Day 1: March 20, 2013, Wednesday – Train 8, Empire Builder
We got to Everett, the first thing on our minds was breakfast or in this case, brunch. Poor Dan looked bummed as he ate his pancake sandwich – bacon, scrambled eggs and two pancakes. It was to be our last time together at Kate’s Restaurant. Dave was doing very well to distract me with jokes and making my brain pop. It’s a special talent he has with me.
The three of us, myself, Dan and Dave hung out in Everett for a few hours. I did not expect us to do much, however, Dan had some fun ideas. We stopped off at Mulkiteo Beach watching the wind howl up the waves into white caps. The shells were picked clean by the birds. The wind was blowing so hard that I was afraid Dan’s crumbled old leather hat would blow away. Walking along the pebbled and semi-sandy beach line, Dave was taken by surprise by some waves that got his shoes and bottom of his pants leg wet. He tip toed funny like to get away as I laughed. Once the wind was too much for all of us, we headed to Forest Park to hike the trails for a bit.
At some point Dan got the bright idea to hike to the bottom of one trail were it meets the windy street below. He wanted me to see the fountain. I had seen it so many times, it’s lost it’s enjoyment. Heading back up, we had to walk up a hilly service road. He has odd ways of being inconsiderate to others. Poor Dave on the 18th of March had walked his way from Arlington to Marysville just see me on my birthday. The poor guy had walked enough and Dan was making us go up this hill that nearly kicked Dave’s ass.
We get to Everett Station checking in my ticket and baggage. Turns out the odd time differences between Washington and Chicago doesn’t allow for baggage check in. It has something to with the three hours difference. I don’t get it. Afterward, Dan gave me some cash to buy a drink. I got an Italian soda with coconut, pineapple and banana flavoring. All three of us chewed the fat for an hour, until someone showed up at the station that I thought he wouldn’t make it. It was Nate Conley, one of my NJROTC classmates from MPHS. I had left him a note on FB since I saw his profile picture on a side bar and thought it would be wise to tell him of my new life and adventure.
I rushed to him hugging him tightly. I hadn’t seen him in a few years. There was an odd falling out that I wanted to clear up. Ann, his wife was with him and so was their three year old son Allistir. Their son is very rambunctious just like Nate apparently. I updated him as to what happened with Dan’s issues. Nate add, “Oh, good reason to move to Maryland so you could get as far away as you could. I totally understand.”
Nate and Ann had a hell of a time chasing their son down from running around all over the place. Who needs a gym membership or a treadmill when you have kids? They’ll keep you winded, but excising just fine for hours. After a while, Ann came back from their car with some art supplies and coloring pages. The boy was entertained for the rest of the time before my train arrived. A few minutes just before the call went out, Allistir gave me his colored picture of a Littlest Pet Shop kitty. I gave him a hug as I teared up from the kindness and cuteness of his actions.
Nate’s family and him went to the second floor of the station so Allistir could see the train better. Dan held onto me as long as he could before the train arrived. I said to him, “And for goodness sakes, take a vacation and relax.” Just then the train cruised into the station as I gave Dan a kiss good-bye on the lips. Yeah, not very appropriate, but who cares. I gave Dave a big hug and a kiss on the cheek as I went into the train with my luggage. Found out an hour later, Thor could not make it. He was stuck in the parking lot at his work trying to make his way out so to see me off, but it was way too late.
There was some confusion as to which sleeper I was to be placed in. Once that got figured out, the car steward lugged my belongings to the second floor. Next time, I’ll leave the main larger bag downstairs. Once I was settled in, I sat back and watched the Northwest pass me by as I realized I was free at last. I had cried tears of happiness finally. Being so worn by tears of sadness for ten years by Dan’s foolish; cold hearted withdrawals of me, that I actually recognized what tears of happiness actually felt like. As I blotted my tears with my handkerchief, that dinner was announced at 6:45pm. They do dinner in shifts by car. That way there is no over crowding in the dinning car. I had the steak with steamed vegetables and baked potato. For dessert I had the cheesecake with blueberry topping and a glass of water. The coffee isn’t too bad. Everyone was seated with another passenger or two. I struck up conversation with the two men about the economy and what forms of work each of us did for a time. It was very engaging conversation.
