Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Recent Doings Around Here - Part II

Distressed by the election rhetoric, I decided to campaign for my local congressman, Tim Bishop. had listed NY1 as one of the safer districts, but I thought I should at least help a little. Bishop is a Southampton local and very popular here. I didn’t like his negative ads, but this year it’s hard to run on voting for health care and other things you’ve done. My first phone banking day I called senior citizens – got a lot of not-homes, a couple of dead people and a couple of angry voters. It was discouraging, but I said I would go back. The second time I called likely Tim Bishop voters, and they were enthusiastic, so that was more fun. The day before Election Day, I did “Get Out the Vote” campaigning, walking around Southampton and knocking on the doors of registered Democrats, encouraging them to vote; there, too, I met a lot of pro-Bishop people, and I saw nice houses and it was a crisp fall day. On Election Day, it seemed to have paid off – he was declared the winner, with 50.1 percent of the vote. Much closer than predicted! Then it got even closer – that total was based on precincts phoning in the tallies; the actual tallies showed a 300-vote lead for the opponent. That meant opening 10,000 absentee ballots – which they are still doing – and possibly a total recount. I have my fingers crossed! Overall, Election Day was pretty depressing for me. My Civil War books gave me some perspective – this country has been through a lot worse, and a lot of the same – but still, can’t we all just get along?

I went to a Restorative Yoga class at the Rogers Memorial Library and loved it! Restorative yoga has just a few poses in an hour, calculated to get you to completely relax. They also have classes at the Southampton Hospital Wellness Center; I might look into those. In the meantime, I signed up for a yoga retreat weekend! I felt inspired.

Went to a couple of exhibits – “Miro and the Dutch Interiors” at the Met and “American Still Life” here, at the Parrish; those were nice. The weather warmed up enough to take a couple of mid-November bike rides – that might be it though. On one of them, I passed a field that had some men with metal detectors; they were looking for objects for the Historical Museum. One showed me a Revolutionary War cuff button and some coins from the 1860s. There’s a rich history here! I did some fall foliage strolls in Southampton and in Central Park. I’ve been watching the gardeners around here prepare for winter – cutting back the hydrangeas and the Montauk daisies and the tall grasses. Makes everything look bare in a hurry! And last week I went to the Peace Corps office in downtown Manhattan; while I was in the neighborhood I walked down to the World Trade Center site. I haven’t been there in years – maybe once since 2001, or maybe not at all. The buildings there are really going up; there’s not that sense of the wide-open emptiness that I felt the last time I was there (whenever it was!). Now it’s an active construction site and when it’s finished, it will be a much denser space. Nearby there’s a 9/11 Memorial Preview Site – after seeing the HBO movie on September 11 this year, the emotions were still close to the surface, so I spent the barest amount of time looking at the part about the past events and more time looking at the plans for the future of the site and how they are coming along. I look forward to seeing it all finished. And to spending more time below Union Square!

Well, I’ve now told tales about many of my adventures since I arrived back East; I’m going to New Orleans for Thanksgiving weekend and will summarize that when I get back. And then I’ll pick up where I left off in summer 2009, with the Drive Across America. Then 2010’s Vietnam trip and Amtrak Across America, and I’ll be all caught up and ready for more adventures. Of course, I suppose I could always go back in time as well, chronicling adventures of the past – no shortage of stories to tell!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recent Doings Around Here - Part I

I used to go to the Harvard or Yale game every fall at Princeton (whichever one was the home game); I broke that tradition in 2006 when I went to the Peace Corps. I think it was as much about seeing friends in the East a few times a year as it was about Princeton in particular. It certainly wasn’t about the football – I consider a Princeton football game to be something about which a halftime show is performed! I didn’t consider it essential to go this year, but when I asked my friend Meg if she wanted to go and she surprised me by saying yes, the decision was made!

