. Wanted the usual info from us and a peek into our trunk. Released into the wilds of Canada (Alberta), we headed the last few miles to Waterton Lakes, the Canadian extension of Glacier National Park.
Once inside the park, we took a 10-mile side road up to Red Rock Canyon. We expected a CANYON and only got a very tiny (and pretty) one instead. Took the loop trail around (very short) and then back down the same road and into Waterton Village. We stopped at the Prince of Wales Hotel which has a wonderful view way above the village and lake. Had lunch and went outside for lots of pictures. The waiters all were in Stewart clan kilts. Lunch fair; view terrific.
Down in the village, we checked into Kilmorey Lodge and room 11. Nice old-fashioned log lodge along the water. Our room looks out on the mountains. We walked into the village to shop. Lots of ice cream shops, gift stores, and outdoor equipment to cater to the folks who are tourists here. We went over to the harbor and sat on a bench in the sun. The International, a 1930s tour boat pulled out and into the lake for its Canada-US tour.
Back at the hotel, we sat on the patio and had an afternoon drink before coming up to our room before our 7:00 dinner reservation here. Very nice dinner outside as it cooled off from the day. Good food (salmon, duck) and a Saskatoon berry pie for afterwards. At a nearby table were four cowboy types (straw Stetsons, jeans, boots) and one woman all discussing bulls, size of testicles, embryo transfers and the like. The men were trying to do business with the woman and vice versa. During dinner, a herd of deer walked up the sidewalk like it was their town. Took a short walk and back in the room about 9:00.
2007 07 31 – Nordegg: Boston Tea Party or Feeling Our Oats: I read Harry Potter until I finished it last night, so went to bed around 12:45. Unfortunately, I had another night were I didn’t sleep well. First of all, it’s been hot and none of the places have AC. While it cools down at night, the rooms most places retain the heat well into the middle of the night. Fans in the rooms don’t seem to do much good since they don’t draw in outside air, just circulate what’s there already. Second, I had read through the last 150 pages of the book and was thinking about it and dreaming as well.
Around 6:30 I was wide awake and got up. Marian got up soon thereafter and we had breakfast outside on the same patio where we had dinner the night before. Service was glacial, which, I guess is appropriate for a park formed by glaciers. We both ordered oat meal. Well, the portions we got could have easily fed three people each.
After checking out, we headed on our 385 mile drive to Aurum Lodge, leaving at 8:30. About 50 miles from Waterton, we joined Alberta Hwy 2 for 200 miles as it ran north through Calgary. Then west on Route 11 for over 100 miles past Noregg to Aurum Lodge on Abraham Lake. We stopped for lunch at Rocky Mountain House (it’s a town) at a Boston Pizza (after we had stood in line at another place where the line did not move). And again we were faced with glacial service.
Then there is iced tea. When we were at Price of Wales Hotel in Waterton, when I ordered iced tea, I was asked “sweetened or unsweetened?” I was surprised since I always thought this was a southern US thing and here we are in Alberta. The waiter said that most of what they serve is sweetened (probably from a mix), but he made me some unsweetened. Today at Boston Pizza, I asked for iced tea not thinking about it. What I got served was Nestle sweetened tea. Yucko. It’s all they served, I was told. So, I guess it’s a Canadian thing, too. Next time I order iced tea, I will ask!
Arrived at Aurum Lodge about 4:00. It’s down a gravel road from the highway and sits above the lake. They are pretty self-sufficient with solar panels for electricity and heating water, a well, and a septic. They are so far off the beaten track that the only service they have is the telephone and it’s a 30-year-old line that gives them trouble. The couple, Alan and Madeleine, are from Switzerland and built this place in 1999. It’s a modern, two-story log building. The timbers outside and in are light colored and the beds are made from the same lumber as the building. All is very clean and modern European in its looks (sort of Danish or similar). You take off your shoes at the front door and go barefoot or don slippers they have available. We have the “suite” on the second floor (it’s really the biggest room in the house, I think). European springs and mattress, whirlpool tub, etc. Very nice and it has a view of both the lake and all the surrounding mountains.
Tom and Angie arrived less than a half hour after us. After we had said our hellos and they got settled, the four of us went out onto the patio and drank wine/beer and talked until it was time for dinner. The dining area is set up with two long tables seating up to eight each. On a third table, they put out the food. Tonight it was a salad with lots of stuff you could put on it, brown rice, sautéed veggies, and veal or beef sausages. Before we came, I had told them we didn’t eat pork, so they were concerned that the sausages had pork in them. They fixed us some veggie burgers which were very satisfying. Besides the four of us, the host, hostess, and a young German girl who is over here working for them for the summer all sat at our table. Madeleine and I had a lively discussion of health care systems, especially theirs.
After dinner, the four of us took a walk down a long path to the lakeshore. It was around 9:00 and there was still light on the tops of many of the mountains. We huffed and puffed our way uphill and back to the lodge where we all said good night and headed to our rooms.
2007 08 01 – Iced or Hail Columbia! or A Grueling Experience or Sweet Moraine: I had thought that the sun would wake me up since we had left part of one shade up. However, Marian had closed it during the middle of the night after she had taken a neat picture of the full moon over the lake. So, I was surprised when I awakened to find it was 7:45 and we were supposed to be down at breakfast by about 8:15.
We ate with a family from The Netherlands who are spending 4.5 weeks in BC and Alberta. Nice visit. Tom and Angie ate with a family from Germany. Excellent breakfast with really thick porridge, whole-wheat pancakes, and all the other usual breakfast stuff. Lots of organic products – syrup, jams, peanut butter. Maple is a big thing up here, so syrup is pure maple.
We lounged around for a while on the deck and, about 10:45 or so headed for the Columbia Icefields. The drive is into Banff National Park and up the Icefield Parkway – takes about and hour and a quarter. Went into the centre with the rest of the hordes and got on a tour starting about 20 minutes from when we arrived. They take you across the highway and uphill in a bus. At an exchange station, you transfer onto a snow vehicle that holds the same number of passengers as the bus. The drivers of both vehicles give you a good lesson in glaciers as they describe what you are passing or what is ahead or overhead. The whole tour lasts 80 minutes. You get about 15 minutes to walk on the glacier near to the snow vehicles. They put out blue cones to show how far you can go (the safe area). Of course, about 75% of the people went beyond the cones onto higher parts of the glacier for that “perfect” picture.
It’s really wonderful to be on the glacier. Too bad there was not much time there and so many people. The glacier has receded since we were here 11 years ago, but it’s hard to tell how much. I think we’ll get out pictures from then and look (that was the last trip where we took analog pictures, I think).
When we returned to the ice centre, we went to the cafeteria and got lunch and took it out onto the balcony so we could eat and look at the various glaciers around us. Then the trip back to Aurum Lodge for pre-dinner reading and relaxation. Broke open a bottle of wine we had brought at talked and sipped until time for dinner. Sat at a table with just the four of us and the German young lady who is here working over the summer, Rika. Good chicken curry over cous cous with salad and veggies, fresh fruit and ice cream for dessert. Dinner revolved around trying to remember names of things, movies, and places that we just could not come up with, but finally did. Went to our rooms really early, about 8:00.
2007 08 02 – Mine, Mine, Mine or Don’t Fall for That or Bear Facts: Got up about 7:00 for 8:00 breakfast. Besides the porridge, bread, cereal, fruit, they served a hard poached egg on top of a half of a whole wheat bagel covered with baked beans. Ah, a simple meal. Then the big job of deciding what to do today. We are really too far away from Jasper to head up there and we’re going down into the Lake Louise/Banff area tomorrow.
We finally came up with going to Nordegg, a town 44 km from here basically as a place for lunch but also with the idea of touring the old mining area there. We got to Nordegg about Noon and had a lovely lunch at the café at the mine museum. The tour, to leave at 1:00, was termed “technical” and involved a two-hour walk around the mine site. For 44 years they mined coal here and transformed it into briquettes for furnaces. There is a maze of old slope tunnels and the conversion equipment to turn the coal into a final product. It all ended in 1955 when there was not enough demand to keep it open. We decided to drive around town instead of taking the long tour. It’s a ghost town. One of the women who was in the museum had been born and raised here and still lives here. She said it’s really depressing to see it now. At it’s height, it was a town of 2,000 people.
