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'18 Travels through America

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Monday 26 February Day 6 - 24 hours at the Izaak Walton, Essex, MT

Written in downtown Kansas City Saturday 3 March

 

​First, we are from Essex, that's the original Essex, England. A mainly flat but surprisingly pretty County (in the north) to the east of London and renown for centuries to breed political activists!

 

An unexpected large number of passengers get off at the Izaak Walton Halt/platform/station? It is after all Monday and they are supposed to be busy mainly at weekends. Appears to be the Glacier National Park is one of the few places in the US with good snow cover at the moment, at least according to our fellow IW guests some of whom had chased snow around the country.

 

Staff of IW had two vans sitting at the end of the platform waiting for the train to arrive, luggage loaded, people loaded and we are driven the 300 yards to the Inn.

 

The skiers and the IW staff talked a completely separate language to us non skiers, half of the vocabulary were words we had never heard before! or certainly not with any connection to snow. The log fire was there in the sitting room, ablaze and surrounded by 5 or 6 armchairs. The settings is idyllic but the armchairs were always occupied day and night which was slightly disappointing, although have to write there were a few vacant armchairs as we checked out the following morning...

That apart it was all we had hoped it would be. It felt like a lodge, looked like a lodge and catered for guests and visitors very well. It was quite atmospheric with it's subdued light level, a photo of our room below paints the picture.

 

The prepared cross country ski routes were in pristine condition according to the skiers, it meant we could walk them without snowshoes quite easily with good walking boots, that's what we did. In every direction the views were beautiful, the silence was intense and the skiers scattered all around the Inn so hardly a soul was seen.

Some of the views with trains and equipment in showed quite clearly what could happen if a lot of snow fell for a few days, they had of course had problems in this area up until we arrived.

One snippet of information we did understand about the snow conditions was they had had the most snow at the Inn since 1996, over twenty years! and just the previous evening 10" had fallen, weren't we the lucky ones.

 

During our day there the sun shone and later turned to light snow fall but still quite bright, we couldn't have asked for more perfect conditions, not at all like February in London.

 

Apparently one downside to all this snow may be the snow melt. Staff admitted they are a bit worried if it all melts suddenly, they know lots of places will flood.

 

After a great day we ate at the restaurant, nice meal, good service and even better pudding, bread pudding with Huckleberries. The server was very charming to everyone, we heard her warn some ladies not to wear pompom hats at night as nesting owls were swooping down and taking them.

 

Warm room, good bed and the gentle noise of the freight locomotives moving around and passing by slowly as they were obviously trying to catch up after the heavy snow falls. End of a memorable day.

 

Note for rail fans​ - We had room 10 on the second floor, it's at the far left corner of the building when looking from the track. I think it's called an Empire Builder room and it's advantage is the front window looks directly on to the track, the side window is overlooking the train maintenance yard.

 

 

Lots of snow

 

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Edited by v v

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Monday 26 February Day 6 - 24 hours at the Izaak Walton, Essex, MT ~ Photos Part II

 

 

A self propelled snow plough

 

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A large pushed snow plough

 

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Soaring mountains all around

 

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Did I mention a lot of snow?

 

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Really a lot of snow

 

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The rail yard

 

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That's where our 8 Empire Builder will arrive from

 

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Our room

 

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Edited by v v

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Winter Wonderland!😎

 

Great pics Jamie, it's Spring already down here in Texas!😊

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Oh my goodness, your photos are wonderful and it appears you had the BEST.WINTER WEATHER. EVER!

Glad to see those snowshoe tracks on the pristine canvas of the snow.

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Tuesday 27 February Day 7 - Essex, MT to Minneapolis Saint Paul

Written in downtown San Francisco Wednesday 7 March

 

​The 8 Empire Builder was 1 hour 30 minutes late into Essex, MT, we were the only ones leaving but still were driven in the van to the platform. Light snow in flurries but not much. Good to be back on board and this time with a Roomette.

 

 

Our Empire Builder arriving in Essex, MT with a freight locomotive attached in front of the 2 regular Amtrak passenger ones.

 

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Snowfall increases a little until we experience a whiteout and come to a stop, but the stop has nothing to do with snow rather another delay waiting for a freight train to pass. The weather conditions slowly improve but after more delays waiting for freights we are now 3 hours late.

 

So Jennifer, the train eating vortex didn't manage to delay us, but it had affected freights badly and their attempts at catching up did for us.

 

 

Rosie's detailed notes help write this blog

 

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Weather closing in

 

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... and then begins to improve

 

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Three or four cars either bringing or collecting a small handful of passengers, this Montana stop was very remote indeed

 

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A barn and this tower were close-by, anyone know what this type of building is used for?

 

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Edited by v v

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Tuesday 27 February Day 7 - Essex, MT to Minneapolis Saint Paul ~ Part II

Written in downtown San Francisco Wednesday 7 March

 

​We are passing through the incredible emptiness of Montana while starting lunch. In this vast space we come across a freight coming from? and going to?