We met at Penn Station; I was still surprised she wanted to go to the game. When I mentioned that we didn’t really have to go, she took me up on that. We had lunch with my friend Howie – we were all freshman-year dorm-mates – and when I mentioned that we might not go to the game, he took me up on it too. The three of us walked around the campus - with the fall foliage, it looked great. Now I know what other people do on football weekends – they do other things! We saw the Peace Pole, now in its permanent location, went for ice cream and went to an exhibit about the portraits of the Nassau Hall Faculty Room, and all too soon it was time to go back to New York.

And the next day I saw Martha (been seeing a lot of her this year…). When in Los Angeles, we usually go to the Apple Store – so why not do that in New York too? We then met our high school friend Doris for breakfast at the Plaza, a lovely thing. Then Martha came back to Southampton with me. I’ve been using the car a little more since the weather got colder; I decided that having a guest was an excuse to go farther afield. We went across Shelter Island to Greenport, strolled around there a bit, and then had a nice dinner on Shelter Island.

The next day we started out at Hampton Coffee – great coffee in the French press, and chilaquiles! Not the same, but very good. Then we headed for Montauk – my second time and Martha’s first. We stopped at the Hither Hills overlook, which was the spot last year from which I wanted to hike – but the tick warnings were a deterrent to my bare ankles and sandaled feet. This year, with long pants and closed shoes (and cooler weather), we took a little hike. I still would love to do more hiking – I bought a book on hiking trails of the South Fork that I’d been eyeing for a while – and maybe I will. But not this day – we pressed on to the lighthouse. Behind the lighthouse there was a little house with the foghorn, which was blaring. The lighthouses get all the glory; why don’t soundhouses get any credit? The rest of the visit was typical of our time together – that is, non-stop - massages, more food, two movies, games. She went on to New York for meetings, but I saw her again at the end of the week, that time with Susan as well. I’ve had a chance to see other friends recently in New York (Joy, Sabrina and Joshua, Helen, Elisa, Mary, Debbie) and I have others to see.

After reading “The Killer Angels” in preparation for my trip to Gettysburg, I decided to read the rest of the trilogy – “Gods and Generals” lays out the run-up to the war and the early battles through Chancellorsville. I just finished “The Last Full Measure,” which chronicles everything from right after Gettysburg to the end of the war. I don’t usually mention the books I read but these have had a big impact on me. I may as well mention the baseball post-season, too, since that took up much of October. Glad I saw the Giants in August – you could sense some magic going on there. Cablevision and Fox had a dispute that resulted in the NLCS being off the air here in Southampton – I hurriedly signed up for an subscription right before the first game, and I listened on my computer. As I had done in Morocco and in the Philippines! Here I thought I would be able to watch it all when I came back! At least the dispute was resolved in time for the World Series.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The State Fair and Target Field - Midwest Meanderings Part IV

Up early and out with Paul to the Minnesota State Fair – was this the fourth time I’ve been there? The fifth? Often enough that things are familiar to me! Paul has his traditions and I go along with them. We start the day with a church hall pancake breakfast. And then we make our way to most of the buildings, stopping for food every so often! Eco Building, Horticulture/Agriculture, Education, Dairy. Highlights include the seed paintings and the prize vegetables, the butter princesses, and all sorts of livestock. The Old Mill is a Tunnel of Love ride that’s about 98 years old. There are mini-donuts and cheese curds and all the milk you can drink (plain or chocolate) for $1. I had to try a deep-fried Reese’s – there’s a lot of unhealthy food at the fair, to put it mildly. My favorite food of the day, new to the fair this year, was Cincinnati chili – it almost made up for not having made it to Cincinnati last year or this, though I owe it a visit. We did the Tilt-a-Whirl at the midway, as well as a couple of arcade games. Paul reads the daily schedule and scopes out the giveaways – we got drawstring bags, lip balm, seeds, juice, and toothpaste! Plus I got a passport stamp from the Mississippi River NRA – along with a map of the area, showing the five passport locations to visit on a future trip! One of the best parts about the fair is its official song, which Paul looked up once and which we now always sing – Minnesota, Minnesota, we are east of North Dakota, we are south of Manitoba, we’ve got something really rare (I don’t know the rest, but it rhymes with fair…).

