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Entries about amtrak

Last day, back in Chicago

rain 78 °F
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We detrained from the City of New Orleans, back in Chicago for 12 short hours. It was bittersweet, returning to the city where it had all started.

We aimed to get real deep dish pizza as we were mislead the first time around and to get good beer. Seeing as it was still Chicago Craft Beer Week, we figured that wouldn't be too hard to find.

As the forecast called for a pretty rainy day in the Chi-town, we opted for a more relaxed, low-key day as our trip was winding down.

We spent the day in the South Side at the Museum of Science and Industry. We saw some pretty cool exhibits and models, including an exhibits dedicated to transcontinental trains! How appropriate, huh?

Afterwards, we went to Hyde Park to grab lunch at Pizza Capri. We finally got our Chicago deep dish! This time with jalapeƱos and mushrooms. It was delicious and probably the best pizza I've ever tasted. Our waiter suggested we still try Giodano's and Lou Malnati's before getting too excited.
We got some fantastic brews from Chicago's Half Arc and Revolution brewing companies.


After a break in the downpour, we took a stroll the Hyde Park neighborhood. There's some pretty cool murals and shops in the home of the University of Chicago.

We walked to the south side of Lake Shore Drive to get a view of Lake Michagan to the east as the sun was setting to our west.

It was the perfect backdrop to the ending this trip.

In total, we spent 14 days traveling, over 6,200 miles by train visiting and passing through this beautiful country in all of its grandeur as well as flaws. Thanks for sharing our trip with us, we enjoyed having you along for the ride!

-- Claudia

Posted by baecation2016 22:45 Archived in USA Tagged food beer sunset amtrak Comments (0)

Train(s) to NOLA

(2 trains taking 3 days, spanning 4 states)

sunny 81 °F
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In order to make it to New Orleans, we had to take 2 trains (back on Coast Starlight from Emeryville to Los Angeles then onto Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans). In summary, it was really cool, but long. All the passengers got cabin fever and tired of the food.
So, I'll give you some highlights.

Pacific coastline
The Coast Starlight train hugs the Pacific coastline for 104 miles from Pismo Beach to Ventura! The views were breathtaking and hands down the highlight of the trip:

Thanks to our new friend Earle, the retired park ranger and train aficionado we met on our first Coast Starlight trip, keeping tabs on our connection to the Sunset Limited was easy using Amtrak Transit Docs. From this website, we learned the Coast Starlight was running early and we'd have not 1 but 2 hours to make our connection! Earle was a kind hearted older gentleman and my favorite passenger we encountered on this trip! He was just as excited as we were to see us again on Sunset Limited!

Passenger encounters and stories

Amtrak exercises community seating in the dining car. Heidi and I would sit on one side of the booth, while a set of complete strangers accompany us for our meals. While this can lead to some awkward pairings, sometimes Amtrak gets it right. The stories ranged from incredibly heartwarming to incredibly boring.
We met an 18 year-old boy from the MidWest that SURVIVED a ruptured brain aneurysm sustained during a soccer game. His mother recounted the agony of his 3 month PICU stay while her son proudly demonstrated the scar running along his left temporal region. Given that the majority of individuals die from a ruptured brain aneurysm, we were astounded to see that he had minimal residual deficits.
Many folks have learned that train travel is THE way to travel, so during our travels we run into each other. For example, we met Benjamin and Royce in Chicago, again in Emeryville, and again on the way to New Orleans. We met Earle in Portland and again on the Sunset Limited before he detrained for San Antonio. I thought that was pretty neat.


States on states on states
California has a diversity of farmlands, vineyards, and oil fields (interestingly enough). Thanks to our Rails and Trails park rangers, we learned about the flora and fauna of the state, NASA testing sites, hidden missile/warship sites, and so much more.
We also passed through New Mexico, some cool towns and cities in Arizona, a very LONG Texas and its border with Mexico (along with border control trucks that would occasionally follow our train), and finally Louisiana!
The towns along the train were mostly comprised of trailer parks. Aside from the poverty, I was struck by the numerous cemeteries. "cities of the dead". Since the water table is so high, no one can be buried underground in Louisiana!




New appreciation for trains
From the classic styles such as the Pullman car and the Parlour car, to the modern Superliners, I've concluded that trains are pretty cool.

They use less energy than cars and airplanes. They allow us to see how people live, work, and relax. They show us from where our food and goods originates, gets processed, and shipped. They bring complete strangers together for 3 meals a day. However, they should be high-speed like in Europe. Three days is a long time. . .

See you in NOLA!

-- Claudia :O)

Posted by baecation2016 11:53 Tagged trains and sunset coast coastline trails rails pacific texas amtrak limited starlight Comments (1)


Gray skies and craft beers

overcast 64 °F
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Hi everybody!

It's so good to be back to wifi!

After two super relaxing days on the Empire Builder, we have safely arrived on the West Coast. The rest of the trip was truly beautiful. When we entered the Great Plains of Montana, some guides from the national parks came on to narrate the vistas around us. We learned a lot and surprisingly REALLY enjoyed it! Being in the lounge above the bar car may have enhanced that enjoyment a little.