 

 

Long train running

 

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We are joined for lunch by the delightful Rachael, a young lady who came from exactly this part of Montana and grew up in a small remote town. She successfully designs women's sportswear and had travelled around the world with her company. On her way to Havre, MT for family reasons she described vividly what it was like to grow up in an area where there was not a lot beyond the town's bounderies. She thought she had a wonderful childhood as doors were never locked and children could play outside without parents worrying.

Working in Seattle for 10 years she was now ready for a life change, and was contemplating how best to sell up in Seattle and move to Los Angeles. There were a number of reasons with the largest appearing to be better weather along with more opportunity.

 

 

A remote homestead in the distance

 

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After lunch Rachael visits us in our room, we learn even more about both Montana and Seattle. Eventually we arrive in Havre, Mt which turns out to be a major halt for local people. Goodbyes to Rachael and wonder if she will make her big move.

 

 

Surprising amount of activity on the platform at Havre

 

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Large small town Havre

 

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Relaxing rest of the day, what a great day to travel. The snow is thick on the ground all the way across to Minneapolis Saint Paul (MSP), gradually losing a little more time again due to stopping to allow freights through.

 

 

Not sure if these cars hadn't moved for hours, days or weeks?

 

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Edited by v v

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Wednesday 28 February Day 8 - A day in MSP and get to meet Forum manager Jeb and wife Chelsea

 

 

Mississippi river at Saint Paul frozen complete with ice floes

 

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To be continued...

Edited by v v

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Finally we managed to login on this forum, so not only we can read the as always great reports, but see the pictures as well.

Yes that is snow (we just had 2") partially liked the barn with it's white hat.

Btw, that Black Birth has 2 engines, the 3' one in the middle is the engine of the only remaining drone of that project sitting on the back of this SR-71 make this combination ever so unique.

Next to the Concorde (sitting outside of this museum) my all time favorite plane. I'm sure that's an other forum though.

Have a safe trip

 

Hans

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The structure in Montana that you are interested in is a "wigwam burner" used back in the old days to process sawmill waste. Back in the 1970s, I worked as a packer in a small mill that made cedar shakes ("hand-splits") and shingles for roofing. Don't have photos of me on the job packing shingles, but here's what I mostly did:

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Wigwam burners were a landmark in most western timber towns. There is still one standing within 15 miles of my home. Most stand alone now, the mill they were attached to having been torn down. Here's what they looked like in use:

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And here's a little wigwam burner history, if you should want to follow up.

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Thanks for that most interesting information, Jennifer.

 

I too had seen these rusty metal cones from Amtrak trains, and had puzzled over their purpose!

 

Ed.

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Wednesday 28 February Day 8 - A day in MSP and get to meet Forum manager Jeb and wife Chelsea ~ continued

Written at Seaside, Monterey, CA Thursday 8 March

 

 

Wake to find we are now 4 3/4 hours late into MSP, expecting to arrive at around 1pm and not 8am as scheduled. This makes us think which plans for MSP we have to leave to another day and what is important in the shortened time we have, but first back to breakfast.

 

Today we are seated with two retired ladies who were both teachers, they and Rosie had plenty to talk about. Rosie asked their opinion on arming teachers to defend schools, both were adamant that it was a very bad idea, but I'll leave that there...

 

Rosie spent the morning in the sight seeing lounge and was given a vivid description of when Mount St Helens blew up by a man who lived in the area and as a local garbage collector was very busy for months. He earned a fortune from the explosion because it all had to be cleaned up! And from another man a tale about young people entering the military for 3 years at 18 to get a start in life or help to decide whether to go to college at 21. When this man changed the topic to whether it was right for gay people to have relationships Rosie changed the subject as she feels passionate about that. Conversation topics are as varied as the people we all meet...

 

Arrived at Union Depot Saint Paul close to 1pm, we had until midnight before our Greyhound to Kansas City left from Minneapolis so in effect the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening. Decided on a visit to the Mississippi River Center, a look at the State Capitol and make our way to The Nook eatery and bowling alley to meet Jeb and Chelsea for dinner.

 

First we stored our 3 bags in Union Depot at $5 a time. Not cheap but very convenient and a price we were willing to pay. Then a walk along the river to the River Center, smaller than we thought but a couple of interesting insights into this mighty river. Another walk up to the Capitol followed by a visit to Leif Erikson (father Erik the Red) on the perimeter of the capitol grounds. We just wanted to pay our respects to a traveller and explorer extraordinaire.

 

Following all this we return to the Union Depot area to catch a bus up to The Nook where we should manage to meet with Mr Jeb. We had no clue what Jeb looked like and he had no idea about us. He did deduct we maybe wouldn't look quite like the regulars of The Nook and he would spot us, this was about right too.

 

Going back a step or two. We were taken aback by the Mississippi being half covered in ice and snow, shouldn't have been but think it was down to having spent quite a lot of time alongside other sections of the river (but further south) it was a shock to realise it was another facet of this river.