Then it was on to Target Field, the Twins’ new ballpark. It’s been sold out the entire season; I bought the tickets on Stub Hub. Paul hadn’t been there yet, so it was nice to go with him for his first time. We got there early enough to walk around – as did most of the crowd, filled with the thrill of the new. As Paul pointed out, many of the people in attendance had never been to an outdoor baseball game. There’s a nice view of the Minneapolis skyline from the third-base side, some nice-looking food stands, and a neon outline of the state of Minnesota with the original Twins logo; when someone hits a home run, the twins shake hands. And the fact that the team was in a pennant race made it all the more exciting. They didn’t win, but it was a close game.

Back to Chicago the next day – all four of my Southwest flights were pleasant and on-time. Maybe domestic air travel isn’t so bad? My lunch plans fell through, so I went to the Garfield Park Conservatory – it’s peaceful and beautiful in the rooms, and walking the labyrinth is one of my favorite Chicago experiences. Then I went to my storage space – I had no real time for it this week, but I wanted to pick up my carry-on; my little rolling backpack is on its last wheels. I decided not to be overwhelmed by all the boxes; it was actually good that I hadn’t planned on spending a lot of time there, because it was hot in the space (and beautiful outside!). Still, I feel the need to spend some more time there and get rid of more stuff. Dinner with friends; breakfast solo the next morning (I didn’t see everyone I wanted to see but I saw everyone I could see) and then I had a little time for a walk along the lake in my old ‘hood, and then it was back to New York. I may not live in Chicago again, but it will always be part of me, and I’ll be back!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Time with Friends - Midwest Meanderings Part III

Since it didn’t take all day and I wasn’t all tuckered out, I was up for more fun after the triathlon. Edie, Julia and I went to Arlington Racetrack. We’d done this before – but could it be that we haven’t been with Julia since she was in a stroller? And this year she had her bat mitzvah? Time does fly! It’s always fun to go to the racetrack with Edie, though this time I didn’t quite break even. I cashed tickets in a few races though, and cheered anyway. That night, I had Indian food with Helen while Edie and family went out.

The next morning, I went with Edie and her family to do Maot Chitim – delivering holiday food to poor (mostly elderly, mostly immigrant) Jewish families. A mitzvah! And then I took them out to brunch – chilaquiles too far away, but always good to try new places. We went to M. Henry in Andersonville, a good brunch place. I used to go out early when I went out for breakfast; beat the rush and all that – but there’s a reason brunch is popular. It’s a good thing!

And then we had the rarest of afternoons – just hanging out! Edie did yard work and I watched, and we both sat for a while. I took her bike out for a little spin – hadn’t had enough the day before! – and then Edie, Fred and I went to Foster Avenue beach for a little swim (ditto - but note, I didn’t go out for another run…). And we went to their new favorite ice cream place in Lincoln Square. That area is hopping!

The next morning, I had coffee at Starbucks with Joanne, did more hanging out with Edie and Julia, went for a massage (another thing I try to do when I go to Chicago – you develop relationships, you know?) and then it was on to the Twin Cities! Last year, during the Drive Across America, I returned a car in Chicago and picked up another when I was ready to drive east. But while I was in Chicago, I took Amtrak to Minneapolis and back! Since I had already done the train ride, and since time was short, and since Southwest is flying to Minneapolis now and air fares were low, I flew!