We made a friend in the lounge car, too! The great majority of our fellow passengers have been retired couples who are traveling to see their adult children, or are just vacationing like us. They've been wonderful (for the most part) but sometimes hard to relate to, for us. So, we were thrilled to meet someone our age from Leavenworth, WA and hang out with her for a while. She even came to dinner with us as we entered Glacier National Park. Nothing will bring people together like snaking through the mountains while dining on Amtrak-grade Pad Thai. The pictures hardly do it justice.


After the park, it was a short trip through Washington before arriving in Seattle! We were so excited to get off the train and get some real food, we had been packed and ready to go about for about 3 hours before that.


From the train station, we walked with our big backpacks right to the Puget Sound to hop on a ferry to Bainbridge Island. From the ferry we were able to see all of Seattle. I was hoping to see a sea lion, but there weren't any around at the time.


The island was so pretty and cute. We stopped for a quick lunch and then ditched our packs behind the counter so we could walk around. Those things are heavy... While exploring, we found the COOLEST community garden that's ever existed behind a church. It really gave me a lot of inspiration for my future gardening projects. They had their own greenhouse, little bee houses, and even a "Little Free Library" (a community book exchange program found all over Seattle) full of organic gardening books. We showed ourselves around inside and no one seemed to mind.


It happens to be craft beer week in Seattle, so we came back to the mainland to check out the local offerings. We stopped by Elysian brewery in Capitol Hill for dinner and fabulous beer. However, the event they putting on included karaoke during dinner hours. Normally, this would have kept me there all night, but this was possibly the worst excuse for karaoke that I've ever heard in my LIFE! And I have heard a lot of bad karaoke. I don't want to be cruel, but I suspect they have never heard a truly talented karaoke singer in this town. We had to get out of there.

Good thing we did, too! While exploring the neighborhood (we saw a huge co-op!) Claudia had to use the bathroom so we went to a place that sounded promising--Chuck's Hop Shop. Little did we know, it was like a beer drinkers paradise! They say they are the house of 1000 beers, and I believe it. They had about 50 beers of ALL kinds on tap, and every beer you could imagine in bottles and six packs. It was like a beer store and a bar at the same time. Claudia and I were like little kids in a foreign candy store. It was so much fun! Most of the selections were from west coast microbreweries so we'd never heard of them. We did find a few home-state brews though. And since people in Seattle bring their dogs everywhere, we even got to hang out with some really chill pups. It was nice since I've been missing my kitty a little bit.


Needless to say, we were ready for bed after leaving that place. Today, we are heading to Pike Place market for lunch and a quick pic of the space needle before we rent a car and drive Portland, OR. I hope I don't get hit with a flying fish!


Posted by baecation2016 07:56 Archived in USA Tagged beer island garden seattle amtrak glacier_national_park rails_and_trails Comments (2)

Chicago and Milwaukee

The Journey Begins

semi-overcast 55 °F
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Hey there!

Our first 2 days have been so action-packed! The ride from Buffalo to Chicago took around 9 hours. We left at 1 am, so it was easy to sleep most of the way.
The coach seats on the train are so comfortable, too. I had my legs stretched all the way in front of me and still had extra room. I know I have tiny legs, but still! It's like being in a recliner. The only problem I had was with the bathroom. The coach bathroom smelled awful and the faucet on the sink needs to be squeezed from the bottom to release water. Claudia especially didn't like that part. People rub their soiled hands on the part where the water comes out, thus contaminating the faucet for everyone else. It really makes no sense. I'll try to get a pic of it to show you.

The views along the Rust Belt were...rusty. There was not too much too see. Plenty of industrial sites and a few glimpses of the other side of my favorite Great Lake--Erie.

There were some trying times once we detrained in Chicago. We had to walk a mile and a half to our reserved Zipcar without stopping for breakfast first. As most of you know, a hungry Heidi is not a happy Heidi. But at least it was breezy and beautiful outside.

Once we found the car, we took off straight for the heart of America: Milwaukee. It took nearly 2 hours to get there, and we were starving!
Our first tacos of the vacation were had at Bel Air Cantina, where we feasted on Curry Mahi Mahi, Portabello-Queso, Mango Tilapia, Lobster Shrimp, and Black Bean & Corn tacos. The beast was fed (Heidi) and quite satisfied.


By the time we arrived the Pabst brewery was no longer doing tours for the day. However, there also happened to be a vintage motorcycle show going on right outside. We saw some amazing bikes, and still had a chance to walk around the facilities and see where PBR began. I didn't realize there is a whole adorable Pabst village!

We didn't get to linger too long because we had to get the car back by 6. We sped into the spot at 5:57 exactly. Then we took the "L" (they don't call it metro here, it's their subway system) to our AirBNB. Our host suggested a great pizza place that is not too far from the comedy club we wanted to hit up, so we summoned a Lyft car and headed back out. The pizza was good, but we ordered the wrong kind and didn't get an actual deep dish, so we're going to try again when we come back here next week.

Well, that's all for now. We leave Chicago at 2pm today, and we need to get beer to bring on the train before we go. It's a 36 hour ride to Seattle! Stay tuned for updates on the tiny roomette we booked for the ride.


Posted by baecation2016 04:48 Tagged train chicago seattle motorcycle vintage amtrak comedy milwaukee pabst airbnb baecation lyft lovebug deep_dish laugh_factory Comments (2)

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