 

The State Capitol is wonderful and surprisingly open to enter and wander around. It's a grand building if you ever get the chance with many superb aspects. I think Jeb is proud of his hometown and state Capitol and can quite easily see why. Hope the photos to follow will tell the story better than I.

 

Visiting Leif Erikson was all we had hoped although don't know if the statue is a good likeness. Still, he looks pretty impressive on his plinth and that was enough.

 

Also have to say that MSP was having a sort of mini heatwave by their standards on the day we were there, we were certainly overdressed for the temps we experienced.

 

Bus ride to The Nook was straightforward, now to find Jeb (we didn't know of Chelsea until later).

 

 

Great Hall at Union Depot, Minneapolis Saint Paul

 

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River Boats on the part frozen Mississippi

 

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First sight of the State Capitol

 

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To be continued...

 

 

The Capitol in all it's grandeur

 

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Beautiful stairway from the Ratskeller in the basement to the first floor

 

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Cupola and other interior photos

 

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And finally Leif Erikson in the grounds

 

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Edited by v v

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Wednesday 28 February Day 8 - A day in MSP and get to meet Forum manager Jeb and wife Chelsea ~ continued - Part II
Written at Seaside, Monterey, CA Friday 9 March

 

We find The Nook easily enough, 30-40 yards from the bus stop. Even with minus temperatures there were people standing outside as the place is so full. In particular there is one man in a T-shirt, the MSP mini heatwave didn't mean warm so these people are really hardy. Make our way inside and stand and ponder. The Nook is tiny and unassuming from the outside, inside it's the Tardis (check-out Dr Who if you don't know it).

The placed is heaving and there are other areas to it too, hundreds of people really fill this buzzing place, so how to find Jeb?

We stand there looking a bit bewildered I guess, but happy to take it all in as it's pleasantly warm and the atmosphere is great. Man from outside in T-shirt comes through the door and tentatively asks us if we are Rosie and Jamie, phew, he had spotted the backpack and of course we are not quite as young as most here.

 

If you haven't met your forum manager Jeb he is a very nice person, I'll only add that his wife Chelsea is delightful too. Jeb suggested The Nook as it one of the places to get a genuine Juicy Lucy burger, of course we were curious as to what a Juicy Lucy could be, the mind boggles! It was indeed very busy, a 45 minute wait for a table but we had loads to talk about so the time flew.

 

Great evening with very good company, also perfect place to eat, people watch, good service and good sized bowling alley is located in the basement. The big problem was the evening was so good we left about 30 minutes after our last bus back to Union Depot to recover our bags, but no fear Jeb and Chelsea gave us a lift back to get us there before the Baggage office closed.

Jeb wasn't finished with us yet though. Although he was on his way home I had to text to ask if he would contact The Nook as I had lost a glove and it could have been there. He generously diverted from his way home to take a look himself, and yes he found it, thanks Jeb.

It's now in the post to Milton in California where we'll arrive in a few days so it can be reunited with the left one.

 

Bags recovered we had to find our way to the tram terminus only 1 block away, then on to the last but one stop to the other end of the line. Again we found the ever increasing amount of bus, trolley, tram and light rail in American cities really works and is so well priced. Something that the US was terrible at years ago has been turned around with clean and efficient transport systems all over the country, well done as it was needed.

 

Arrive at our stop and now a 500 yard walk with bags, but we are in the swing of it now and no big problem. Greyhound bus station is a large one and pretty busy, staff seem a bit hassled and not as helpful as we remember but that may only be this bus station. We find the reason for this a few days later elsewhere.

 

Normal mixed collection of Greyhound bus riders as ever, perhaps a little more ragged than before but again could be night and very long distance buses encourage things like blankets etc.

Greyhound functions very well as usually we leave and arrive on time, the drivers are always correct, and they get you to where you want to go. This was a Jefferson Lines bus, not quiet as comfortable as the regular Greyhound type but we both managed to sleep most of the way to Kansas City where we had to transfer to a real Greyhound for Lawrence, KS. Depart on time and away we go to the next part of this adventure...

 

 

The section of The Nook we were seated in, there were 2 other sections

 

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This photo is for Chelsea, as we saw it we thought of you. At the John Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA yesterday we had to beg and plead to get this card as it is/was a display item at the center.

 

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Edited by v v

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Thursday 1 March Day 9 - From MSP to Lawrence, KS via Kansas City ~ by Greyhound
Written at Seaside, Monterey, CA Saturday 10 March

 

 

At 12:01 am our Jefferson Lines bus pulls out, we have a driver who's answers to passenger queries are a little too sharp and a fairly full bus.

 

We sleep pretty well only waking for a few minutes at each of the 4 or 5 stops before reaching Kansas City. Here we have to transfer to a Greyhound for the last leg of the journey to Lawrence, KS. One thing we notice is the KC to Lawrence Greyhound bus is different and a little more comfortable, but not much in it.

55 minutes down the road and we are outside the library on a cool dry day, lucky for us as there is no shelter just a bare sidewalk stop.