I apparently was more stuffed than I thought, however my room was overly stuffy cause the vent was closed. As it got dark, I could hardly see anything pass me by. This made me motion sick. Thankfully I brought along some anti-nasia pills with me and I took one the moment I realized what was going on. A middle aged woman, whom was picked up at one of the stops in Washington, let me borrow her mini fan. The steward was so saddened that my first train trip was starting out so poorly. There is always a first for everything.
I had pulled down my bed before the steward could get to me. I was impatient and ill, so I had to do something to keep my mind off of my swirling stomach. I propped myself up watching the night sky and some town lights go by while the fan blew in my face. After two hours my stomach felt better. However, sleep wasn’t so great. I never do well sleeping in a new location on the first night. I toss and turn most of the time, but for this case I had to urinate six times as I tired to go to sleep. I had drank two bottles of water and one glass of water with dinner and that cup of coffee. Yeah, I had to pee a lot. I think I did find sleep, but the gentle cradle like rocking and sound of the tracks beneath the wheels kept me awake. I dosed off countless times, but I’m not sure if I found sleep fully or not. I had left the curtains open so the morning light would wake me instead of an alarm clock.
Day 2: March 21, 2013 – Thursday –
I awoke this morning to the sun hazily peaking over the horizon. I wanted to stay in bed, but couldn’t cause breakfast was announced just as I woke up. I had a bowl of Special K cereal, four strawberries which were really, really tasty, half a cup of Greek yogurt which I didn’t care for and a whole wheat biscuit. I didn’t want to over stuff myself like I did with my dinner from last night. The way through the Rocky Mountains was snowy and windy. Just now, at 10:41am MST the train left the mountains behind and we are now on our way across the Great Plains.
After breakfast though, I was recorded some footage of the mountains with the camcorder. I’ll edit the pieces all together through this trip later on. The snow is scattered here and there in small or large mounds on the prairie grass. The skies are clear with some wispy clouds. I have traveled through the Great Plains many times before as a child and preteen on family vacations or on the whim weekend road trip by automobile. Traveling the plans by Amtrak train is the best way to see the plains by far. Nothing else compares. ‘Amber ways of grain’ is exactly as depicted in the American anthem. Our founding fathers and pioneer ancestors said it best while describing the vast flatness and rolling hills of this expansive earth and sky. There is nothing else like it I have ever seen and I’m not just saying that.
Lunch was very tasty. I had the Chilope Black Bean Veggie Burger with everything on it, but cheese. Struck up conversation with two middle aged women. The woman across from me had a terrible lisp and stuttering problem. I learned a little bit more about patience with people this afternoon. The other woman next to me is going to see her grandchildren and daughter. Not much else to say, but I told them a tiny bit of why I’m on the train. They congratulated me on my new life and freedom. The women were surprised that my ex-husband paid for my trip and move. Dan’s not a ‘bad guy’ per se, he just doesn’t understand giving love back in return. He didn’t understand human interaction of how normal people react to bad situations. That it’s not normal for someone to strike up an argument just to get a rise out of someone even if that argument was false from the beginning. If you love someone you give them respect as much as the other person respects you back. He just never ‘gave back’ to me and it hurt, quite literately physically hurt and I have the scar on my right leg to prove it.
Before dinner though, right after lunch I took a nap for three hours. I didn’t ‘fully’ fall asleep, but I know I got rest. While I waited for dinner time, I recorded a few bit of the Montana scenery. I was able to capture a moment of life beginning. A cow was giving birth to her cafe in the cold spring snow. He or she was half out of it’s mother as I recorded the scene. Evening dinner was really good, even though I should have reserved for a later dinner say at seven o’clock. I ate at least half my dinner of the beef rib, mashed potatoes, vegetables and half my brownie pie. I’m pretty full, but not sickly full. More conversation with some more new passengers. The guy to my left was heading home to New York. His ex-wife did not want to move to New York while they were married. I can understand that. New York can be intimidating and large. He said he was a teacher for English and writing classes in many schools across the country. Now, he wants to calm things down as his epilepsy has now taken over his life, getting worse as the years continue.