Afterwards we drove back towards Aurum Lodge and pulled off and up a gravel road to see the big Horn River and Crescent Falls. Very pretty. I love watching waterfalls. They had nice viewing areas and you could go down to the river above and below the falls if you wished. Tom wanted to test the water to see how cold it was. Yes, cold.
Got back to the lodge before three. I spent some time talking to Madeleine Ernst, the proprietress, about their place. The lease 28 acres from the province on a 25-year lease. When you look around, the trees are very small. But these pines are over 70 years old – there is little rain or snow here. The wetter part of the area is about 30-50 km away. The lake is a reservoir from the Saskatchewan River and dangerous to be on due to sudden gusts of wind.
I joined the other three in the lounge area on the second floor where we talked until 5:00 and then moved to the deck with a bottle of wine for more talking until dinner at 6:30. Madeleine and Alan, Rika, and a friend of the Ernsts from Switzerland sat at our table. We talked about not having bird feeders since the bears would be attracted to the seed. And then there is not having apple trees around for the same reason. Bears that invade too close to residences are shot. Seems there are many bears here. I don’t remember so many signs and brochures and other warnings about them when we were here 11 years ago.
The friend from Switzerland is in international banking and in charge of the Asian part of his bank for commercial business. Alan and he worked for the same bank, I think, at one time and that is what brought Alan and Madeleine to Canada originally. Alan designed the lodge and cabins here. They get about 70% of their electricity and water heating from solar energy during the summer months. And they are very conservation conscious with signs in the rooms about waste, recycling, turning off lights, use of water, etc. All commendable.
Had lovely salmon, mashed potatoes, and root vegetables followed by vanilla ice cream with bananas, chocolate shavings, and Baileys. Headed up to our rooms close to 8:30. There is nothing to do here, which is good. So, no TV to tempt you or a late dinner or anything. That is part of the real charm and value of this place. The Ernsts are wonderful hosts who run a terrific inn.
Tomorrow it’s off the Lake Louise with a planned side trip into Yoho National Park. Right now, it’s 9:30 and, while the sun has set, there is still a lot of light in the sky, blue behind the mountains.
2007 08 03 – Moraine Lake: Dog Tired or What Herve Could Have Said to Ricardo or Harry’s Cousin Fuzzy or “Yoho, Yoho, it’s off to …” : After saying our good-byes and thanking our hosts, we left Aurum Lodge around 9:00 heading down Hwy. 11 toward 93 (Icefield Parkway). We turned left on 93 towards Lake Louise. Our first turn off was at Mystaya Canyon. After a downhill walk, we came to the Mystaya River and the canyon. As with all the water around here, it’s turquoise from all the glacier flour (parts of rock so fine it’s like flour having been crushed by the glaciers and then carried by their melting ice). Beautiful spot with the water having made interesting cuts and turns to form the canyon. Took lots of pictures and then trudged uphill. We are getting in our cardio work almost every day, it seems.
Next stop was Peyto Lake. It’s a heck of an uphill walk, very steep at times. Panting as we reached the top, we joined the hordes from buses (who could park way uphill from us) and the car park and jostled our way to the railing in order to look down at the lake. The water comes from Peyto Glacier and there is a long tail of moraine on that end. The other end is in the shape of a dog’s head and the reason why so many folks are up here today. Lots of wildflowers all along the path and, wonder of wonders, it was all downhill back to the cars.
Where Trans Canada Hwy. 1 turns off west toward Vancouver, we left 93. We were now driving through Yoho National Park and in British Columbia. We turned off at the Kicking Horse RR tunnel overlook. With some very steep grades to conquer, they solved the problem for trains by building two spiral tunnels. As we watched, a train entered one tunnel. After a bit, while we could still see the cars going into the tunnel, the engine emerged from the tunnel above (the spiral). And as the train continued along, it passed in front of us with cars still going into the first tunnel – so we could see three sections of the same train at once. Then it crossed under the highway and went through another spiral tunnel above us (out of our sight). It’s pretty neat to watch.
We continued down Hwy. 1 and went down and down and down until we were in a river valley and at the town of Field, BC. We had a very nice lunch at a funky café and then went to some potters’ studio that had been recommended to us by Madeleine since much of the dinnerware we ate from was from these potters. Their studio is the Velvet Antler. We got a couple of very small pieces. The work is really good.
It was after 2:00 and time to head toward our lodging for the next two days. This meant retracing our tracks on Hwy. 1 and then turning toward Lake Louise. When we got to the exit we were supposed to take, it looked very fortuitous that this is where we were to get off since (a) the highway was blocked by police from that point on and (b) cars on the highway had obviously been stopped for quite a while since many folks were standing by their vehicles.
On the way to Moraine Lake, we stopped in Lake Louise Village and made a reservation for dinner tomorrow night at the Post Hotel, a Relais hotel/restaurant we stayed at 11 years ago. Then it was up the long and winding road to Moraine Lake – about 8-10 miles, I think. As we approached the lake, cars were parked all along the side of the road. Since there is no shoulder to speak of, the cars were halfway in the incoming lane of traffic. These were all tourists up to see the lake who park here since there was no room in the regular parking lots at the lake. It’s a wonder they allow this since it really clogs the whole road. Moraine Lake is just as popular a destination as Lake Louise.
We arrived at Moraine Lake Lodge. It overlooks the lake and we have a wonderful view from our room, #31 on the top floor. Angie and Tom’s room, #26, was not ready, so we went into the Library and had coffee/tea and watched a ground squirrel run around inside the room. With their room still not ready, we all went into our room. Check-in time is supposed to be 3:00 and we got here after then. Room 26 was finally ready well after 4:00 and the manager apologized and told the Swetnams he’d treat them to dinner since we were eating here tonight anyway.
The ground squirrels are everywhere. When we went down for dinner, we passed by the café where we saw one dart into the candy bin, grab a candy bar, and scoot under a trash can to eat it. The waiters said that is pretty common. There were others that scampered around the floor of the dining room. With doors open to the outside, it’s no wonder they are all over the inside. They don’t seem to bother anyone, though.
We met about 6:00 and walked along the lake shore for about 10 minutes and then walked back for our 6:45 dinner reservation. We had a very nice dinner with some BC pinot gris. We all split an appetizer platter of local pates and smoked meats. Marian had a wonderful veggie terrine. I had a Canadian game plate. The four of us split one dessert. Lovely altogether. And we’re back in our room about 9:30.
“Look around you. It’s wonderful we’re all here together.”
2007 08 04 – They’re at the Post or The Agony of De Feet or Climb Every Mountain: Moraine Lake is at about 6,200 feet. Our trips to other places are even higher (e.g., Peyto Lake lookout was 7,000). So we not only get to walk distances, but also benefit from a lack of oxygen at the same time.
We had breakfast with Tom and Angie at 8:00 and headed out at 9:00. We went downhill until the turnoff to Lake Louise. Our objective was to get there before the masses descended and there would be no parking. Good choice. By the time we left, it looked like Walt Disney World in high season.
We circled in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and headed on the path to the other end of the lake. Lots and lots of pictures. Lots and lots of people, too. While the others waited, I continued to the end of the trail along the streams from the glaciers that feed the lake. It’s about 2 km each way on the trail, I think. I know folks in St. Louis are suffering from the heat. Up here we get breezes from the glaciers and needed long sleeves and jackets for our walk around the lake.
We visited the hotel and its shops and restrooms before going to Lake Louise Village (which is near the highway). We settled for a bakery/sandwich place for lunch (Laggen?). Well, there was one guy making sandwiches at a very small station and lots of orders. And they did not tell us until later that the smoked salmon I had ordered was frozen and they needed to thaw it. So it took a very long time to get our meal and we were not happy campers.