 

Within 5 minutes Milton turns up with older brother Art to collect us. We're meeting up here as Milton wanted to ride the Californian Zephyr with us and we had planned to re-visit Kansas City anyway, so one night at one of his nieces home, Milton remains in Lawrence for a family visit and we return to KC for a couple of days then off to meet the Zephyr.

Milton has decided to drive to Lincoln, Nebraska to meet the train, we are taking another Greyhound from KC to Denver where we will board.

 

Our day and evening with Milton's family was very nice indeed, we were treated as though they had known us all their lives. Same for the following day until late afternoon when we were driven to our KC hotel to drop bags and then to dinner at Grunauer's Austrian/German restaurant behind Union station. Our treat this time for Milton and niece Michel, a good evening had by all.

Edited by v v

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Saturday 3 March Day 11 - Kansas City
Written at Seaside, Monterey, CA Sunday 11 March

 

 

​Easy start to Saturday. When ready bus down to Union Station to confirm the hours for baggage storage on Sunday as that's our leaving day and we will be heading to the Greyhound Bus Station from the Union Station area.

 

We get to the station to find 7 or 8 food trucks corralled around one side of the front of station parking. Check out baggage times, notice a poster by the ticket office about the rise and fall of US train travel complete with streamline trains (photo below) and head to the station forecourt to check out the food trucks for eating later in the day.

 

Note: There is a theme occurring for evening baggage collection. It's the 3rd time we have been warned that when a train is due in during the evening that all available staff (1 or 2) will be attending the train and the ticket and baggage offices will be closed. If baggage collection is time critical the Amtrak staff have given us details of when the baggage is not manned. This can be really helpful as sometimes the station closes at 10pm say but the ticket/baggage office is closed from 9:15pm till the next day.

 

 

Poster explaining the rise and fall of US train travel and one of the reasons why streamlined trains were introduced

 

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One of the food trucks at KCY

 

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Soon we were off on the free 2.1 mile tram from Union Station to the north of downtown to the market district by the river, our main purpose for Saturday was to visit the Arabia Steamboat Museum. On our previous KC visit 2 years earlier we had heard of this and the WW I museum as must sees, so here we were back again with the free tram up and running.

 

The story of how and why this particular steamboat was searched for, found and excavated is remarkable, that the full complement of 250? tons of general and specific goods to be shipped and traded was recovered is even more remarkable. All the goods were new, this boat sank in 1856 and the cargo was only recovered a few years ago. It's all housed in a new purpose built building which is a credit to whoever was responsible for it to be built. If you are in town we would thoroughly recommend a visit, a few photos below.

On a personal note we found items similar to those we trade in Europe. That these are probably European designs that were manufactured before 1856 in the US gives us a much earlier date for our France sourced items.

 

 

Free tram arriving close to the museum

 

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A small sample of the recovered items

 

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Apparently the oldest US built steam engines in America

 

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To be continued...

Edited by v v

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Saturday 3 March Day 11 - Kansas City ~ continued
Written in Los Angeles, CA Tuesday 13 March

 

 

​We return from the Arabia Museum on the free tram, it's now late afternoon. Many people on the tram are very well dressed, women in particular in their very best finery with the men a little more conservative in their appearance. Arrive back to Union Station and choose a food truck to buy a late lunch, only 3 trucks left and we choose Greek food, pretty good too. There are bench seats outside the entrances to the station and sit in the sunshine eating and watching increasing numbers of people well dressed going into the station, what's going on?

 

 

Busy Greek Food truck

 

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Believe the bike rider is the owner of one of the food trucks that had just left

 

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Next is a crazy 30 hours in Kansas City, but think this could happen in many cities?

 

Rosie is very curious about where are these 100's and 100's of people going, they are queuing right around the entrance hall (huge if you have never visited KCY station) from both sets of entrance doors, there's a lot of money in this place.

It's a wine tasting evening in the great hall, the organisers had asked for people to dress glamorously for the event and the visitors had obliged. It's our 2nd visit to KC and we do have the impression that it is quite a prosperous city too. This sets the scene for the contrasts we experience until we leave Kansas City 30 hours later.

 

 

Some of the people attending the wine tasting at Union Station

 

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We have a couple of chores to do before we return to the hotel, the bus service even on Saturday is superb. Arrive at Broadway and Westport, walk down Westport and the whole area is really bustling with people enjoying themselves indoor and outdoor. This is busier than downtown and has the atmosphere all over that The Nook in MSP had. We'd certainly spend an evening here if we ever return to Kansas City.

 

Chores done we return to our return bus stop and see this store front sign, don't know why but love a store named 'Big Dude's'.

 

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Back at the hotel and we have an exciting night-in clothes washing, we know how to travel the world and have a good time.

