Planning After the collapse of New River Train and all of my PV clients I had started applying for jobs. So I was invited out to Seattle to interview for Alaska Airlines. However they weren't providing transportation so I had to find my own way out there. Using my travel agency benefits I've acquired over the year I managed to get a good fare to fly to Seattle on Alaska. And then back on the Empire Builder, Capitol Limited, and Silver Star. I had no issues getting the Alaska Airlines travel agent rate however I had a lot of trouble with the Amtrak one because it took forever to get it approved. Day 1: Driving across the Piedmont I was up at nine AM to ride with my friend Ryan from the PV community from my home in the Columbia area to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport taking all backroads to get there because the flight wasn't till five that night. We drove up US 1 out of my town and followed the route of the Silver Star north. We retraced several of our former train chase locations this time without a rush because we weren't trying to keep up with the Star. We paused in Hamlet to walk around the beautifully restored station and to look at the restored Seaboard locomotive. Both Ryan and I were talking about our mutual love of the seaboard as both of us have grown up along its mainline several years after its demise. After departing the station we drove by the deadline of EMDs in the once busy yard at Hamlet. The hump shut down several years ago and the yard is fairly empty. And it's lost the majority of its trains. I remember the days when it sent 15 plus trains a day out in all directions. We then continued north looking at the mainline trying to locate the northbound or southbound CSX local freight out of Hamlet while reminiscing about our PV experiences. And our opinions of the demise of New River Train. We paused in Aberdeen to look at the local Aberdeen and Rockfish railroad before continuing north to Sanford. Both Ryan and I had seen a steam engine outside our windows on 91/92 so we decided to go look at it before continuing north. Along the way to Cary we followed old US 1 instead of the new four lane divided to stay closer to the Aberdeen sub and found a girder bridge with SEABOARD preserved on its side over the river. One day we will return to shoot this on our cameras. Onward we continued in a light rain and eventually we found two CSX locals out and about before we continued to Cary. We had lunch at the Shiny Diner at two pm. At this point we were rushing because we both wanted to see westbound Piedmont No. 77 at Cary. I had fried chicken and the area close to the skin was incredibly hot but the closer to the fore it got the colder it was. And at one place it felt like it was completely frozen, yet I continued to eat it. We made it in time to see the Piedmont and for some reasons both Ryan and I didn't decide to move to the other side of the station till it was about to leave but we managed it. With two 3,000 hp motors and a short four car train it picks up speed like a pocket rocket. Afterwards we drove over to the airport. I went to the ticket counter and purchased my travel agent ticket for the grand total of 60 dollars. It's a standby ticket so I proceeded to check my bag and head back to the gate. Alaska offers two flights per day from RDU and my flight had a strong chance of a seat so I wasn't too worried about getting seat. I watched the aircraft approach the gate on the apron and shortly after that they called my name for standby and I claimed my seat. I was given an entire row to myself at the rear of the aircraft. On the flight I managed to watch part of Caddyshack, and several Adam Sandler movies. What is nice about Alaska is the fact it has free texting. It was a very turbulent six hour flight. However the last hour and a half of the flight I felt sick. I was up four or five times to the bathroom dry heaving till I eventually threw up a bit I'm afraid. My first time ever getting air sick this badly. I texted my doctor I work for (sure she's a vet but she did pre med at MIT) and several nurses, a combat medic, and a vet tech. Of course I got a lecture about eating chicken that may or may not be cooked. And some tips on how to deal with the symptoms which more or less helped. I did enjoy the northerly approach over Seattle and saw all of the sights I visited when I was with Kathleen from the B737-900. We arrived at SEATAC early and I slowly took my time to go to the baggage claim so I wouldn't stress my already messed up system up and claimed my bag before boarding the Link. I texted Charlie (CHamilton here on AU) to let him know when I would be arriving. For the most part my system wasn't bad on the Link (maybe I just like trains better) and I enjoyed my hour long ride. I then caught the bus out to Charlie's apartment and him and I caught up on everything that had gone on in half a year. Which takes a long time because him and I have so many stories to share. We eventually settled down and went to bed. Day 2: Portland and Julia Charlie and I got up early to catch Cascades Train No. 501 to head south to my favorite American city of Portland for the day. Charlie had business with AORTA and I wanted to visit my best friend Julia. So we caught the bus outside his apartment to the