While the other three shopped, I sat outside The Depot, the local post office, and, for the sum of $5 CDN could use WiFi all I wanted to. They had to give me a code to use. It was 123456abcd. Tough one to crack, huh? I uploaded days of pictures to my Mac site as well as trip log files. I downloaded emails and had over 500 come in with 450 of them spam. But it took a long time to download all those messages.
Since it was after 2:00 and we had early dinner reservations, we drove the 20 minutes back uphill to the lodge. Well, the whole roadway coming into the lake was blocked with parked cars. So, there was virtually one lane with no shoulder for two lanes of traffic. We talked to some young park rangers later and they said there was nothing they could do since they had no authority to deny parking even if it blocked the whole road.
While the other three sat in the library and read, I climbed what they call the Rock Pile across the road from the lodge. It gives you a good view from high up of the lake and surrounding mountains. Afterward, Marian napped while I fooled with pictures.
We went downhill into the village and the Post Hotel for dinner. Elegant. I had a champagne risotto with mushrooms and then grilled lobster on buckwheat noodles. Marian had a feta and mushroom salad followed by black cod. We all split a bottle of Amarone. Yum. To our rooms about 9:00.
2007 08 05 – Revelstoke: Turn Left and Go Out for Rogers Pass or Tonight He’ll Be Sleeping with the Dogs or We’re Not German, We’re Swiss: Up at 7:00, breakfast at 8:00 and left the lodge about 9:30 after checking out and packing our cars. Took a last walk down to the lake. It was 48 F, a tad chilly since I was only in a T-shirt.
After getting some gas in the village, we were off westward on Transcontinental Hwy. 1. We retraced our steps through Field and then it was all new territory. When we were here 11 years ago, we came down toward Vancouver from the Jasper area which means we did not merge into Hwy. 1 until Kamloops, which still a good distance from where we’ll be tonight.
I think the whole trip today was about 150 miles. It was downhill most of the way as we left the ridge of the Rockies and traveled west. There were mountains all around us, but we mostly went downward. At Rogers Pass we went up a bit and then down some more. Only one real town between Field and Revelstoke and that’s Golden, which, like Field, sits in a valley by a river. Some interesting highway construction around Golden where they are eliminating lots of twists and turns by building a straighter road much higher and over a big new bridge.
The time changed as we went further into British Columbia so we are now on Pacific time. We passed through Canada’s Glacier National Park and then got to the town of Revelstoke and Revelstoke National Park. We turned into town centre, found a parking spot, and had lunch at Bad Paul’s along the main drag. Afterward, we walked around town going into any store that was open. Lots were not since it’s Sunday.
We headed to Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Inn down Hwy 23 S and got there about 2:10. The front door was locked and a sign on the door said that check-in time was 3:00 or after. But we rang the bell anyway. The proprietor, Rene, and his son came to the door. He blocked the door and said that the rooms would not be ready until 3:00 and we should go to Revelstoke or to a park that was about 3 miles from here and come back later.
This lodge is almost 13 miles south of Revelstoke and, once you get there, it’s another mile or so on a gravel, one-lane road to get to the lodge. It’s along the Columbia River where it’s nice an wide and they have lots of land. But our first impression was not too swift given how curt the host was. About the time we had loaded into our car, Rene came out waiving his arms and told us that his wife had told him the rooms were all ready and we could come inside.
We are in the Otters’ Burrow which is the biggest room out of the nine that are here. It has a nice balcony overlooking a forest and the mountains (like Mt. Revelstoke), a whirlpool tub, a couch, and a big bed. Very nice. Angie and Tom are in Goose Bay. Once we were inside, Rene was a talking machine: I learned about the whole property, the ferry that could take us across the river to a virgin forest and to a hot springs spa, all the restaurants in town, what to do in the park, etc. They have over 30 acres plus some more under lease. Electricity is generated by their own hydro plant that works off water coming down from melting snow and the glaciers. Their water is also glacier water, so it’s old.
The owners are Swiss (from the German part) and built this place in 1994, I think. Besides the lodge itself, they have a freestanding chapel for weddings, a place down by the water where they can have a BBQ for 100, trails, a garden, a pool, and on and on. Nice place in the middle of nowhere. They raise the same kind of dog that Alan and Madeleine Ernst had at Aurum Lodge (Bernese Mountain Dogs) and know the Ernsts. Haven’t see the dogs as yet since they were napping with Rene’s wife.
Around 4:00 we all gathered on our deck and opened a bottle of wine Tom brought and drank, ate nuts and dried fruit, talked, and watched a nice rain shower. At 6:00 we all got in our car and headed to town for dinner at Woolsey Creek Café where we had a pretty good dinner. We drove a couple of blocks into the center of town, parked, and went to the central square (Grizzly Square, of course) and listened to music for a short while. They put on a concert every night during the summer from 7-9, I think.
We were back at the inn right as the last light was leaving the sky and the clouds and mountain peaks were pink.
2007 08 06 – Prophet on the Trail or Look at Them Indians or Van Go or Black Bear, Black Bear, What Do I See?: Breakfast around here is 8:30 sharp (rather than when we were at Aurum when it was at a time we wanted). Before breakfast, Tom, Angie, and I went on a little walk. First we went over to the chapel by taking the gravel road rather than the trail through the woods. It’s very nice with seating for about 30, an organ, a church bell, etc. And the stained glass at the end is the inn’s logo, what else? Next stop was the waterfall and stream that feeds the hydro-electric plant and then a visit to the hydro plant itself. Very interesting. Rene is big on signs everywhere. So there is a viewing window into the plant with signs over turbines, valves, and the generator telling you what does what. There is an intake pipe coming from upstream way up the hill by the highway and an outlet by the plant into the fast-funning water next to it.
This is a study in contrast with Aurum Lodge. Here power is plentiful. Lights along the entry road and outlining the roof of the lodge and around the pool, etc. are left on 24 hours a day. There is actually too much energy being produced by all that water running downstream given what the facility demands. At Aurum, with solar power, electricity is conserved. As is water. Here there is all the snow and glacier runoff just going by anyway.
Rene was in a better mood today than when we arrived yesterday. He is very friendly and willing to tell you any amount of details on about any subject involving the lodge or the area. Breakfast is a buffet. There were eggs, salami, cheese, toast, muffins, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit. During breakfast, Rene came over to warn us that he had seen a black bear around the chapel earlier. Well, too late for us, I think!
We headed into town with the idea of dropping off our laundry at a place that would wash, dry, and fold. However, the owner was shorthanded today and was not offering that service. Guess I’ll do some stuff at Vancouver prices later.
The big feature of the area is, naturally, Revelstoke National Park. We drove into the park and ups 15-mile-long Meadows in the Sky Parkway with lots of switchbacks, steep grades, and beautiful views. At the first turnoff, we could see all of Revelstoke and the Columbia River below us. At the top of the road, you are surrounded by meadows of wildflowers. You have a choice of taking a van to go to the summit or walking uphill about 1 Km on a trail. We chose the latter. The trail surface is powdery soil with lots of mica that glittered. And there were flowers, lots of flowers, all along. The predominant wildflower is my favorite, Indian Paintbrush, which is red. There were also white, purple, and yellow flowers. The trail brings you to some view points where you can look upriver toward the Revelstoke Dam on the Columbia. You get a broad perspective of the surrounding mountains. A shorter trail rises up to an old fire tower where you can look 360 degrees at the surrounding scenery. The combination of the flowers and the views from over 6,300 feet up make this a spectacular place.
It took a little over 30 minutes to drive up, but over 45 to go down, mostly in 2nd and 1st gear. At the bottom, we went into town and had lunch at the Conversation Coffee House. Back at the lodge, I worked on pictures. Rene, seeing me, told me that he had WiFi on the deck. So, when I was finished, I went there and could upload the current pictures and trip logs. However, for some reason, we never could get Marian’s laptop to connect. I think I only had 250 email messages this time! Of course, only about 30 were not spam.