Paul and Tom have made some changes since I was there last – they’re in the middle of a major, major landscaping project. And Paul hadn’t told me about it. In Morocco and in the Philippines, I emailed friends often and called occasionally. But their garden-in-progress was a reminder of how much I had missed, that while I was off having adventures, friends were living their lives. Even in the U.S. I miss things, with friends spread out across the country – but somehow on that day the garden embodied all of the opportunity cost. I didn’t have time to process the monumentality of this, though – we went to downtown Minneapolis to see Twins Around Town, a version of Cows on Parade with ballplayers decorated for each year of the Twins’ existence. Nicely done – and it was nice just to go downtown, which we haven’t done a lot. We dined al fresco at an excellent restaurant called Vincent, which will get honorable mention for Best Dinner of 2010 if it’s not the outright winner.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Super-Sprint Triathlon - Midwest Meanderings Part II

The weather was perfect all week, in fact – I maintain that there might be no place better than Chicago in the summer. Ah, but I know the weather isn’t always like that and that winter will be coming soon and lasting long. Perfect weather for the triathlon. I rode Edie’s bike over to Foster Avenue beach, getting there just as the sun was peeking over the horizon – a wonderful way to start the day. I got there earlier than I had to, but that gave me a chance to get a good bike rack location, set everything up, walk the transitions a couple of times, and talk to fellow participants. There were plenty of people near me (that is, in my age group) who were doing their first triathlon. There were also a couple who were doing a triple – the Super-Sprint on Saturday morning, the Sprint and then the International on Sunday. I’d consider a double; could I ever do the triple? Something to think about (I still think about doing another marathon some day, too – so far, there hasn’t been a good time for all the training).

Off to the swim start – I think I was in wave 4 (again, it’s by age group – it’s okay to have an early start, especially when as the morning wears on, you see people in much later waves pass you – and you’re certain of it, because their wave number is marked on their leg). It was a short swim – you could walk out to where it got deep, swim just a little, and walk back. Hello, Lake Michigan! I hadn’t been in it yet this summer – cold at first, but I had time to get used to it and to appreciate being in it, and then it was time to get out! I usually let most of the wave pass me so I can do the backstroke unimpeded. I also enjoy swimming so I don’t want to rush through it! Not the way to think during a triathlon, I know…

Run, run run up the beach – transitions are the key to a triathlon – and then on to the six-mile-long bike ride. The Sunday big triathlon goes on Lake Shore Drive, which makes my spirit soar. The Super-Sprint goes along the parking area down to Montrose – wide enough to bike without worrying about the other bikers. Edie’s bike suited me fine – it’s faster than the bike I used for the Tour de Cure, for sure, and faster than the one I toodle around Southampton with. But I can’t say I’m fast…. In fact, what’s remarkable is that I’m just about equally slow in the swim, the bike and the run!

The run seemed long - 1.5 miles – and here is where the lack of training really showed. For a good part of it, it was hard to do much more than put one foot in front of another. If/when I do another (and I might have convinced Edie to try it with me!), I may not train much, but it would behoove me to practice getting off the bike and running. When I first thought of doing triathlons, I heard Jeff Galloway say that the hardest thing to do is get off a bike and run, and he is right. But somehow I finished – in about 1:05. Could I shave six minutes off my time and finish in under an hour? Well, I certainly feel motivated to try! Here’s a case where inshallah applies – inshallah, I’ll be back to do it again soon! It’s a good time of year to visit Chicago anyway. Why not make it a tradition!

Didn’t bring my camera to the triathlon, so I’ll close with a picture from a walk I took on my last day in Chicago.... This is the building where I lived for almost 20 years! I almost didn’t make it down to the Gold Coast area, and when I did, it was raining, but I still had a nice walk along the lake. I know that for 12 of the 19 years I lived there I was ready to leave, but I also know I had a good life there!

Friday, November 19, 2010

That Toddlin' Town - Midwest Meanderings Part I

Another August trip took me out to the Midwest; I had felt a Chicago trip coming on, and when someone mentioned the triathlon, that gave me both a date and an event to focus on. I took Southwest Airlines out of Islip – a quiet airport that was quite pleasant. I didn’t realize that not every Hampton Jitney goes to the Islip Airport connection, so I had to take a taxi, which meant I didn’t really save any money. But I did save time by not going all the way from Southampton to LaGuardia.

