Saturday, May 31, 2014

One day with Fred

Fred and Pokie in Hibiscus kingdom
My curiosity about an RV lands us to this beautiful friendship with Fred and his wife back then. We first met them in 2006, some eight years ago in Bellingham, Washington. We were on the way to Alaska. I did ask him as to why he has an LP tank outside his big rig.

We met them again in 2007 at the same place, and then we continue our trip to San Juan Island. That was the last time we had dinner together. Fred lost his beautiful wife Lynn a day after Christmas in 2011 and he then moved out of Tucson, Arizona in the early 2012 to Lafayette, Indiana.

When I planned to go to Chicago by train about a year ago, I looked up to see if there is a train service to his hometown. To my delight, there is, but it gets there late at night.

So, one day I called him, telling him that we will visit him for a day or two. I think I made him nervous for two months not knowing what to feed me, because I am a vegetarian and Lafayette is in the middle of “anything fried”.

True enough, the train coming in to Lafayette was late some 35 minutes and he had been waiting for us for more than an hour. I told Fred, lucky that we did not come in the next morning. In short, we had a wonderful time spending a full day with Fred.

Oh, we did try the “Fried Green Tomato” and to our delight, we like it very much.

Thank you for the memories…..till we meet again.

Chicago River Tour

Chicago River Tour
We have till 5:25 P.M. today to catch another train to Lafayette, Indiana from the Union Station. With every travel, you need to be there early to anticipate the unexpected, it turned out to be true, the Chicago train station is a zoo compare to the one in Portland, it is underground and it is mixed with the Metra trains (a commuter train in this metropolitan city). This is the time where the Chicagoans go back home from work, we did witness a rat race and it seems everything is in slow motion when we compare how we walk. This people run in my opinion.

The 11:00 A.M. river cruise is fully booked, so we opted the noon departure instead, I figure we have enough time, we will take a taxi to the train station later, I am just tired of walking. That morning we walked leisurely to the Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, having breakfast along the way. We stored our luggage at the Bell Desk.

Enjoy the cruise! Tip is not accepted as the guide is from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chicago - The Loop

Millennium Park
Welcome to Chicago!

Our first two nights in this city, we stayed in the Chicago Loop section. This city is relatively clean, inviting and we feel safe, but at night we retreated to our room, plus we were tired from walking. There are four things must see and do in this section in my opinion namely, Millennium Park, Willis Tower, Buckingham Fountain and do an Architectural river tour (tomorrow).

In the morning we explored Millennium Park for its famous “Bean” then to Willis Tower, we went back to the “bean” in the afternoon and then explored the Buckingham Fountain. Enough walking for one day, my feet hurt so bad!

The Willis Tower’s balconies are suspended 1,353 feet above the ground and jut out 4 feet from the building. They’re actually more like boxes than balconies, with transparent walls, floor and ceiling. Visitors are treated to unobstructed views of Chicago from the building’s west side and a heart-stopping vista of the street and Chicago River below – for those brave enough to look straight down.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The train ride to Chicago

Promenade Lounge, Union Station, Portland
All aboard!

If you have to be somewhere fast, Amtrak is not the answer, period the end. Moreover if you have a connecting flight or a connecting train to catch, I wish you the best of luck. On time and speed is not the norm for this National Train. Priorities are given to the freight train and now the oil tankers in North Dakota; fracking is rampant in the Plains state.

Not only we had to come three hours and fifteen minutes earlier, we are still late arriving in Chicago by four hours. But I have to say, the train left Portland on time at 1:40 P.M. We are treated with the scenery of Columbia River from Washington state looking south on the first hours on the trip.
The train arrived in Spokane at 9:30 P.M. and it is connected with the sister train from Seattle, two engines are now pulling us from this point on. It is time to sleep for the night, as the train moves east to Idaho and Montana.

We did not sleep well the first night; I ordered a roomette which is becoming smaller by the minute. Pokie sleeps on the upper bunk bed and I sleep below, the two chairs become a bed, the second night is better by a long shot, maybe we are tired, that’s the only explanation I can have. Next time if there is any, we will order a bedroom which is a lot bigger that the roomette and it has its own bathroom.

The only decent food that I have was those two breakfasts, lunch and dinner is Ok for me, I did order vegetarian pasta and it was not thoroughly cooked. The vegetarian burgers are not any better, but I could eat. By the way, corn medley is served on every meal; we had a chuckle over that! Here comes the corn medley again! Pokie exclaimed on every meal.
We used the shower twice to refresh ourselves in the morning, I call it a “dripping faucet” but it does the job. What interesting is one hand hold the safety bar and the other hand hold the soap bar due to the rocking motion of the train!