At 6:00 we headed back into Revelstoke. It’s over 10 miles each way, so we don’t just run back and forth. Dinner was at a Greek-Italian restaurant, Emo’s. Nice food. Back at the inn, the four of us looked at the pictures I had on my computer from the week we have spent together. Really, really too bad the seven days are finished and we will part tomorrow AM. What can you say about life friends except what a privilege and treat it is to spend time with them?
We’re the only guests at the inn tonight, so Rene was actually flexible about the time for breakfast, which we set at 8:00 since the four of us have long trips tomorrow.
2007 08 07 – Vancouver: Dear Deer or So Close, Yet or We Must Be In Civilization Again: Rene sort of grows on you. It ends up he’s really friendly and wants to be a good host. There were only six of us staying at the inn last night (another couple came back after we were already in our rooms). Rene set a table on the deck, arranged plates and silverware, and put the entire buffet on our table to enjoy. Cheese from a Belgian family in Salmon Arm (a big town we passed as we went west to Vancouver), eggs, crisp bacon, cereal, yogurt, local melon, blueberries from their garden, toast. We didn’t eat all of this, but this is what was on the table.
The Swetnams were going to leave a little later than us. I had loaded the car before breakfast. Really didn’t want to part with them, but we had to go. So up Rt. 23 to Trans Canada 1 and westward. It was about 360 miles altogether. We started out in the high mountains around Revelstoke. As we progressed, we went through lower mountains where there were trees all the way to the top. Some areas were dry with only scrub vegetation on the mountains. Hwy. 1 merges with Hwy. 5 at Kamloops, a big industrial town. We grabbed lunch in Merritt and Hwy. 5 was then a toll road until Hope. We went by huge lakes with marinas, houseboats.
As the day went on, it got cloudier. Some of the clouds caught on the mountains and spilled over like waves. It rained, but not hard. Our biggest traffic delay was about 15 miles before we left the highway in Vancouver. It never was really clear why all the traffic stopped and started and stopped, but it did until we were over the bridge leading into the city. Then we went through four miles of city streets until we got to our hotel. The AAA directions were spot on, so it was very clear how to get there.
We’re in room 704 on the Hornby Street side (front of hotel) overlooking the law courts. Since they are only two stories, we have a wonderful view from our terrace of the museum and an array of buildings in downtown. It’s a huge room with wet bar, seating area, desk, tub in the room and huge shower in bathroom. After settling in, we went out for a walk on Robson, a main shopping street just down from the hotel.
Robson is a combination of tourist shops and high-end stores. Much of what is there can be found in St. Louis (e.g., Levi’s) or other U.S. towns we visit. So, nothing really appealed to us. We went towards Stanley Park hoping to run into the Cows store that used to be that direction, but did not find it. We did pass at least six Starbucks and several other coffee places. One corner has two Starbucks on it cattycorner from each other. We went into a nice liquor store and got a bottle of Canadian pinot gris and a pinot noir for libations in the room. Went into a salmon store (had shipped stuff from there on the last trip) and got some salmon candy (double smoked salmon with maple syrup). Back at the room, we sampled our purchases.
Around 7:00 we walked up Hornby (toward Granville Island) and got to Il Giardino, where we had a reservation. Very lovely place and wonderful food. Here we go. We split a pureed porcini mushroom soup (they put our half-portions in separate bowls). Marian had a wonderful halibut with tapenade on it. I had rack of venison in a red wine, orange reduction with Cipollini onions and red cabbage. Wine was Italian, of course: a Masi Campofiorin, which seems to be in the same family or district as Amarone and Valpolicella wines. For dessert, we split a Okanagan blueberry flan with vanilla gelato on top.
Had a nice walk back to our hotel and in bed around 10:00. It’s a real shock to leave the mountains and the quiet of the places we have been since we started and to land in a big city. On balance, we’re glad we’re only here two days, three nights.
2007 08 08 – What Perry White Would Say or “How many Ligurian oysters did you have?” or Getting Crabby or In a Stew: Got up late and went to Starbucks for brews and to Crisp for a wonderful breakfast wrap – both are up the street from hotel. We next spent a couple of hours at the Vancouver Art Gallery (really a museum) and saw a whole floor of work by Andrea Zittel and a floor of work by Huang Yong Ping. Both were fascinating in many ways. http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/current_exhibitions.html Also saw group show including Emily Carr. Did not go to the “big” show – Monet to Dali. We made brief visit to a free concert outside the museum. Then we went to a book store and back to our room.
When we had first gone to the museum, there was a group of folks outside with “Free Tibet” signs and TV cameras setting up. We saw in this AM’s paper about the two people from Vancouver who had been arrested in China for unfurling a banner on the Great Wall regarding Tibet.
Around 2:30, we walked down to Falls Creek at the foot of Hornby (a couple of blocks beyond where we were for dinner last night) and took a water taxi over to Granville Island. We walked all around the island going into all the shops and galleries. Fun at the Public Market with all the produce, fish, baking. We had a 6:00 dinner reservation at the Sandbar Restaurant, but ended up getting there at 5:00 having finished our wandering. This turned out to be a good thing.
We split spicy string beans and some squid fixed in a wok and then Marian had a good ciopinno and I had a half Dungeness crab. Carlos drank heavily. When we were done (about 6:15), we headed over to Vanier Park for Bard on the Beach and Julius Caesar. It’s about a 30 minute walk along the seafront. Pleasant. It ends up we were very glad we got to the site about 6:45 since, once you got your tickets, you had to stand in line until the gates opened at 7:20 – it’s all open seating. If we had dined at the originally appointed time, we would have been at the end of a very long line waiting to get in. As it was, we were one of the first 30 or so into the tent. There are two performance tents, ours the smaller (studio), had the stage down the middle, and sat about 240.
While standing in line, volunteers come around and give you slips of blank paper and a bit of scotch tape and a crayon to write your name on the paper. We did this, but were mystified a bit as to why. When the gates opened, Marian headed for the members desk to pick up a tote bag while I got seats.
Well, everyone that came in put the slip of paper with their name on the back of a chair … and then headed back outside and into the tent area where there was food, drinks, coffee, a shop. It was sight with about two-thirds of the seats having colored slips of paper taped to their backs and no one in them.
The play was excellent. Well acted, directed, staged. When it was all over, there was a line of cabs waiting outside and we took one back to our hotel getting home about 10:45.
2007 08 09 – Livingstone’s Companion or I’m Not Lion or Teahouse of the August Spoon or No Place to Flush ‘Em Down the Toilet: Got up late and went to a local java joint for some food and brew. Walked down Robson for shopping in Roots, Blue Ruby, and to find an ATM. After returning to the room, we got the car and drove to Stanley Park, one of our favorite places to walk. We parked and walked about 2 miles altogether along the seafront and back across the park to our car. Good views of the city, Lions Gate Bridge, lots of shipping, seaplanes coming and going, etc. There were tons of people in the park on bicycles and rollerblades.
We saw signs that the seafront trail was closed after Lions Gate. I had heard that there was some severe damage to the trees in the park, but it seems the damage was also to the seaward side of the park (roads, seawall). The storm was in December, 2006. Thousands of trees were uprooted or damaged.
So we walked around until we got near Lions Gate and then headed across the park back to our car. We drove around the perimeter and surveyed the tree and road damage. Lots of work still going on. The press reports I read said it might take up to a year to clean everything up. We ended up at the old Teahouse at Ferguson Point and had a late lunch of a variety of cold salmon and some wok friend squid.
Got back to the hotel about 3:00 and fooled around on our computers until it was time to go to dinner. We walked over into the Yaletown area and ate at Goldfish, a new, trendy seafood restaurant. Excellent scallops followed by Artic char, Brussels sprouts, and fried rice. On this day when I saw an article about a deli in Israel that sells pork to its Russian client, we had bacon with the Brussels sprouts and the friend rice. Ah, well. Good warm banana spring roll with caramel and other yummy stuff for dessert.