 

Saturday evening - in between washing clothes I run downstairs to get a couple of cups of hot water to make tea. There appears to be something wrong with the coffee machine and the evening desk clerk comes out to check it out. The water is cold and not heated, between he and I we laugh a lot and get some results but not hot water. Try some more combinations and he says hold on a minute, goes into the office and comes out with steaming hot water., we are still laughing as we realise the he with a Masters degree in economics and me an engineer of sorts could not fathom how to work the coffee machine!

 

Asked why he's working in a hotel as a clerk, he said it's better than doing nothing before he gets the job he has his sights on, great work ethic and happy into the bargain.

 

Sunday morning​ - Standing at the bus stop opposite the hotel it's on a junction corner as many are. Pleasant morning with a 10 minute wait for our bus, enjoying being outdoors and watching KC Sunday morning life go by. A car being driven around the corner where we stand pulls up, window winds down and an older lady calls out do we want a lift? We're taken aback as don't know if this is an Uber driver touting for business or simply a very kind gesture to a couple of people standing at a bus stop with bags. As our purpose is to travel as far as we can using public transport we thank her very much but no thanks.

5 Minutes later I watch a car pull up about 100 yards away, quite a few people going into the church we are standing near. The driver, an older lady walks towards us and says she is just off to church but would be happy to drive us to where we need to go as she can go to a later Mass. We're almost speechless at this kindness and insist we like catching the bus but appreciate her offer of delaying church just to do something for strangers. Off she goes back to the church door and disappears.

 

Rosie and I stand there in silence, never come across this type of hospitality/kindness/goodwill before.

 

Sunday lunch time - Drop bags for storage at the station, very pleasant and helpful the ticket office were too. Off to the National WW I across the road and up the hill.

 

We missed breakfast as not hungry so looked forward to lunch in the café in the museum. Late 20's man behind the counter is not happy, and less so when we ask what sort of meals we can get. None! I'm the only person of 3 who has turned up today. OK, so what's to eat, and he points to some slightly less than appetising cakes which have too much sugar for our tastes. The chef as we learn later mentions a couple of more times that he's not happy as he's there to cook not to operate a till, you get the picture...

 

So we settle for a cup of tea each, sit at a table and break into our travel food, trail mix and fruit. I go back for refills and have to talk with the chef again, he's relented a little so we have a conversation about food. He's passionate about cooking, in particular he likes to cook Argentinian which I though was unusual. But he becomes happier talking about something he loves and also by pointing out he only has 3 more hours before the café closes, the world isn't such a bad place after all. He really does love cooking though as he makes the effort of learning different styles by working in the country where each style comes from, and that he was waiting to go the far east within weeks and had taken this job to fill in. Good story eventually and he had cheered up too.

 

There are 3 films in the WW I museum main display area, the first one as you enter the museum is staggering, at least that is my take. It gives in simple logical sequence the events - mainly in Europe - of the causes for Europe and then the rest of the world to descend into awful turmoil. I sat through this film 3 times as it was so powerful. Some/many of the basic causes that led to WW I are present in society now, it felt very scary as how we appear to be going down the same path. Best leave it there except to write it is another very good Kansas City museum.

 

 

Photos from and of the WW I museum

 

Union Station and Downtown Kansas City from the outdoor upper level

 

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Inside a hall on the upper level

 

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One Sphinx facing in one direction shielding it's eyes from the horror that was WW I.

 

post-6862-0-19768900-1520978065_thumb.jpg

 

 

The second Sphinx facing the opposite direction shielding it's eyes from the nightmare of what was to come, WW II

 

post-6862-0-72190000-1520978099_thumb.jpg

 

 

Sunday evening

 

After leaving the museum we walk across to the Crown Center for something to eat, lose our way and end up in a reception for Kansas farmers. As we're not strictly farmers we glide slowly out of the very nice venue getting more odd looks than when we walked in. Found some food, it filled a gap, then walked across to Union Station to collect our bags.

 

We have at least 3 hours to wait before we get our bus up to the KC Greyhound bus station, so happy to sit and talk about the few days in Lawrence and KC.

A lady in her 50's ? was trying to sleep on the same bench, didn't bother us or we her. What was unusual was she had a very very nice push bike, it was of Dutch upright style and very shiny and new. She was travelling light with only a couple of quite small bags so obviously on the move. A couple of hours later we collected our bags before they closed the ticket office, lady on the bench had woken up and asked if we were getting the South West Chief for LA too. She explained she was going to San Diego at which point I asked was she cycling there but she just laughed.

 

The upshot of a slightly disconnected conversation between the 3 of us was we are also going to San Diego but not on that evening's 10:45pm Southwest Chief, but we would be there when she was there... possibly. We also explained to her the boarding sequence but no didn't know what happened when you travel with a bicycle. It appears that she will meet us in San Diego but how that will happen we don't know.

 

It's time to get to the Greyhound bus station so we head out. Taxi outside the door, first we have seen in 2 days. But our goal is public transport and we walk past although the driver thinks otherwise.

At the bus stop we arrived at earlier in the day, check the Sunday timetable all as we hope.