A smooth flight and an el ride later, I had lunch at the Walnut Room with my friend Karen – chicken pot pie! I had as many old favorites as I could during my visit, perhaps missing only the chilaquiles at the Third Coast. On to Edie’s, my home-away-from-home; it is so nice to feel welcome anytime! I try to be a low-impact guest, but I know that having a guest is still work, and I am very grateful to Edie and her family for hosting me. And this time, as opposed to past visits, both she and I actually had a significant amount of time to spend together! What a bonus! I planned get-togethers with others for times when she was otherwise occupied – such as dinner that night; I went out with my friend Helen.

The next day I had breakfast in her neighborhood with Edie, Heather and Carol, and then went on to the hair appointment that seems to be central to every Chicago visit – I could use a hair appointment now, so it’s on my mind.... And then it was down to the Chicago Hilton and Towers, for triathlon pickup. On the way, I passed an amazing sculpture that caught my eye (pun intended) from the el the day before. Lots of great public sculpture this year!

The Triathlon expo does a great job of inspiring – now I want to train to do another international distance triathlon, or definitely start doing sprint triathlons again. For this weekend, I was happy to be doing the Super-Sprint – half of a sprint distance. I hadn’t trained, it wouldn’t take much time, and the location was convenient to Edie’s! I had done Try-a-little-Tri years ago in about the same location – there weren’t many people, and I am not sure the distance was half of a sprint – it felt more random.

Then it was on to the Sox game, with some Princeton Club friends. It just happened to be mini-Stanley Cup night – if I couldn’t be there in person to see the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961, I could be at mini-Stanley Cup night! The pre-game ceremony turned out to be quite special. They brought out not only the Stanley Cup, but a Bulls trophy, the Bears Super Bowl trophy, and the White Sox World Series trophy (no mention of the North Siders…) – first time in Chicago that all four trophies were displayed together. The Sox won, and it was fireworks night as well – not only that, but the weather was perfect!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

San Francisco and Palo Alto - West Coast Swing Part VII

Sated from the banh mi, we kept walking, and at the Civic Center we came across the best outdoor sculpture ever – a piece recalling the fallen Buddhas in Afghanistan. Photos from many angles later, we walked on (past another cool sculpture) to Hayes Valley, a hip and trendy neighborhood (new to me), to a Moroccan furniture store Rose had found on the internet. She had the idea of getting a door and having it made into a dining table. We had seen great doors in a store in Rabat… it might have been cheaper to ship one from there than to pay the San Francisco prices! But it was fun to see what they had and to use a little darija with a guy who worked there. We then walked (lots of walking!) to Union Square, where there was a Frank Lloyd Wright building (once we got there, I realized I’d seen it before) that housed an expensive folk art gallery (I don’t think I went inside last time – and if I did, now I have been to some of the places from whence the art comes, and I was with Rose). Somewhere during the day, we also had a Vietnamese iced coffee – yum, yum, yum – thank you, Vincent, for telling me about that! Back to the train, and then a little of Palo Alto, walking down the main shopping street, going to a Tibetan crafts store, wining and dining.

And after another leisurely breakfast and some more rummy, we found ourselves back at Saigon Sandwich for more Banh mi. Just as good the next day! But we were just as hungry. And back to the big sculpture, too. But this time we didn’t walk – we took the Muni (another new experience – and I’m glad I could show Rose how easy it is; not sure she’d have done this without me). The Muni goes both under and above ground, depending on where it is – we got back on and went right to Golden Gate Park. When I’ve been there in the past it seemed far away and hard to get to – now that I know it isn’t, that opens up possibilities. I like knowing my way around San Francisco – and I know there’s a lot more to it. It’s on the A list of places I’d relocate to…. but I digress.