Walked back to the hotel by some of the many trucks and trailers in the area that seem to be in support of a film or TV program being shot around the center of the city. Back in the room before 9:00. Gotta get up early tomorrow for ferry to Vancouver Island.
2007 08 10 – Sooke: We Are Poor Little Crabs Who Have Lost Our Way or There’s a Ferry That Will Take Me to My Garden or For Sooke: We were up at 6:30 and out of the hotel around an hour later. It’s about 20 miles to the ferry terminus. There was some traffic at the tunnel, but okay altogether. And, when we were approaching the docks, we saw a sign that said there was room on the 9:00 ferry (we had reservations on the 10:00 sailing). So, we got to leave an hour earlier.
The ride is about 1:45 and goes through the gulf islands. Once we got to Vancouver Island, we headed south along the peninsula to Butchart Gardens. We cannot imagine any flower garden as lovely as this. We spent two hours walking its paths, taking scads of pictures, and having a nice lunch. The colors and arrays of flowers are amazing. And the scents. Ahhhh.
From there we heading south and west and got to Sooke and Sooke Harbour House a bit after 3:00. We really love this place. It’s our third time here. It’s still the same wonderful inn we have come to expect. We’re in the Whale room (#23) on the second floor. It has a deck with a big tub on it. We have a fireplace that works and that we use.
After doing Internet stuff, we took a walk around the grounds and thought about our two other trips here. We especially thought about being here in 2000 with Robin, Jeff, Andy, Tracy, and Jake. Then we took a walk to the end of Wiffen Spit (which is right by the hotel). Afterward, we relaxed in the room until dinner.
Sorry to say, but there are no Dungeness crab on the menu. Seems there is a shortage right now. There is a fixed price dinner with three courses and dessert. We had an Okanagan pinot noir and a terrific dinner. It’s too tough to describe. You’ll just have to look at the menus we take each night.
Glad to be in Sooke again.
* Roasted vegetable broth with a sea lettuce oil, English peas, cabbage and lingcod
* Salt Spring Island mussels served in the shell in wild mushroom cream broth
* Oven roasted Cowichan Bay Farm duck breast with a crispy blue cheese, green onion potato roll, a port meat stock reduction and snow pea, garlic oil, braised purple cabbage and yellow beans
* Summer fruit tartlet served with fresh peaches, elderflower sorbet and mint syrup
* Sooke Harbour salad: wild and cultivated organic greens and edible blossoms from our gardens, with a lemon grass rose petal vinaigrette
* Grilled side stripe shrimp with tarragon oil and a cucumber, tarragon broth, a tomato, fava bean, paneer cheese sauté and lemon cucumber, tuberous nasturtium salad
* Seared Hectate Strait Halibut with a peashoot, pumpkinseed, miso emulsion and opal bail puree, a cauliflower, fennel flan, grilled zucchini and blue gentian sage flower, daikon, carrot salad
* Rhubarb apple and candied ginger spring roll served with apricot swirl ice cream, lemongrass caramel and fresh Japanese plums
2007 08 11 – Where the Digital and the Analog Roam or Sit Down Bee Cider or Do Not For Sooke Me, Oh My Darling, On This Our Wedding Day: Breakfast arrived in our room a little after 9:00. We enjoyed it on the balcony in our robes. Juice, fruit, yogurt, frittata, coffee. Read the local newspaper. Loved the picture on the front page with a BC environmentalist who went to the screening of DiCaprio’s new film that features her. She is standing with Paris Hilton and says how interested Paris is in conservation and the old forests of BC. Yikes! I guess she had a conversion during her long time in the clink.
We stayed around the room until a bit before 11:00 (can’t pick up your picnic lunches until then!). About every time we have been here, it’s at the same time as the Sooke Art Society’s big art show. It’s juried and has big cash prizes (e.g., $3,000 for first prize). Over 400 works from over 250 artists. I think the show gets better each time. Beautiful art ranging from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
As we drive along, an amusement is to see whether we have mobile phone service—analog or digital. We do most of the time up here. And Marian checks in with folks to hear things like her mom’s 188 in bowling on Friday. And there was the garbled conversation with Tracy where Marian heard her say: “A fat snake in the pool.” She asked if it were in our pool. After a couple of rounds of this, she finally heard: “I sat and baked at the pool.”
After a couple of hours at the art show, we drove up to the Sooke Potholes. The parks website says: “Glacial action during the last ice age 15,000 years ago is responsible for the formations, as the moving, melting ice packs stripped the surface area and carved a path deep into the natural bedrock. Huge boulders carried along by the rushing river became lodged, were swirled against the canyon walls and consequently carved out the potholes that can be seen today.” We drove up to the last parking lot and then walked down a path to the river’s edge and picnicked on a nice table there. It’s not the same place where we all went swimming and had a picnic in 2000. We were not quite sure where that was. I have taken to drinking apple cider, which I did at lunch. Its 7% alcohol and they make some good stuff up here. While we tried to eat and drink, several bees cruised on our fingers and food. But, they can’t eat much and were not aggressive.
After some stops at a drugstore and book store, we headed back to Sooke Harbour House and our room. When we arrived, we could see that there was going to be a wedding taking place on the lawn outside the rooms where Robin/Jeff, Tracy/Andy/Jake stayed in 2000. We had a birds’ eye view of the whole shebang and took pictures, of course.
We were expecting two massage therapists to come at 4:00, but got a call from the front desk a bit after that time telling us the spa was shorthanded. We had hoped for one therapist to come and do two massages in a row. But we heard directly from the spa manager (it’s offsite) that the man from here who had booked our massages had told them September 11, not August 11. So, all their therapists were either booked or had left for the day before all this came to light. She wanted to give us free massages tomorrow. I told her it was not the spa’s fault and I would not feel right getting their services for free. So, we’re scheduled for 4:00 tomorrow and we’ll see about the fee.
Since we were already disrobed and in our robes (huh?), we went to the new infrared sauna they have here and baked for a while. It’s nice, but takes forever to fully heat up. We stayed in about 25 minutes or so and then had enough. Back to our room to relax and play on our dueling computers until 8:00 PM dinner. Lit a nice fire in the fireplace and are enjoying it as we keyboard away.
Dinner was an experience – both good and bad. The food was excellent, per usual. But it took two and a half hours altogether. Marian had three S dishes: salad, sablefish, salmon. I had sort of three O dishes: crispy oysters, octopus, oven roasted leg of lamb. Again, I will leave the details of the dishes to the menu descriptions.
Our dinner reservation was for the late sitting, which, tonight, was 8:00. Dinner is leisurely, but this went beyond. Got our wine and first course in a regular fashion. We waited and waited for the second course. About 9:30, we inquired what was going on in the kitchen tonight. Was it the wedding this afternoon or what? Our server was one of the maitre d’s and she told us that they were plating lots of stuff right then in the kitchen. Within a few minutes, another person brought dishes to our table, but they were our third course. We sent them back. Our server came over a few minutes later to offer one of several apologies that followed. I guess she had just lost track of our table. Eventually our second course arrived. Then the third followed a reasonable time later (we and they didn’t want to stack the courses too close to one another). When it was time for dessert, the server told us that she was giving us free glasses of ice wine and not charging us for dessert. So the bill was for a three-course rather than a four-course meal. It’s interesting that the menu does not give you that option – it lists the price for a four-course meal including dessert, period. So, it was 10:30 by the time we were done. I think that service was slow last night in any case for others, but did not see anyone else who had our experience.
It’s still paradise even with today’s massage snafu and tonight’s dinner delay. Naturally, we fell into bed when we got to our room.