 

There's a lady sitting at the bus stop seat with bags, blanket and wheel chair in front of her, we say hello. Doris has a story. 71 years old and homeless but has a bed each night providing she can get there. They are not allowed to arrive before 10pm, and have to leave by 9am. She's sober, articulate, cleanly dressed and can't walk far (therefore the wheelchair). She has to get to her bus about 200 yards away but stopped to pause on this seat.

Our bus arrives, the same number as from the hotel which will take us now to a bus stop near the river so we can connect with another to the Greyhound station, but it doesn't stop, just goes sailing by even though we indicate a stop! We do know it's the last bus of the day so it looks like back to that taxi but that's gone too. Doris comes to the rescue as she knows how the transit system works.

 

Hauls herself up, beckons for us to follow and sets off with a painful looking gait. Two blocks down and she turns right, there are many more bus stops in this street and we have hope. Only a few minutes and a bus arrives which is also the bus for Doris, she tells us to get on and realise it's the same route as the original bus. It takes a minute or two to strap Doris's wheelchair down and we're off, a jolly group of people around us. Rosie asks if this bus will be too late for our connecting bus and I say probably but think no chance, she asks the number of the connecting bus.

 

I know where the 2nd bus must turn into and ask the driver of the bus we are on to let us off at the bus stop closest please, but I'm starting to think we may miss our Greyhound but can't tell Rosie. Our driver tells us we're up next, goodbye to Doris, thank her for her help and get ready to get off with our 4 bags. We're coming to a stop at a junction and our 2nd bus is the other side of the road waiting to turn, just pray the light sequence is in our favour. Our driver says it's nice to meet us and lets us off as close to the corner as it's possible to be, there is no bus stop there. About 40 yards and there is a bus stop but our 2nd bus has turned into the street and accelerating past us and the bus stop, his bus stop is another 100 yards further on and we now have a mini crowd at the first bus stop cheering us on. The bus has stopped at the bus stop, there's no one there so we run in hope.

 

Get to the bus panting, told 2nd bus driver he was a life saver but please wait for my wife. Ask if he had waited for us and he said sure, the first bus driver had flashed his lights so he knew we were coming, how helpful is this Kansas City?

 

So with all the kindnesses shown to us we still worry as to how we can't design a society that helps 71 year olds who really need help. Not political or aimed at one country either, just feel strongly about some things.

 

So we make our Greyhound in time, meet with other bus travellers and wait a short time for our ride to Denver. But as we enter we have to check in with the ticket clerk as we are packing bags in the underneath lockers on the bus. Just make a comment about how busy the bus station was at nearly midnight, and she says it's always like this now. Asked how she copes with so many passengers as she is on her own, so she explains a little about Greyhound in recent times. Cutbacks, staff reductions, and experienced drivers leaving in numbers, it's a difficult time to work for Greyhound. Asked why she remains working there and she says "where else can I go?". The shame is she did her job very well, was polite and had a smile too, she obviously enjoyed what she did. But whatever has happened to Greyhound was making the people working for them very unhappy, and it explained a little about the atmosphere at the MSP bus station too.

 

 

Kansas City bus station at midnight

 

post-6862-0-29990700-1520982198_thumb.jpg

Edited by v v

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Monday 5 March Day 13 - Kansas City to Denver
Written in Los Angeles, CA Tuesday 13 March

 

 

Our Greyhound leaves at 12:25am, we're heading to Denver to meet the Californian Zephyr for the journey west over the Rockies and better still the Sierra Nevadas to San Francisco.

 

The bus has the usual mix of people, many with a place to go to or a place to leave, the driver was fine. The bus condition though was possibly the worst Greyhound bus we have ridden, didn't get too much sleep that night but we survived if frozen.

 

A couple of hours before Denver the wind rose and we drove through a dust storm, at times it really picked up and looking out the windows it looked like photos we had seen in Oklahoma of the dust bowl. Although not good for farmers it was fascinating to watch how quickly a dust storm started.

 

From the Greyhound Bus Station the bus service in Denver was very good, as they have been in all cities we have visited this time. Bus stopped just about 50 yards from our hotel.

The hotel didn't ask questions but allowed us to check in 3 hours early, thank you Days Inn at Colfax Avenue as we were so tired and cold. We were dog tired so slept most of the afternoon, missed the couple of visits we wanted to make but did need the sleep and warmth.

 

That evening we went across the road to the Irish Snug, a pub eatery. Good atmosphere, busy and very good food. Stayed a couple of hours and returned to the hotel for more sleep and to keep warm, Denver due to the wind was absolutely freezing.

 

Note: The Days Inn Downtown is not the cheapest hotel in Denver but everything about it works. Superb location, direct very regular bus to Union Station about 30 yards away, good, clean and fully functioning hotel. There are plenty of places to eat and or drink within close walking distance too plus interesting sights within walking distance.

 

 

Denver at night from the hotel

 

post-6862-0-03705100-1521008940_thumb.jpg

Edited by v v

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Thank you for such great reporting! I love the photo's and the details of all your encounters with the local folk.