Link to reach King Street Station. We made it down to the station with plenty of time to spare and were able to pre-board out Talgo the Mount Rainier in business class on the head end of the consist. We got settled in and kept catching up on PV issues and how the advocacy community can help. Honestly we talked about so much I honestly can't even summarize it because it was so interesting and hit so many topics. We had our breakfast in the former dining car section of the train. I had one of my favorite Schwartz Brothers cinnamon rolls as we ran alongside the Puget Sound. Honestly I hadn't planned on riding this scenic stretch of track before the new route opened but yet here I am. Our train arrived several minutes early and Charlie took me to meet his colleagues with AORTA on the second floor of Union Station. I can't imagine I've ever been in an elevator as old as that. The thing had a manual door which I've never seen before. After that I used a restroom that I believe is original to when the station opened before meeting his colleagues. After a few minutes Julia texted me to say she was in the station so I went back downstairs and we went into a beautiful day. It was so great to see Julia sitting in the station when I walked up. We decided we would go to a Chinese Tea Room inside this beautiful little gallery near the station. She bought our admission and I bought our lunch. We strolled around the gardens, and ponds in this unique gallery that were decorated for Chinese New Years. It was beautiful. We had a small lunch at the tea room where I proceeded to embarrass myself eating which chop sticks again. Again I employed my method of, "Is that Adam Sandler over there (Points to distract whomever and stuffs mouth full with other hand). It was rather funny she tried again in vain to teach me how to use chop sticks. My bet Dr Ng tells me she will teach me one day. After we left lunch we continued to walk around the gallery and tried our hand at the wishing tree it took her two times, I took me four times to land the coin in the tree. I think you guys know what I was wishing for. Afterwards we walked down to Portland State Universities campus so she could go to class. I was really impressed with her, and appalled at humanity at the same time when one of Portland's homeless approached us wanting money. She was willing to offer some food from her bag (fresh fruit) to the person. They snapped and yelled "Food doesn't pay the expletive expletive rent you expletive expletive." Which made her cry. Honestly I then went into full protective mode and rushed her out of the area instead of giving the homeless person a piece of my mind. I wanted to go and curse this person out but my job is to comfort her which I did. I managed to make a complete and utter fool of myself for a laugh to cheer her up. Luckily I am a very big idiot and I can make anyone laugh so before she went to class she was back in a good mood. I had three hours till she was out of class so I walked back downtown and had a burger because I needed some real food I could eat. Afterwards I walked over to look at the White Stag because I had never seen that. I didn't want to walk back to downtown from there because of the overwhelming amount of homeless camped out under the sign. So I walked across the Willamette and turned right down Dr MLK street to walk down to the rail museum to get a photo of the Coast Starlight departing under the Portland Skyline. I honestly didn't think I would make it in time to see the starlight because I didn't allow myself enough time but because 27 was late they held 11 a few minutes which helped me get into position. So I managed to get a good shot of the Starlight departing. Afterwards I walked to the Max stop and photographed the Portland and Western freight with a Santa Fe diesel leading. After about twenty minutes I was waiting on her campus to meet up again so we could go to Powels to shop for a friend's wedding and to cook dinner tonight. She was very kind and brought m a Lavender Doughnut and it was quite good. We took the max to Pioneer Square and then walked over to Powels where I bought a cookbook for my friends. And I bought a few paperbacks for myself and Julia did as well for herself. After that we walked back towards her apartment and stopped into an odd craft store to pick up supplies for her kindergarten class she volunteers with. Afterwards we went up to her apartment together and we cooked dinner for ourself. We made a shrimp stir fry with German style home fries and enjoyed a beautiful view of the Portland Skyline. Our friend Melissa came over and had dinner with us. After dinner we did dishes and they drove me over to Union Station to catch Cascades Train No. 508 back to Seattle. They began boarding the train before I even arrived. I hugged Julia at the station door and shuffled out to board the Mount Bachelor Talgo. Charlie and I continued to catch up on our ride north. He told me about four cars available at a great price that I have to say I'm interested in. Again we had a light meal in the area intended to be a dining car at one time on our way into Seattle. We detrained at King Street and were whisked away to his apartment by taxi cab instead of taking public transit because we both had early mornings the next day.