* Sooke Harbour salad: wild and cultivated greens and edible blossoms from our gardens with an arugula, yoghurt dressing
* Grilled sablefish with a sea lettuce emulsion and blueberry, Mable Grey geranium reduction, green bean, morel mushroom, scallion sauté, oxalis and begonia
* Chive crusted steamed Sockeye salmon in a chanterelle mushroom, shrimp broth with chive oil, a preserved tomato, quinoa, Montana cheese pasta torte, fennel bulb and apple, chickweed salad
* Lemon verbena crème brulee served with raspberry bread pudding, rosemary caramel sauce and fresh loganberries
* Crispy oysters with sweet chilli, opal basil emulsion and a small green salad
* Mint marinated octopus with oxeye daisy, pumpkinseed, Bell Anne cheese pesto, tamari, red wine reduction, mint marinated, carrot herbal salad, and coriander cracker
* Fennel seed dusted, oven roasted lamb let with an Epazote, sweet and sour eggplant puree, port meat stock reduction, a chickpea, lemon hyssop, caramelized onion phyllo bundle, ruby beet and wilted greens
* Lavender and white cornmeal shortcake with port stewed blueberries and lemon thyme sour cream ice cream
2007 08 12 – Be Strait With Me, Juan or Sooke and Ye Shall Find Sprint or There’s a Cask of Amontillado Right Over Here: As we sit either inside or on our balcony looking over the water, we can see cruise and cargo ships heading out into the Pacific from Vancouver and Seattle through the straights. Washington and the Olympic Peninsula are always in view from the room and from the dining room. At night, you can see lights from the ships as they slowly move out to sea.
I was up about 7:30, Marian tad-and-a-half later. Breakfast arrived around 9:00 – today it was a crepe filled with mounds of fresh peaches, plums, blueberries, and edible blossoms. I ate, she slept. Near 10:00, Marian reminded me I had a date with our server/sommelier for a tour of the inn’s wine cellars. After a hasty shower, shave, and getting dressed, I went downstairs. My guide took me into the kitchen and down a flight of steps to the doors of the cellars (you need a code to open the doors). They separate white/rose from red (different temperatures). She said they have exclusive relationships with many wineries both in Canada and around the world. The master sommelier told me later they get in 20-40 cases of wine a week. There is a staging room just for sorting what has come in before it’s put into the cellars. There must have been at least 30-40 cases there besides what was in the cellars.
The wine list here is extensive, to say the least. Prices go from reasonable to many thousands of dollars. I got to look into the inner sanctum and hold a bottle of 1928 Chateau Leoville Las Cases. It goes for about $2,500 CDN. All the cellars are organized by country/region and then alphabetically by winery. Everything is clearly labeled so the servers can get what they need during the busy dinner sittings. All the fine wines are wrapped in a plastic bag (except for the top of the bottle) so that the labels will remain clean and fresh.
I asked about last night. She said it was, as I had suspected, lost track of our table and what course we were on – didn’t pick up the second course when it was ready and no one told her either. Ah, well. She’s done her penance – this was her day off.
By the time I was back (and it wasn’t that long overall), Marian was up, dressed, and went outside on the balcony for her breakfast whilst I regaled her with tales of the cellar. So, breakfast is over, we’re checking our email, and figuring out when to pick up lunch.
By the by, I checked my cell phone yesterday and can pick up Sprint from across the straits.
We wandered over to the library on the second floor along the hallways that are part of their art gallery (everything for sale with its price posted). I looked through old guest books, but could not find the years we were here. Around noon we went downstairs and got our lunch and went onto the deck outside. The woman who is in charge of the garden was there and answered lots of our questions. We both took lots of pix of the flowers and the building and each other. Then Marian sat down and wrote postcards while I sat and read.
Around 1:00, we opened our lunches and had smoked salmon, cream cheese, and onions on a bagel (well, a New Yorker wouldn’t call it a bagel – more like a cross between French bread and a bagel – yummy), fresh peach, and some pastry. We sat outside in our long-sleeved shirts and jackets since it’s about 65 today, I think. With the wind from the water, it’s chilly. At about 2:00 or so we were too cold and went inside to build a fire in our room and wait for our 4:00 massages.
At a 4:00 two massage therapists arrived at our door and set up their tables in the room. We were not charged (but the hotel is paying the spa company since it was their mix up that caused the problem yesterday). Very nice. Relaxing. Road miles smoothed away. Now there is nothing to do except shower and wait for our 8:00 dinner reservation. Tough day, huh?
Dinner was a two-hour affair and very tasty. Menu for both of us is below. Nice Okanagan pinot gris that our server recommended. As you know, I am not one who dresses up for going out. However, with the price of these meals, I put on khakis and a sweater. Others have on T-shirts, jeans, etc. This is one of the best restaurants in Canada. While I am sure for being informal, some folks carried it a bit too far even for me.
In the room, Marian wrote postcards so she could use most of the zillion Canadian stamps she had bought, not to mention some of the stash of postcards she brought with her or acquired up here.
* Broccoli soup with fennel sour cream, daikon pod red onion sage fritter
* Crispy Salt Cod potato cake with roasted tomatillo cilantro salsa, sweet and sour sauce, snap peas, chanterelle mushrooms and wilted greens
* Pan roasted Lingcod with a tuberous begonia sauce and a mint chilli emulsion, creamy barley dumpling, bok choy and carrots
* Bittersweet chocolate cake served warm with stewed cherries, hazelnut ice cream and port reduction
* Sooke Harbour House salad: wild and cultivated organic greens and edible blossoms from our gardens, with apricot tarragon vinaigrette
* Seared smoked tuna served with chilled nasturtium leaf emulsion and balsamic syrup, tomato buffalo mozzarella herbal salad
* Pan roasted Lingcod (see above)
* Garden inspired sorbets (all served together): blackberry-ginger, peach-rosemary, and strawberry-sweet cicely
2007 08 13 – Seattle: It’s Continental or Doogie Hawser or Olympic Heights or The Monster Lives: Had wake-up call set for 6:30, but I got up earlier. After checking out and putting the luggage in the car, I came back to the room where our continental breakfast had arrived. We sat on the balcony in 50s weather, looked at the reflections of clouds on the still water in front of us and the Olympic range on the other side of the straits. There were three kinds of pastry for each of us: croissant, muffin, and a stolen stuffed with blueberries, apples, and cheese. Sampled a bit of each.
Left Sooke (boo hoo) at 7:30, as we had planned. We needed to be at the ferry landing by 9:00 for a 10:30 sailing due to going through U. S. security and customs. Instead of it taking the hour we had planned (leaving room for Monday AM rush-hour traffic), it only took about 40 minutes. The ferry landing is in the inner harbour of Victoria, near the capital building and the Empress Hotel. We were asked if we had a reservation, told what line to pull the car into, and stopped at the ticket booth to pay for our fare.
We sat in our car from then until we were put on board. The ferry came in from Port Angeles around 9:45 and it took a good 20-25 minutes for the vehicles to off load from the side of the vessel. Before the ferry came in, a U. S. Customs agent checked our passports, asked a few perfunctory questions, and went to the next car.
When it was time to load the cars, our line was taken first. We were the second car in that line and, upon entering the side of the ship, were directed to the front of a line so the nose of our car was right at the stern of the boat. FIFO inventory, I think. We went inside, made our way to the observation lounge near the bow, got some coffee and a bagel, and took pictures and got on our computers. It’s a bright, sunny day – the first since we’ve been on the west coast. Glad to have it.
Nice trip over to the U. S.. Took about an hour and a half. We were off first, went into a line at U. S. Customs, got asked a couple of questions, and pulled into Port Angeles traffic. It’s a pretty big town and lots of traffic. We headed south on US 101 and then turned off pretty quickly into Olympic National Park stopping briefly at the visitors center and then driving the 17-mile mountain road up to Hurricane Ridge.
We could see from the base that there were clouds in the mountains. We drove up through them and, at the top, were over many. But that also meant that our view was obstructed. We could see several snow-covered peaks, though, and large swaths of mountain meadow with wildflowers. We got a sandwich from the visitor center there and, along with some goodies we had taken with us from Sooke, had a nice lunch looking out at the mountains. We climbed a very short trail on the other side from the center where, on a clear day, one can see the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Today, all you could see was a cloud bank and fog.