The elderly couple, that I had met at the beginning of my journey had visited family in Seattle. They are heading to Fargo, North Dakota to see her daughter and the grandchildren. I had explained about my plight of my ruined marriage….they just called out over the intercom of needing help with someone downstairs for medical needs. I hope there is a doctor on the train…..Well, anyway, the elder woman added onto my story of her daughter’s bad marriage. The daughter’s ex-husband did not work for three years and kept abusing her. He basically went off the deep end. The daughter had to file for restraining orders, court issues of giving him the house, but she kept the kids and moved to North Dakota. So far the ex-husband has left her alone for six months at least.
Soon after that conversation, it shifted talking about the environment of ‘Global Warming’. I said my two cents of – If Mother Nature wants us dead, she’ll do it on her won terms. Why worry about something we don’t fully understand yet in ways to control it. The Earth will still be here long after we are all dead. All this thawing and warmer weather is a seventy to hundred year cycle. We don’t know enough in modern weather pattern to know any better or worse of this planet. I’m all for electric or hybrid cars, but other than that, forget it. The woman then explained about her time in China of how smoggy up the country is. I won’t get into that fuss, but it would be nice if the Chinese would get their heads out of their asses. It’s that simple.
It’s been snowy all the way from the Washington Cascade Mountains all the way across Montana. It was, however, very clear and partly cloudy at the beginning of Montana. Now it is getting dark. The snow is blending into the gray evening sky like white cotton sheets meeting gray silk. Ever so often I saw oil drills doing their ‘dirty work’. Left over oil that would come up from the vertical pipe would be burned off with fire ablaze at the top. I don’t know if it’s natural gas or crude oil in general. It’s something I thought I would never see but on television of the news. It seems unnatural to see oil fires like that in the United States. Maybe some day there will be a new form of working the oil out of the ground without burning off the excess. Maybe some day, in my life time, oil will be a thing of the past.
One of the most interesting bits about this journey so far, is hearing about how many passengers are taking the train for the very first time. There are at least five that I could hear in ear shot that say brightening good fortune thoughts of their new lives. I’m not the only one looking for a new start. I may be going the longest distance to get to it, but riding this train is like going down river to leave all my nasty past behind. Or, it’s like going up river, to ‘spawn’ for the first time like a salmon…nay, it’s more like going down river, enjoying the current taking me on a ride of a life time.
Stanly, North Dakota is the next stop. It’s nice to get off the train every once and awhile to get fresh air. The train will be filling up with seventeen more passengers. The conductor said the train would be nearly full. Amazing how many people actually take the train these days. I thought not that many did so, but considering the price of flight and baggage prices, it would be understandable to take the train instead. I keep hearing that it’s so much cheaper. So, if I took a flight it would have cost me maybe two hundred or three hundred dollars more. Not counting the baggage charges. Baggage is not charged for train travel. I really like that a lot about Amtrak.
Just now I’m passing into the Central Time Zone. It’s 9pm and it’s dark as pitch out there. The clouds are thick with snow, so the stars are hidden from view. I hope on the third day I can see some stars. I hear by some passengers it is to be sunny all day tomorrow. Here’s hoping so.
River of steel,
Deliver me to my new future.
Tears of happiness,
Finally let go false bondage.
Flowing down stream,
Leaving all past pain behind.
Sights never before seen,
Give inspiration to my mind.
Like the rhythm of the heart.
Vast skies of blue and white,
Open my eyes to life’s delight.
Blankets of cotton white snow,
Meet evening gray silk skies.
Haunting silvery white half moon,
Watching silently as the train passes by.
Train horn echos forth,
Does the vast plains hear the haunting sound?