Rose had one VIP ticket to an exhibit at the DeYoung – Birth of Impressionism treasures from the Musee D’Orsay – and we both knew that if she didn’t use it this day, she probably wouldn’t get back into town to use it. We couldn’t get a second ticket, so I flipped through the catalog for that and Post-Impressionism, which is coming to the DeYoung this fall. I’ve used that strategy for sold-out shows in the past; you do what you have to do. And then I saw the rest of the museum; I might have had more fun than Rose did! There was a special exhibit called To Dye For – batiks, ikat and other ethnic fabrics. And there’s a lot in the permanent collection - Hudson School and other American paintings, art of Oceania, Africa and the Americas, some modern – I saw it all! It was nice to see some West Coast art and other things I don’t normally see. The East Coast museums (through the Art Institute of Chicago) really do have most of the masterpieces. What a fun San Francisco day! Back at her place, Rose cooked an Indian dish and I made brownies.

The next morning, Mercedes, a fellow PCRV from the Philippines, came to the Palo Alto train station for coffee. She lives just a couple of towns over by Caltrain. I thought it would be good for her to meet Rose, and of course it was delightful for me to see her! She accompanied me on the Caltrain to the Millbrae BART station, and from there I took BART to SFO. During the flight home, I read a fluff book that I had picked up for 50 cents in Seattle. It had surprising insights – the protagonist was debating life in New York City vs. San Francisco, getting a job to support herself vs. finding a calling, marketing and positioning oneself, relationships, writing. Of course, everything got resolved by the end of the book – real life might work out that way too, but I can’t skip ahead to the end….

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Palo Alto and San Francisco - West Coast Swing Part VI

Paul took me to the BART station and I went to the Embarcadero – I always feel exhilarated at the end of Market Street in San Francisco! I walked along the Embarcadero, snapping pictures – sculpture, the Bay Bridge, AT&T Park – and made my way to the Caltrain station (another new mode of transportation for me – I’d never had a reason to be on Caltrain). Rose had taken the day off and gone for a long bike ride in the morning; she picked me up at the station and we went back to her house. I was ready to get up and go, but it was nice to take a shower and relax a bit instead! We talked and talked.

The Coast Starlight didn’t have wifi for much of the ride – but timing is everything. I checked Facebook (what can I say) and noticed that Patrick, a fellow Morocco RPCV, posted a blanket invitation to the Giants-Padres game – I messaged back and forth with Rose that this would be a good way to see him (and the game) and it all got finalized just before I went out of range for the night. I didn’t realize that Rose hadn’t been into the city much – having just been on Caltrain, I was now an expert. How nice that Caltrain stops just two blacks from the ballpark! We had Caribbean appetizers and met up with Patrick and his friend.

What an exciting game! A sold-out pennant race game – Padres 3, Giants 2, but the crowd was enthusiastic throughout. Especially fun were all the panda hats for Pablo Sandoval, affectionately nicknamed “Kung Fu Panda.” We know now that the Giants won the World Series this year, but even then, one could sense some magic. It was Rose’s first professional baseball game! That made it all the more fun.

There are things to come back for in Palo Alto – the Baylands nature trail sounds nice, and on the Stanford campus there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house – but this weekend was all about going into San Francisco; not because we planned it, but it just worked out that way. I was glad to give Rose the impetus to go there! We had a leisurely Saturday morning (some rummy was involved) and on the train it popped into Rose’s head that she wanted a Vietnamese sandwich for lunch – mind you, she hadn’t had one for years; her last one was back in Houston. Linda had wanted them too, but I didn’t know what she meant, so we didn’t go out of our way. Now that I know, I will try a Vietnamese sandwich in Seattle to see how it compares! I downloaded a restaurant-finder app and we walked and walked, through SOMA to the Moscone Center area. Not every Vietnamese restaurant has Vietnamese sandwiches, and the app made no distinction. One restaurant waiter tried to tell us where to go, but we couldn’t understand him. Finally, we were getting overly hungry, and I spied a cab and asked him to take us to another place on the list. Then I looked at his picture and name and asked him if he was Vietnamese. Yes – what are the odds (I don’t know, in San Francisco)? I asked him to take us to the best Vietnamese sandwich in town, and he took us to the place that (we realized) the waiter was trying to tell us about. Saigon Sandwich, on Larkin and Eddy – a tiny storefront with two seats and a line out the door. Why didn’t I know about Vietnamese sandwiches in Vietnam? The key is the fresh baguette – but the there’s a blend of ingredients that gives it a kick. I found a recipe in Real Simple; haven’t tried it, but here it is:

Banh mi recipe
Portuguese roll
Meat (the Saigon Sandwich one had chicken)
Vietnamese slaw:
½ Kirby cucumber – cut into thin strips
¼ carrot – cut into thin strips
¼ cups cilantro leaves
½ jalapeno pepper (seeded and sliced)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch each salt and pepper

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Coast Starlight - West Coast Swing Part V

Amtrak isn’t only Across America – it’s also down! The Coast Starlight runs from Seattle to Oakland (and then further south, but not with me on it this time). It’s so popular that the beds cost too much, and there weren’t many empty seats in coach – they assign seats for these long runs. Linda drove me to the train station; I got there early enough for a little stroll in the International District (it used to be Chinatown but there are many nationalities represented now!) and for coffee with Beryl. She wanted to see me one more time, and it was her 75th birthday!

The train departed at 9:45 and went through some spectacular scenery – what a good choice I made in doing this! It really is about the journey. We went along Puget Sound – so now I guess I’ve seen it end to end – to Tacoma. I saw the Tacoma Narrows Bridge! Not the one that fell apart in a high wind (another video I never tire of), but the replacement, which looks a lot like the old one! The Olympia/Lacey stop was just outside the state capital – okay, so does that count as a state capital visited? In Richmond, I identified three stages of visits – one, just going to or through the city. Two, seeing the capitol building. Three, touring the building (though not all of them have tours). I’ll count this as stage one… and I think if you go to Olympic National Park, you might have to go through Olympia, so maybe I’ll get a closer look someday.

From Seattle to Portland we had National Park Service Trails and Rails commentary, and I spent a lot of time in the bubble-windowed observation car; they tell you to give other people a chance, but as long as there were empty seats, I felt I wasn’t depriving anyone else. Crossing the Columbia River brought back memories of my Lewis and Clark trip. We had a few minutes in Portland, so I went outside – and felt a little bad about not seeing my friend Terry there; I did detour to see her on last year’s Drive Across America, at least.

Mt. Hood was out, and we had a nice view of it, and then we went through Salem, OR – with a view of the capitol building. And then we started to smell smoke – so we evacuated while the fire department investigated. Good thing we were near a town! They thought it was some electrical fire to the drinking-water pump in our car – no big deal - and on we went, making up the time somewhere during the night. We went down the Willamette Valley and through the Cascades – so many evergreen trees! Just gorgeous.

I’d love to see southern Oregon and far northern California – Crater Lake, Crescent City. Another time, and by another means – Amtrak in both directions goes through them in the dark. On this night, we had a slight sliver of moon (what I call the Ramadan moon – this time it actually was the beginning of Ramadan) and some bright stars. I had had lunch in the dining car but opted for dinner at the AmCafe – it was fine. Sleeping in the coach seat – that was okay. Not as nice as a bed, and not as nice as it might have been had the seat next to me been free, but I slept decently enough to make me feel I could get away without a bed for my New Orleans to New York train ride.

I arrived on time at 8:35 am in Oakland, and my friend Paul was waiting for me – he’d been out of town when I came through in February, so it was nice to catch him here (I saw him again in New York a couple of months ago, which was a bonus!). We went through the Oakland produce market – already packing up for the day – to a breakfast place. He always has interesting things going on and we have great conversations. Crab cake benedict – now that’s the way to end a long train ride and start a day!