After your problems with that coffee machine, I am reminded to always pack my number 1 travel accessory... my kettle and PG Tips tea bags. :D

 

Much kudos to you for taking those overnight Greyhound bus services. I like the daytime Greyhound rides, the views, and all the characters one meets, but trying to rest and travel overnight is beyond me!

 

Looking forward to the next update.

 

Ed

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I too am impressed by the photos, and by your willingness to overnight on a bus. Like Ed, I can do it during the day, but as soon as I try and be still to sleep, my back begins to twitch and make me miserable. Must... lie... down... (which I can, even in Amtrak coach, if I have two seats. But not on a bus).

 

I also bring my own tea bags,but haven't yet found a workable travel kettle. What do you use, Ed?

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I am really enjoying the trip report and photos!

 

Jennifer, I used an immersion heater when I was living in a dorm to make coffee and tea. This one is only 300 watts, so it should be okay to use in a sleeper. It's also very compact:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Norpro-Instant-Electric-Immersion-Heater/dp/B01M0Q84BR/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1521049008&sr=8-3&keywords=immersion+heater

Edited by Maglev

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Hi Jennifer,

 

I use something similar to this kettle, it is about 650 Watts, so quite suitable for low power outlets. Used it aboard Amtrak, in Indian hotels, etc..

 

I have found a nice bone china cup which fits inside the kettle. The cup rests on a plastic scourer, which protects the element, and is handy for cleaning the cup. :D

 

The cord fits inside the cup, and a spoon fits inside too. I have used it to heat "boil in the bag" food too!

 

http://www.argos.co.uk/product/4265315

 

Ed.

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Thanks Woodcut60, all ideas are welcome.

 

As the weather is changeable at this time of year we're open to whatever suits the moment. We are definitely going to the Museum of Flight and the cinema 'Cinerama' as it is supposed to be very high tech, that still leaves 1 1/2 days. There will now be 5 of us meeting up there so we may be sight-seeing by committee majority .

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Amtrak Forum

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Wonderful start to your trip--looking forward to the rest! :)

 

Thanks MRD. Postings are a bit disjointed but trying to keep it going.

 

It's funny as this journey is a bit out of sync with writing the blog. I'm using a notebook via wifi and not a smartphone. Wifi is unusually erratic and more of our time is taken up with meeting people or doing things than on previous journeys. Frequently we have wifi but no time to write, or time to write and no wifi. Not complaining mind as we're having a superb time, just an explanation why the blog is miles behind.

 

 

Nice photos! Not an especial lot of snow for the Chemult area in Oregon, and I hope you waved in a general easterly direction as you passed. Western Oregon usually has no snow, as the elevation there is near sea level (as compared to 4,764′ at Chemult).

 

I am sure the reason your train was full is that the days before, #8 was cancelled. Some took the 11 & 6 option (that I heard was offered), only to arrive at CHI on the same day as those that rebooked for the #8 you were on.

 

The "vortex" that eats trains was just east of Essex, can't wait to hear what happened as you continued east, after your snowy sojourn at the Izaak Walton!

 

That explained a lot, you've since read why the Empire Builder was so late

 

 

Thanks for taking time out from your trip to post reports and photos here! I enjoy it all!

 

The "Amtrak America" logo and paint scheme is on the new Viewliner II baggage cars and diners.

 

Thanks Maglev

 

 

Winter Wonderland!

 

Great pics Jamie, it's Spring already down here in Texas!

 

Thanks Bob, that's good to hear, we've escaped the worst and now quite pleasant here in southern California. See you soon.

 

 

Oh my goodness, your photos are wonderful and it appears you had the BEST.WINTER WEATHER. EVER!

Glad to see those snowshoe tracks on the pristine canvas of the snow.

 

We didn't need them Jennifer unless we intended to go off Piste, which we didn't. We had to keep pinching ourselves at how amazing the snow was, we've been very lucky with weather almost everywhere including the cold we were dreading in Minneapolis Saint Paul

 

 

Thx for sharing. Great pics!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

 

Pleased you are enjoying them, the next batch are not quite to the same level as a lot of photography was into the sun and there were a couple of reasons we couldn't do anything about that.

 

 

Finally we managed to login on this forum, so not only we can read the as always great reports, but see the pictures as well.

Yes that is snow (we just had 2") partially liked the barn with it's white hat.

Btw, that Black Birth has 2 engines, the 3' one in the middle is the engine of the only remaining drone of that project sitting on the back of this SR-71 make this combination ever so unique.

Next to the Concorde (sitting outside of this museum) my all time favorite plane. I'm sure that's an other forum though.

Have a safe trip

 

Hans

 

Hello Hans, hello Wineke

Pleased you signed up for this forum, it's a friendly place with a wealth of information and well worth it. As you will know you only donate if you feel you want to so in effect joining is free.

Yes knew that the Blackbird is your favourite plane that's the reason it was included. Hope you enjoyed a different angle from your own photos. Hope we see you soon.