Day 3: March 22, 2013 – Friday
I might have done a little better at sleeping last night, but still woke up off and on by the sound of the train and rocking movements. Apparently I’m not used to sleeping on trains yet. I thought for sure I would be able to sleep better last night.
Continental breakfast with oatmeal, strawberries and Greek yogurt and two glasses of orange juice. I didn’t eat the yogurt. I didn’t like Yoplay’s style of it. Those strawberries on the train are the tastiest I’ve ever had in a long time. Washington strawberries, that come from California, taste bitter and don’t have that real strawberry flavor.
I packed my belongs early as it is dangerous in Chicago like never before. I’ll be in the station the whole time waiting for my next train. Our car steward said we would arrive in Chicago by 4pm. This will give me just two hours to wait for my next train to Washington, DC. It is 8:48am and we are on our way now. It is snow all over the place here in Minnesota, Minneapolis. One of the fun things seeing the snow in the day time is figuring out the animal tracks. Deer and rabbit is what I can find so far. Deer are not afraid in this area, that’s for sure.
Even though I’m on a train for the first time and we go through many train stations and railways, I do not count the cars that go by right next to me. Family and friends who know me best know that when a train goes by while I’m in a automobile or walking down the street, I will stop and count the cars. I’ll count the engines separately and the cars all together. I’ve done this act since I was very little. Don’t know why I do it, I just do and it’s cute and fun. However, being on a train and seeing other trains go by, it’s not as cute to count the cars so close to me.
For the last two minutes I recorded some of the Mississippi River. You don’t know how large it is by automobile until you see it by train. Yes, nothing compares to traveling down river by steam boat, but to me this train trip is very special to me. Sights I had not seen since I was a little, little girl. Rebuilding old memories to make my own is a treat and a good strengthening excise for the mind and happiness for the soul. Half the river is frozen with ice at varying thicknesses. I thought maybe there could be some animal tracks, but the deer in this area are smart. They don’t dare venture onto the ice. There are deer tracks next to the rail tracks. How cool is that? Oh, even some coyote tracks and rabbit.
For some strange reason, the music of Enya goes very well with train rides. Something about her music that just mixes with the energy and movement of the train and scenery going by. The song, “Trains and Winter Rains” fits perfectly. I can see this song being used as a soundtrack to an Amtrak commercial in the future. Traveling by train is the best way to go. Not enough people realize how easy it is to travel by train to and from work. There is one man at today’s breakfast that he works as a construction protection consultant. He lives in Minneapolis, but works in North Dakota. He would rent a car in Minneapolis, take the train to work and rent another car. He would do this three days out of the week. I don’t remember how much car gas he said he saves, but the main perk is ‘sleeping while someone else drives’. I found that amusing. I’m glancing over ever so often and I see many, many tracks of deer. Hunting must be really good. I see grouse and pheasant tracks, too.
Dreaming for years to live on the East Coast, I thought I would drive myself. A road trip to a whole new beginning. Little did I realize that dreams aren’t what they seem to be. You may dream one process to get there, but then the Universe shows you another way. The train was one of those ‘other paths’ that never crossed my mind for the past three years. I didn’t realize I waited for another route. This blessed surprise by train, that my ex-husband paid for, is a wonderful treat for the senses. You get to see things you never thought you could passing you by on smooth, sometimes bumpy track. Leaving the driving to someone else is very nice indeed. It gives me time to reflect on my future. Not my past. My past was left behind on tracks of the West Coast. Fallen away like sheds of darkened; hurt soul fragments. Breaking free from a dark shell that no longer has purpose. I feel the ‘steel river’ below my feet delivering me to my future as my new wings of my inner self build up strength for the days and years ahead.