We drove down and headed toward Seattle. Traffic around Port Angeles made the going slow. There were a couple of other places along the way where there was lots of traffic and strings of traffic signals that slowed everything down. We were heading to the ferry at Bainbridge Island. No reservations, first-come, first-served. We were lucky. There are times when you have to wait a ferry or two to get across and the ferries only run about once an hour or so. We arrived a bit after 4:00 and could get on the 4:35 ferry. Lots of police presence. Coast Guard officers and State Police officers patrolled the car lines looking into vehicles and were also on board on the car deck walking around the entire trip. We stayed in our car for the voyage.
It takes about 35 minutes to cross the sound from the island to the heart of downtown Seattle. Our hotel was only about four blocks from the landing, but getting there was another thing. First, Seattle traffic is snarled due to major construction on the major north-south route, I-5. It’s very much like St. Louis will be with US 40 shut down. Second, it was rush hour. Third, while we headed north on First Street, the hotel was on the west side of the street and there was no way to make a U-turn in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. So, we negotiated the one-way streets in the area, making a few wrong moves since we did not know what streets ran which way, and finally got to the hotel. No valet parking. They do have garage parking, but, given the one-way streets, it was about six blocks of driving to get to it even though it’s right under the apartment/hotel facility.
The Inn at Harbor Steps is a 28-room boutique hotel that occupies three floors of an exclusive apartment building. The rooms are on the ground floor and two floors below. We are in room 7, one floor below the lobby. All the rooms look out into a private garden that is ringed by the apartment towers. It’s quite lovely. Very nice room, high ceilings, good ventilation from the garden.
It had taken about an hour from the time we left the ferry landing to get to and settled in at our hotel. On the elevator going to our room, we saw a sign advertising the pre-Broadway run of Mel Brooks’ new musical, Young Frankenstein. We immediately got on line (and, ultimately, over the phone) and got tickets for tomorrow night! Woo hoo.
We had made a reservation at Wild Ginger, a Pan-Asian restaurant about three blocks from here and walked there for a lovely dinner of lamb satay, veggie satays, scallops, Dungeness crab cakes, and a nice NZ sauv blanc. Went back to the hotel and in bed by about 11:00, exhausted from a very long day.
2007 08 14 – “Abby something” or To Market, to Market or Fishy Story or It Was the Salmon Mousse: Morning included a very nice breakfast at the hotel. We spent the next few hours at the Pike Place Market, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this week. All the pigs around town are for the market. It’s the symbol they established a few years back when there were moves to tear it down and money was raised (BIG piggy bank) to keep it going.
It’s a wonderful place with stalls for fish, produce, flowers, crafts, clothes, and about anything you can name. Now I know where all the Dungeness crabs are that did not make it to our table in Sooke – here. Marian loved the flower stalls. I loved the fish ones. Good views today across the sound at the Olympic range.
So, we wandered and marveled and took lots of pictures (I think we are around 3,500 between us in total so far). We went into the original Starbucks and saw its founder who was in an apron and signing autographs. Lunch was a stop at a Russian bakery for a delicacy shaped like a fish and filled with salmon mousse. Yummy. We resumed our wandering and bought enough stuff (e.g., lovely wine, special oatmeal) that we returned to the hotel (which is only about three blocks away).
After dumping our stuff, we went out in search of more pigs. We had gotten a map of them at the market. On the Harbor Steps next to the hotel, not only are there pigs, but also part of a big sculpture show that is all over this part of town (on the steps, by the symphony hall, by the art museum, etc.). We ended up at the Seattle Arm Museum (SAM) gift store and then its restaurant. I was feeling out of gas (energy, that is, since I never seem out of gas) and needed something to eat. We had a beet and pomegranate chilled soup that was quite good. I went back to the hotel and Marian continued on for a short while.
I napped for over an hour while Marian rearranged stuff in her luggage, read, clipped magazines. At 6:30 we headed out the door for the walk to the Paramount Theater at 9th and Pine. It’s uphill most of the way. Picked up our tickets, bought a T-shirt, and settled into our seats for the performance of Young Frankenstein. Well, it was terrific. Like when we saw Spamalot, the audience knew the movie backwards and forwards and all the jokes. All the main players got wonderful applause when they appeared on stage the first time. The whole thing is very well done. Good music, lyrics, dancing (lots of big dancing number), sets, costumes. The audience howled when the scene with the Hermit started knowing what was to come. In the “Putting on the Ritz” number, at the first utterance by the Monster of the song title, they stomped and applauded. Lots of audience cheering. Never saw a whole audience appreciate a show as much as these folks did. Site for the play is: http://www.youngfrankensteinthemusical.com/
The cast is wonderful. The production stars Roger Bart (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Megan Mullally (Elizabeth), Sutton Foster (Inga), Shuler Hensley (The Monster), Fred Applegate (Kemp) and Christopher Fitzgerald (Igor). Foster has terrific dance numbers. In all, Mullally is really a supporting role even though she gets second billing behind Roger Bart. Well, we laughed, yelled, and cheered. Can’t wait to see it again, although I bet at higher prices in NYC.
Walked back to the market area and had 11:00 dinner at Il Bistro. Nice calamari, Caesar salad, and pear/gorgonzola ravioli. To bed a bit after midnight.
2007 08 15 – Brooklyn on the West Coast or Au Claire or Tea for Three: Got up, did computer stuff, went into breakfast almost at 10:00 (it closes at 10:00). We decided to take the car back to Hertz a day early since we have not used it at all once in Seattle. Did a total of 1,700 miles. Walked back from Hertz, stopping along the way. Got a call from Claire, who had arrived at the Seattle airport, and made arrangements to see her.
We went into the Pike Place Market again and, after a bit, Claire joined us there. We got lunch from a French pastry/sandwich place and from the same Russian bakery we had bought food from yesterday. We sat on a bench in the shade, ate, and drank Starbucks. After lunch, we commenced our search for the Olympic Sculpture Park which was pretty far from where we were. We walked north, went down to the waterfront, asked directions a couple of times, and finally found it.
SAM has taken an area of the city where there are highways and RR tracks and built an inventive sculpture park with ramps and pedestrian bridges. There’s Serra, Calder, etc. We walked around the park and then Claire went to get her car and picked us up. From there, Claire took us on a tour to a couple of places over the city for good views (and a murky view of Mt. Rainier through the haze) and then to her son Steve’s house in the Queen Anne section of the city. Small 1910s bungalow very well restored, very expensive.
By the way, it was hot today. Well, hot for Seattle. Might have been in the 80s. We actually perspired – perhaps the first time on the trip. Claire returned us to the hotel. At 4:30, we went to the hotel’s library and had tea. We visited with a woman who lives in these apartment buildings. She has lived in five countries and had interesting stories about how difficult it was to live in Victoria, Canada and why she returned to the U.S. after only three months there.
Back in our room, we put things away and dressed for dinner. Karen, Rob, and Amanda Townsend came to our room a bit after 6:00. We visited and talked and then went to a Brazilian restaurant downstairs for a drink before dinner. Food was at Brooklyn, about two blocks from here. Excellent. Too much. We had such a lovely evening with these dear friends. It was a real treat. We parted about 10:00 and went back to the hotel. Got to bed near midnight.
2007 08 16 – Amtrak: Pigs to the Right of Me, Pigs to the Left of Me or All Aboard for the Late Train or Book ‘Em, Dano or Sure, Just Railroad Me or How Does This Sound: Got into breakfast room with five minutes to spare for my oatmeal, raisin bread, and coffee. After regrouping in the room and getting all our various pieces of luggage ready for checking out, we headed to the Seattle Public Library. It’s straight uphill for four steep blocks. And it’s worth it. Koolhaus (spelling?) was the architect. It’s fabulous inside and out. Glass all the way around, up and down. Lots of interior space for sitting, computing, browsing, etc.
Back on the street, we continued our pursuit of taking pictures of pigs. We have quite a collection at this point. We headed up to Pike Place Market, walked around, and settled for the Copacabana Restaurant outside overlooking the market. It’s a Bolivian restaurant and we had very nice ceviche and a lamb, black beans, rice dish all washed down with sangria. We wandered around in the market for a while then went down Harbor Steps to the bottom to take pix of, what else, more pigs.