 

 

The structure in Montana that you are interested in is a "wigwam burner" used back in the old days to process sawmill waste. Back in the 1970s, I worked as a packer in a small mill that made cedar shakes ("hand-splits") and shingles for roofing. Don't have photos of me on the job packing shingles, but here's what I mostly did:

Verona+HR+1910+Union+Mill+Packer+copy.jp

 

Wigwam burners were a landmark in most western timber towns. There is still one standing within 15 miles of my home. Most stand alone now, the mill they were attached to having been torn down. Here's what they looked like in use:

smoke.jpg

 

And here's a little wigwam burner history, if you should want to follow up.

 

Thanks for such good info Jennifer, what haven't you done!

 

 

Thank you for such great reporting! I love the photo's and the details of all your encounters with the local folk.

After your problems with that coffee machine, I am reminded to always pack my number 1 travel accessory... my kettle and PG Tips tea bags. :D

 

Much kudos to you for taking those overnight Greyhound bus services. I like the daytime Greyhound rides, the views, and all the characters one meets, but trying to rest and travel overnight is beyond me!

 

Looking forward to the next update.

 

Ed

 

We find the overnighters a little harder than a few years ago but not so terrible if the heating is on and not cold aircon driving across a freezing Kansas plain during the night. The latest (usual condition) Greyhound buses are pretty comfortable now, better than the older ones. Leg room may be an issue so it's best to try to board early as some seats have less and a few have more than the average. Of course if you have back or mobility problems then a fair bit of travelling may be a problem.

Part of the reason for taking Greyhound is Amtrak doesn't completely cover the country so every now and then a Greyhound fits the bill and most times very well. If you like being with people it's as sociable as coach on any Amtrak LD train as far as our experience goes. Have to say that if we don't get one Greyhound ride in on every US journey we miss it.

 

We needed to pack light for this trip, the problem was 2 weeks in the frozen north, 1 week in a moderate climate, and 3 weeks in hopefully pleasantly warm climate, that's a lot of different clothes which doesn't work well with travelling light.

So we left out other stuff to keep the weight and volume down, one item was our cup sized emersion heater similar to Maglev's. It also enabled us not have to carry 2 china cups too. Last part of this we checked that 95% of our hotels had a microwave in the room, the reality is about 8 out of 10 have been removed even though they are advertised with them. It's left us having to rely on hot water from the coffee machines which led to the entertaining episode in Kansas City.

 

Like you Ed, we carry mucho tea bags

Edited by v v

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I too am impressed by the photos, and by your willingness to overnight on a bus. Like Ed, I can do it during the day, but as soon as I try and be still to sleep, my back begins to twitch and make me miserable. Must... lie... down... (which I can, even in Amtrak coach, if I have two seats. But not on a bus).

 

I also bring my own tea bags,but haven't yet found a workable travel kettle. What do you use, Ed?

 

As above

 

 

I am really enjoying the trip report and photos!

 

Jennifer, I used an immersion heater when I was living in a dorm to make coffee and tea. This one is only 300 watts, so it should be okay to use in a sleeper. It's also very compact:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Norpro-Instant-Electric-Immersion-Heater/dp/B01M0Q84BR/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1521049008&sr=8-3&keywords=immersion+heater

 

As above

 

 

Hi Jennifer,

 

I use something similar to this kettle, it is about 650 Watts, so quite suitable for low power outlets. Used it aboard Amtrak, in Indian hotels, etc..

 

I have found a nice bone china cup which fits inside the kettle. The cup rests on a plastic scourer, which protects the element, and is handy for cleaning the cup. :D

 

The cord fits inside the cup, and a spoon fits inside too. I have used it to heat "boil in the bag" food too!

 

http://www.argos.co.uk/product/4265315

 

Ed.

 

Couldn't give a kettle that amount of space Ed, but am jealous

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Tuesday 6 March Day 14 - Denver, CO to San Francisco, CA
Updated in Los Angeles, CA Thursday 15 March

 

A few photos of the Amtrak 5 Californian Zephyr from Denver to SFC, report will follow a little later.

 

 

​Denver Union Station, very nicely refurbished

 

post-6862-0-66658000-1521179680_thumb.jpg

 

 

post-6862-0-96737200-1521179917_thumb.jpg

 

 

Winter Park, CO, think that usually there is more snow here than there is? Either side of this area there wasn't much snow in the Rockies but the bare mountains have a grandeur even without snow

 

post-6862-0-97765800-1521180021_thumb.jpg

 

 

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Interstate? running opposite side of the river to the rail track

 

post-6862-0-64215000-1521180218_thumb.jpg

 

 

As we move towards the Sierra Nevada we find more snow, this is our favourite or the two ranges

 

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Regular train life. Play card games, just watching and photoing what goes past the window

 

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This is Donner Lake of the famous tragedy

 

post-6862-0-58257000-1521180817_thumb.jpg

 

 

post-6862-0-57908600-1521180847_thumb.jpg

Edited by v v

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