Other than spending twenty-four hours on the train on my birthday, one of the highlight in this trip is meeting my high school friend from Indonesia who boarded in Minneapolis/St.Paul Union Station to Chicago. This is purely coincidence and unplanned. What a treat.

Arriving in Chicago four hours late and it is getting dark fast, we walked to our hotel with the empty stomach, and luckily we found a nice establishment that sells pizza and fresh salad. The bed in our hotel looks so inviting after the roomette on the train.

In conclusion American track is not for passenger train, but for freight. I do not know if I will ever see a high speed train in my lifetime. I got my wish though; we travel about 2,200 plus miles to Chicago. If you think that I was deterred by this experience, think again, my next trip would be from Vancouver, BC to Toronto in Canada for four days and three nights, I just have to convince Pokie to go along, wish me a lot of luck!

Here’s my poem on Amtrak.

All aboard!
Memories will be made
Timely arrival is not guaranteed
Running late is the norm
All aboard!
Keeping America moving at a much slower speed

Monday, May 26, 2014

Chicago Trip - Highlights

The "Bean" at Millennium Park

I did it! I did it! I got my wish, spending twenty-four hours on my 55th birthday riding a train from Portland to Chicago. It was indeed a long trip, three days and two nights plus we have to come 3 hours early and a delay for 4 hours to Chicago. I did torture Pokie all right! It only took 4 short hours to come back to the rainy Portland last nigh by plane. But the destination is journey, Chicago is just icing on the cake. Many people asked me as to why Chicago? My answer is simple, it is the longest train ride from Portland, Oregon without any transfer!

We love “downtown Chicago” very much, it is clean and food prices are very reasonable compared with a big city like Boston for example, but best of all foods are good in Chicago. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course we did all the tourist must see and do! The “bean”, the fountain, the skyscrapers, the Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile – shop till you drop. I will sort the images and stay tune for each segments.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Poncol Station (Revisited)

Backyard Garden Railroad

Sometimes I wonder why I do like trains so much. Yes, most kids love trains but they grew out of it, I don’t. I still love train and I will always love train. If I can blame my love train, I should blame it on my childhood, I grew up very close to the train station and I would not eat my breakfast if I did not see any train, so my mom or my maid would take me to the Poncol station. I try to recreate my Poncol station in our backyard, I have to say, so far I run this train just one summer, I should do it more often.

Eastern Oregon 2010 (Revisited)

Eastern Oregon

Since most people live in the western side of the state, Eastern Oregon is hardly visited; people tend to go to the Oregon Coast and Central Oregon. But I have to say that Eastern Oregon has its own beauty and rich in history. Back in 2010, the state of the Oregon economy is not at its best shape by a long shot, so I have furlough for 4 years straight, but my motto is “I got no pay, I go play”. Here’s one of them where I planned my trip and enjoy the Painted Hills, Kam Wah Chung Museum, and Sumpter Valley Railroad. Enjoy

Garden Train 2010 (Revisited)

The largest privately owned Garden Railroad

Since my blogspot was created in 2011, many of my websites are not in it. I decided to revisit one of the largest privately owned garden rail road in Oregon. This garden rail road was featured in as well as the owner tried to sell the property, asking price was about $3.0 million plus. It was a nice visit indeed, thanks to our friend Cheryl and Penny who invited us for this “steam-up”. Inside you will find the largest G Scale railroad indoor. This is simply amazing.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

National Train Day 2014

National Train Day 2014
Today is National Train Day, so I have to go and check it out. The threat of rain did not materialize during the morning hours, a good thing. As usual we got to the Union Station minutes before it is open, thus the crowd is still manageable, even that, the event is filling rather quickly, apparently this show is a favorite among parents with a small kids like myself. There are about thirty booths in all. I am happy that I got my hat; remember an early bird always catches the worm. Enjoy! I can’t wait to be on board next week to Chicago!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Peony Garden

Adelman Peony Gardens
There are two words to describe going to this Peonies Garden – “windy” and “too early”, O well, three words then. Nonetheless, we were able to take as much photographs as we could. We drove south for about forty-five minutes to Adelman garden in Salem, two more weeks would have been perfect as I was told, but in two weeks we will be on the train to Chicago to celebrate my 55th birthday, I will torture Pokie for 3 days and 2 nights on the train. As usual Pokie was in charge for the close up images. Sit back and enjoy the beauty of the nature on this early May.