The hotel where I work is closed for two months in the winter, so that is when I have time to travel. I planned a trip to Eugene, Oregon, for some business, with a stop in Portland to visit my sister.
The ferry times from Orcas Island do not allow me catch the morning Cascades to Portland, so I need to spend a night somewhere on the mainland. I choose Bellingham, because it allows me to ride one of the most scenic stretches on the entire Amtrak system: along the shoreline at the base of Chuckanut Mountain, between Bellingham and Mount Vernon. The district where the Amtrak station (also the bus station and Alaska Ferry terminal) is located is called Fairhaven, which is a quaint old historic area full of great restaurants. It also has a nice hotel where I like to stay, the Fairhaven Village Inn.
The ferry I rode from Orcas on this trip was the MV Samish, which is a new vessel in the State Ferry system. It has more spacious car decks than the older vessels, but low ceilings in the passenger cabin. After checking in at the Village Inn, I did some shopping around Fairhaven. I had raw ahi for dinner from Fairhaven Poke.
The next day, I parked my truck at the station long-term parking. My Cascades trainset was one of the Series 8 Talgos, with a Charger locomotive. The seats are not as wide or as well-padded as the older sets, and they are not reversible (so half the seats face backwards since Cascades trains are not turned at their destination). But the single seats in Business Class are on the water side, which was nice for me. The coastal stretch was beautiful, with a few clouds adding an extra dimension. I chose to just watch the scenery rather than trying to take pictures, so I'll post a picture from an earlier trip. One notable thing I saw just south of Seattle in the Amtrak yards was a line of idle passenger locomotives, including a couple Chargers. We arrived in Portland about a half-hour late.
I have stayed a couple times at the Embassy Suites in Portland and liked it, but it was full for this visit. It is supposedly a four-star hotel, so I searched for five-star hotels and the only thing that came up was The Nines. The rates seemed reasonable, so I called for a reservation to request a room that had a view of the city instead of the atrium (as per the reviews). But I was kind of disappointed with the room. For one thing, the couch had a space missing from the back that made it awkward to sit on, and the other chair was not very comfortable. There was a permanently fixed portion of the curtain that completely blocked one of the three windows. The artwork and wallpaper were, in my opinion, hideous. It is a little awkward that the lobby is not on the street level. Also, there was no coffee maker in the room. But the restaurant (Departure) was excellent. The decor was modern yet comfortable. We had the eleven-course tasting menu.
The next morning, my train to Eugene had ten passengers when I counted south of Albany--four in business class and six in coach. We arrived in Eugene early. I stayed at the Inn at the 5th, which is close to the train station. The room was nice and comfortable, but there was a very odd display above my bed (see picture of fish). The restaurant--supposedly "the best" in Eugene--was indeed very good and reasonably priced. I had my business lunch and one dinner there, and had room service from the restaurant the other night.
I had booked a roomette on the Coast Starlight for my return to get my "sleeper fix." The train was about two hours late getting to Eugene. It had no Pacific Parlor Car, and a Diner-Lounge instead of the Sightseer Lounge. We were a little over an hour late getting to Seattle, where I stayed at the Edgewater Hotel. My wife and I love this place! They have rooms with balconies over the water. You can sit and watch the freighters and ferries come and go (and the waterfront rooms even have a "peak-a-view of the BNSF main line).
My Cascades train to Bellingham the next day was two Superliner Coaches and a Sightseer lounge, with a locomotive on each end. Last year, this train ran with only one locomotive which was turned at Vancouver. The OBS Chief who assigned seats in Seattle seemed to give out the water-side, window seats first. The train was about an hour late getting to Bellingham, delayed near Mount Vernon waiting for the southbound Amtrak train to pass.
View from train between Bellingham and Mount Vernon
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Wallpaper and art at The Nines in Portland
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Couch and blocked window at The Nines
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FIsh above bed at Inn at the 5th
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View from Edgewater Hotel
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Amfleets in Seattle
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Charger in Eugene
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