Sunday 4th June 2017.
Chicago to Seattle. The Empire Builder.
The Empire Builder train boards from a different part of the station to most of the Amtrak trains.
There was no need to check in, folk just waited around until we got the word to go out to the platform.
I have trouble sleeping in a coach seat, but can’t afford a sleeper, so on this train, I have booked the lower level seating, as an experiment.
My thinking was that if there are no folk needing the wheelchair area, I could try to sleep there, at least I would be flat out!
The train pulled out about 50 minutes late. The lower level was quite empty, just a few seats taken. I started to feel hungry, and consumed a couple of my hard boiled eggs... Who says I can’t cook! As we travelled on through the afternoon, I noticed that this train made more frequent station stops heading to Minneapolis than the other west bound long distance trains. I guess there are more towns along this stretch of track that don’t get commuter train service.
I drank a “discrete” couple of non Amtrak beers in the evening, and managed to sleep fairly well on the floor. I think I slept from about 1am to 5.30 am, and it was better to lie flat for a few hours on the floor than sit in the seat. More people had joined the train during the night, including a very overweight woman who kept puffing and panting. I headed off to the cafe car when it opened, and bought a coffee, and also took a cup of hot water back to the coach, which I used to make instant porridge... I purloined a couple of sachets from the Boston hostel! The fat woman asked if I would sell her a coffee, as she could not get up the stairs. (The double deck trains require folk to move between train cars on the upper level only). I said I would get her a coffee when I finished my snack. When I came back, she refused to take the change, so I earned a $3 “tip” ! We got chatting, she had COPD, etc, etc, but still smokes.
She lives in Minot, and is aged 58. She reminded me that Minot was the centre of the “oil boom” that hit the region a few years back, with people seeking work sleeping in their cars in winter.
I cleaned the outside of the window at Minot, and then the opposite side at Williston. Scenery here is unremarkable, I hear there is a drought in the area. Rather too much God and Jesus stuff in the towns we pass, and bible reading on the train too.
I did my good citizen act again later, and went upstairs to make a lunch reservation for an elderly lady... no tip this time!
Met Julie and grandkids, who got on in Minot, and travelling to Spokane. Very interesting story about family problems, drug addictions, etc. I REALY liked Julie.
I had to move from the front seat of the lower level, due to an obnoxious Trump loving woman. What a sad soul she was!
Very nice ride through the mountains on the last evening, some with snow on their peaks. Very swollen river alongside the tracks at times, so maybe the drought had ended.
Awake again about 5am, fruit farms in this area. For this last morning we have a couple of folk from the “rails and trails” organisation, who talk about the countryside we are passing through on the run into Seattle. Information is a bit sketchy, and they are using our vestibule area P.A. to tell their tales, which stops me using the door windows to grab some good last minute photos. The scenery is very good as we descend and run alongside the Puget sound.
(More to follow...)