Lunch was very good. I had the Penini Pasta with meatballs and a salad. The three other passengers this time were different and had lots to say. The middle aged couple in front of me, her and her husband of three years are heading to Chicago to see an opera. The gentleman has been retired for many years now. His wife works at Angie’s Gluten free product company. She helps distribute new products to new locations. The beginning of Angie’s got started with their ill son who could not eat any gluten foods. She had made a kettle corn popcorn for her son that helped him digest his food better and become healthier. The product went so well that she then made a business out of it. Angie’s products are making their way to the west coast at this time. I gave the woman as much information as I could remember of gluten free stores and other grocery stores that would take the products. If I remember correctly, Angie’s products are already in some Fred Meyer stores.
The young man next to me is heading to Washington, DC for school, I think it was. He boarded the train in North Dakota. For the life of me I can not remember what line of work he does. I’m so sorry. He will be taking the same train into Washington, DC as I am. Maybe I should hang out with him in the station while we wait for our train in case there is trouble. Soon after the conversation repeated with more gluten free products. I mentioned my favorite bread – Dave’s Killer Bread. Praised the 21 Grain the most and wrote the website down for her to check out later. Next time I take a train I’ll be sure to keep a pocket sized note book of paper on hand.
Our train was late to Chicago by an hour due to signals not working properly in Minneapolis. Once that got figured out, we headed out. The conductor called out over the intercom that the train would be kept in the station until all Seattle passengers were on board the Capital Limited. All ten passengers, including myself, had to hoof it really fast down to the end of the station. Union station sure is large, but I only got to see the interior of the trains themselves, not the interior of the station itself from the inside. Oh well, I wanted to get on that train as quickly as possible and so did everyone else.
Dinner on the Capital Limited was the best dinner I’ve had on Amtrak. You want to know why? Sure you do. They were serving my favorite sea food – crab. Maryland Crab Cakes with green and white beans and rice and salad with roll. I love crab cakes. When I heard my car steward mention the crab, my ears perked up. The passengers next to me started to giggle at my expression and inquired about the crab in Washington state. I promptly wrote down my crab and salmon patty recipe and gave it to the man’s wife who he said was the chief in the household. I hope she likes them as much as I loved cooking and eating them back in Washington. I do intend to make those crab and salmon patties at my friend’s house as soon as the funds let us be able to.
My dinning buddies for tonight were a middle aged woman and her 9th grade son. He played flute at one time, but gave up as he was being teased. However, he picked up trumpet and liked it very much, but did not practice in the house as it was too loud. I can understand that. He also played piano and is still playing today. He’s getting a head start in physics to help with his math skills and is excelling in his studies. I didn’t quite catch what his mother does for a living, sorry.
The elderly woman next to me had been traveling for decades on Amtrak. She happily told of her experiences as the years went by that the services and food got better and better over time. When I say, ‘she traveled everywhere’, I mean it. She’s got some millage under her belt for sure. Maybe she should write a book about all those decades on Amtrak.
Well, now I’m on my way to Washington, DC. I won’t arrive until mid afternoon. Then I will be taking the Northeast Regional to Penn Station in Maryland.
Day 4: March 23, 2013 – Saturday
I actually slept. How can I tell? I had a dream. I know I woke up at 3am to go to the bathroom, but fell back to sleep fast. I guess I got used to the movement and sound of the train finally. I was so comfortable, I nearly didn’t get out of bed for breakfast. I had corn beef hash, potatoes, and crusant. I ate mostly the corn beef hash which was the best I’ve ever had. That canned stuff is nasty compared to the train service of corn beef hash.
As for my breakfast buddies, three middle aged women. The woman on my left was visiting family in Washington, DC. The woman across from me near the window was doing the same, but then mentioned she lived in New Jersey once and expressed in fair detail the beauty of New Jersey of the back country, rolling hills and even a few mountains that not many people hear about. She expressed that ‘it’s the Garden State’ is a true thing by far. Then the conversation shifted to ‘what is your profession?’ the other woman across from me asked. I mentioned my novel ‘Soul’s Little Lie’ and told a little bit about it. The woman near the window said she too wrote a few books, but has a nice stack of rejection letters she has tacked on the her wall. She has not given up. The woman across from me is named Regine Thomas. She wrote a children’s book – ‘Mister Taxi Man Meets Irene’. Her book is about a young man who drives a taxi and one day picks up a young woman. He goes out to lunch with her and later discovers it is a young version of his deceased grandmother. The book is written into a rhyme about twelve pages long with her own illustrations inside and the cover.