We sat for a brief time in our hotel’s lobby and then took a taxi to the King Street Station. We got there well before 3:00 for our 4:45 (supposedly) train. Crosswords and computers filled our time. Around 4:25 they boarded the sleeping car passengers. Then we waited until 5:25 before leaving because a train from Portland that was carrying 100 or so folks that were to be on our train was late.
We’re in car 831, room B. The train heads north along Puget Sound for quite a while. The rails are right on the water, so you get a terrific view of the sound and the Olympic range on its other side. When we turned inland, we started uphill through the Cascades with forests and rivers and mountains and waterfalls. Really beautiful to travel through here as the sun is getting lower in the sky.
At 7:30 we went two cars back to the dining car for our dinner reservation. We sat with a young mother and her four-year-old daughter (who was very dramatic about what she would and wouldn’t eat – lots of happy/sad. Her mother handled her very well, very calmly). Dinner was, what can I say, reasonable Amtrak. Went back to our deluxe roomette about 9:00 to relax until bedtime.
2007 08 17 – It’s Smokin’ or Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah or “Havre, oh Havre, have I got a man for you”: Slept fitfully until we got to Spokane, where they join more cars to the train that have come from Portland. At about 7:00, the loudspeaker in the room blared with a voice who told us that Whitefish would be coming up in about 30 minutes. When he was done, another voice came on to say that the dining car was open for breakfast. These announcements continued, so I got up, brushed my teeth, and went into the all inclusive shower/toilet compartment. Shaving is an experience, too. The lower berth extends sideways to the sink and there is a space of about 18” open in which to stand at an angle to the sink and mirror.
After dressing, I went two cars backwards to put in our name on the list for breakfast while Marian got up and dressed. I was told it would be about 45 minutes. After an hour, there was an announcement that Amtrak employees wanting food should go to the dining car. We went, too. The man in charge had not written my name down, but it was no problem getting breakfast and it was fairly quiet since there were not too many people left eating.
Before, during, and after breakfast we have been traveling in Glacier National Park. Lots and lots of smoke all around us obscuring views of much of the park. The fires we saw when we came out are still in full force, I guess. East Glacier is a big stop with lots and lots of people getting on. Will be interesting to see if the sleeping accommodations are more filled than they have been up to this point. In our car, out of the five deluxe bedrooms, three were occupied last night.
Once we left Glacier, we immediately entered Montana’s flat plains. Nothing but dry stubble on both sides of the train and the sky still hazy, smoky.
The window in our bedroom has huge scratches on it that cover most of a pane. Same scratches and some bird droppings are on the aisle side outside our bedroom. I contrast this to the ferry we took from Victoria to Port Angeles. When we were sitting in the observation lounge on the ferry, we watched a crew member carefully clean and polish (with an electric buffer) the windows. And this was while we were en route. Now, I don’t think they can clean these windows on the train while we are moving, but for these prices, they should be cleaner than they are.
Have had brief telephone and Internet service. When we were in Glacier, I could get on a pay wifi system for two minutes free – enough time to download email and write one outgoing message.
At present, we have a computer and two battery chargers plugged in. One of the best items I brought with me is a small extension cord with four receptacles. It’s designed just for those times when you can only find one place to plug in stuff in your hotel. We have used it a lot.
The ride is doze, eat, sleep, eat, doze, eat, … Tough to stay awake as the train rocks along. The current shorn wheat fields out to the horizon don’t help either. At Shelby, MT, over 40 folks on a rails tour got on after 12 days in Canada by rail and coach. All the empty small and larger bedrooms are now filled. Had a nice talk with one of the tour leaders who filled us in on what they had done. She and her husband accompany trips from their home base in Portland. Seems like trips from Seattle and Portland to Branson are very popular with the older set.
Ate lunch near 1:00 and sat with two folks from Olympia, WA. They are married, but live in separate apartments (and have separate bedrooms on the train). She was an architect involved with major restorations (e.g., Golden Gate Bridge, courthouse in Indianapolis). She made soaps for sale for a while and now has a book out about making soap. She has also written novels. He is a “how to” book writer who also has done some children’s books – all self published. Very interesting and eccentric as well.
We did dueling computers back in the bedroom as bleak Montana scenery flashes by and we stop at towns like Havre and Malta. The head guy from the dining car came back to get dinner reservations. With all the new folks on board, we could get a 5:30, 6:45, or 8:30 time slot and chose the middle one. We decided not to go to the cheese and wine tasting about 3:30 since we have enough goodies in our compartment to feed us very well.
We did finish our bottle of Canadian pinot noir as well as mixing up some mimosas. Jose, the cabin attendant, had come around with a pitcher of them before lunch. We did our own before dinner. Ate with a couple from Ottawa who had, we think, been on the same outgoing train as us. The had double Amtrak trouble. First, on their way out to Seattle, since the train was so late, a key tunnel into Seattle was closed for repairs. So they took four bus-loads of folks off the train in Spokane (where the train splits with part of it going to Portland) and they went on a six-hour bus trip into Seattle. Second, they were scheduled for a sleeper from Chicago to NY, but got a call from Amtrak while on board that the sleeping car they were going to be on was being dropped from the train. Mind you, these are all pre-paid, full-fare tickets in the thousands of dollars. They seemed flexible and in good humor about it. Not so sure we would be.
Went back to the bedroom. We stopped at Minot, ND, so I got off for a few minutes. Marian knitted. I read. Time changed from Mountain to Central during dinner as we entered ND from Montana. Went to bed around 11:00.
2007 08 18 – Winona, Minnesota is a Wonderful Place or Locks and Biscuits: Per usual, sound system came on full blast at 7:00 AM to let us know dining car was open. This was followed by announcement of our upcoming stop at Minneapolis. I did my morning ablutions followed by Marian doing the same. We were called into the dining car a bit after 8:00. Shared table with couple from Evanston who had spent a week in Glacier/Waterton. Then back to the bedroom for crosswords, the morning newspaper, and good views of the Mississippi and its various locks and dams. Then, of course, a morning nap.
It’s rainy outside – really the first rainy day we have had. We’re told the weather in Chicago is cool and the heat wave in St.L. has broken. So far, the train is running pretty much on time. Talked to Tracy and she told us how much Anna loved the first showing of High School Musical 2.
As part of the Trails and Rails program, a partnership of Amtrak and the National Park Service, there are two volunteers from the Park Service on board who hold programs in the lounge car and also point out stuff over the loudspeaker system. We have had different sets of these folks all along and they have given some nice information. We have not gone back to the lounge car since it’s usually jammed with coach passengers who’d rather be there instead of in their coach seats. Don’t blame them.
It’s been a good and relaxing trip altogether. We have liked all the places we’ve stayed with a minor exception for Many Glacier Lodge. But, that was minor. What a joy and treat it was to spend a week with Tom and Angie. We look forward to our next trip with them. And seeing Rob, Karen, and Amanda (not to mention Claire) in Seattle was great fun. Insofar as itinerary, I think I would change only one thing: add a day or two to explore the Olympic National Park, especially the Hoh Rain Forest on the west coast of the peninsula. Otherwise, places, number of days, accommodations, travel, etc. were great.
We crossed over into Wisconsin about 10:30 with our first stop there around 11:00. The coach seats continue to be filled (we keep hearing conductor announcements to this regard). I guess there are lots of folks who take this train from Minneapolis and points south down to Chicago. Still on the river as we move southward, but crossed it before we got into La Crosse, WI.
Had lunch a bit after Noon. They were running out of things: no big salad, no pizza, and only had one kind of dessert left. Interesting to me (since we have been on VIA Rail) that the menu aboard is the same each day. On the way out, we had menu 2 and on this route, it’s menu 3. And even with those two menus, most of the dishes for all the meals are the same. While the food is reasonably good overall, it would be nice to have some variety. Since they do add provisions at various stops, I wonder why they lock into a single menu for 48 hours.
With this observation, I come to the end of our trip notes.