Train Journal – 2001

In 2001 I drove from Idlewild, Michigan down to Atlanta and across to Oceanside California with my oldest daughter and her two toddlers. I took a train up to Seattle to visit my second daughter and then took the train back to Michigan. This is an account of that last part of the trip from my journal.

Train ride through the Rockies. Photo by Kristin Cleage

Thursday June 28

leaving Seattle. Sat around with Ife and Mike waiting for 3:30 to leave for the train station. Ate leftover chili for breakfast. Watched a “thriller.” We went up on the roof for the first time and took photos of park, skyline and water. Sun got so bright we went down. Mike went and got water and tooth paste for me. Ife was nervous all day in case I missed the train. Took cab to station. Mariners game.

At the train station a girl with her mother was across from us. She was watching us. We were watching her.

Sleeper is small. – two seats, table window. Makes into lower and upper bunk. Much comfier than couch! Bathroom down hall and down stairs. Dinner – salmon, wild rice, potato, apple juice, apple crisp, veggies.

Scenery – very different on western half of Cascades, lush, green, moss and ferns, much dryer and more barren on East side. Fruit tree area on barren side. Trees must be irrigated. Food supply for U.S. long term NOT looking good! Puget sound – people clamming? Tide out. Water, water. Beautiful. This land is your land, this land is my land.

June 29, Friday

Woke up in Montana. Isolated cabins on the sides of wooded mountains. Mountain, rushing streams, line of parked cars in the middle of no where, a deer on the side of the tracks, pine trees, poplar or is it aspen? “Big Sky” low clods.

The Chinese American steward had a laugh this morning with the Irish woman across the aisle. He’d thought she’d be Chinese. Robert E. Lee wasn’t Chinese,” she pointed out, a bit peevishly. I woke around 7:30 (6:30 Seattle time) Yawn. Could have slept longer.

Mountains and feather pines. So close together. The highway right below. A stream leads up up up the mountains to a meadow. “I knew the mountains would make you well.”

Breakfast of yogurt parfait.

On closer view what appears to be meadow may be bushes. At least that’s what the one we passed was. Going through open covered tunnels? Bridges? Better then the dark holes.

Rock is gray, slate like layers, dirt was mauve this morning. Began taking photos. Why didn’t I do that all along??? what a waste Oh well. Jilo and Ife have both expressed an interest in cross country travel.

Down the corridor a couple discuss their vacations and train trips. The rocks do look like the earths bones. Are we lower or higher? Trees are smaller, fewer, more grass. Gods golf course out there?

Montana high plains. Rutted dirt roads come out of fields to the track. Several piles of dumped household trash. Irrigation. Houses, small alone. A man with orange flags. Clouds so low I could reach out the window and touch them.

Sage brush again everywhere.

June 30,2001 Saturday

We’re in the Minniapolis/St. Paul station. Midway on the N/S axis of earth.

Arrived in Chicago. Walking from the train to the waiting room passed a man hollaring a train was leaving for Grand Rapids! Asked and found it was my train. Got loaded on.

Four teachers returning from a conference in Grand Rapids. Two white and two black. Back and forth about conference.

Family of Grandma, two grown daughters and three or four kids (little) got on. The kids were tired. One little girl broke out crying, she wanted to put her pjs on right then. After awhile they put them on her. Brother fell asleep.

Almost got stuck in the bathroom. Couldn’t figure how to get it unlocked at first. When train stopped, everyone moved to the exit but the train wasn’t really ready to unload us. I sat back down and another lady sat down too. She had come on the same train I had but just from Minnesota. She was going to visit her grandkids.

Jim was waiting at the station with the van full of groceries when I got there. It was very hot and muggy. It sprinkled a little on the way, but no real rain. We cooked and ate when we got home.

I was glad to be home, but not this particular house and location.

10 thoughts on “Train Journal – 2001

  1. Wonderful journal of your trip…wish more photos were available! But back in the day, we didn’t think of snapping and sending all the time. When was this anyway?

    1. It was 2001. I did have more photos but right now they are in a storage hardware I can’t access. I hope to get to them eventually!
      The photo I posted is from a different trip that went through the middle of the US instead of at the top. But, it’s from one of my train
      trips west to visit my daughters.

  2. It was always great to have you visit ? California was so pretty & the weather was wonderful but it was too, too far away from everyone.

    1. Especially once we were also so far from Chicago where all trains seem to begin their journey.
      I also have journal entries for the part of the trip by car with you and the kids. Maybe I’ll
      use that for the upcoming car prompt!

  3. I laughed and I have to ask – when you had that leftover chili for breakfast, did you eat it cold? My kids think I’m crazy, but I love things like left over pizza, spaghetti, chili, & etc. for breakfast, & always eaten cold. Things taste a little different when they’re cold and I enjoy the difference. And thank you for sharing your journal notes. You described the east side of the Cascades very well. It is dry. Someday I’d love to take a train trip across Canada & if I do, I’ll remember not only to take pictures, but keep a journal expressly about the trip & what I’m seeing along the way as you did. 🙂

    1. Because I was at my daughters, I’m sure she heated it up, but when I’m here at home and have leftovers for breakfast, I have them cold too! My husband doesn’t understand it, but I think they taste fine that way. Glad to know there is someone else out there eating cold breakfast too 🙂
      I didn’t always keep a travel journal, but I’m glad I did it some of the time. Brings back memories for sure.

  4. The rhythm of train travel is lovely. I feel there’s more community experience. Your post reminded me of my dining room experience on Amtrak.

  5. This was a terrific travel memento. Reading about your trip reminded me about my train journeys too. Most were in Europe as an adult but as a child I was taken across the same route from Washington DC to Tacoma WA and my mom probably had the same impression of the landscape that you describe. My son and daughter-in-law lived in Portland OR for a few years and I regret we never found time to take a train trip across the country. It’s the best way to see America and the rest of the world too. Sadly the routes don’t connect the way they once did even just a few decades ago.

    1. I agree. They have pretty much destroyed any ease of train travel by cutting routes. I’m glad I got to make those trips when I did. The food used to be so much better with each route having their specialties.

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