Her book can be found on AuthorHouse.com and Amazon.com. She kept saying she’s having a hard time trying to sell it since she self published. Everyone in her town bought copies and loved it, but she can’t seem to understand why AuthorHouse isn’t doing good in sells for her. I then mentioned about Deviantart.com to help promote her book and art there and see about self publishing on Lulu.com. After a while Regine and I got an itch to write out all our info to each other at the table. Each woman got a copy of our novel, website and email information. Next time I’ll be sure to bring a host of business cards with me. Never leave home without one when going on a long trip. You never know who you’ll meet.
Throughout this whole train experience I have expressed by words all the people I have met while having meals. The goofy part is, I can’t seem to remember any of their first names, save for Regine. How peculiar that is. Next time I’ll be sure to bring out my digital recorder. Apparently, I have found a new hobby. Writing short story excerpts of travels going by. There is a market for such things or if there is not, I’ll make one. I’ll have to clean this ‘journal’ up to show to a publisher later. Somewhere amongst this note taking babble is a short story waiting to be noticed. In a why the whole seven pages is a short story, but in my prospective as much as I can remember. The details of the scenery outside the windows can be put in later. I have a good memory for such things.
You know, even though this journey by Amtrak train was during the early spring with many areas of the country still full of snow and the trees have yet to grow their leaves, I will have to take this trip again back to Washington state when it has become green all over. That trip is long ways off into the future. As for what I have seen, besides fifteen new; expressive and polite people, I saw a mother cow give birth to her cafe in the snow of Montana. Thousands of Canadian geese waiting out the snow storm across the Great Plains. Wild turkey, at least six hens, walking around in the early morning mist. A few white tailed does grazing in the early morning. Many, many snow tracks of coyote, deer, rabbit, pheasant and grouse. I even saw two dark crowned cranes in a field. Streams and rivers moving past my eyes in the framed window by my side. The Mighty Mississippi never before seen from such a view by train. What a sight to behold.
Fields of gold, reddish brown. Stones of brown-red and granite gray. Oak, ash, pine, apple, birch, aspen, and silver birch. Old growth forests with twisted, knotted trees that could tell stories past. Old farm houses kept in good order for prosperity of American history. Snow caped mountains with spring waters trying to thaw the snow around them. Waterfalls cascading down hill or mountain sides bring life to spring. I now understand, in a small manner, why I feel a pull to the east coast so much since I was a little girl. The country of the United States is old here. The west is young and too wild. Here on the east coast it is set in it’s ways with wisdom and old growth forests that give a pleasant haunting of the past. I feel at home on the east coast. I have family in Tennessee, but I feel home near the Atlantic Ocean.
My task at hand, once I settle down in Denton, Maryland with my long time friend, is to save every penny I earn in a job. Once I have a comfortable amount of funds, I will move my way up north to Massachusetts. That is where my heart and soul are waiting for me. A part of me stayed behind in the Northern Shore in that summer of 2010. I intend to retrieve that part of me so I can ‘come home’ to where I feel I belong. This journey has been in the making since 1986 when I moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee so long ago.
Crying out, “Mommy, I don’t want to leave! We shouldn’t leave here. I want to stay!” the little five year old Tara proclaimed with tears in her eyes. The house on Palmar Drive was my grandfather’s that he built at the early stages of the Rothwell Enterprises Construction Company. Alas, she had to leave for new pastures that her parents set out for since the economy in the 1980s was getting worse. It would not be for three decades later that her parents would say, “Dear Tara, you were right. We should have never left Tennessee,” her mother expressed after having moved back there in 2004.
Where we moved to was New Orleans, Louisiana. Daddy had gotten a job at a Nissan dealership being a certified mechanic. He was good at his job, so good that I had somehow inherited his internal knack for ‘listening to cars’ of what made them ill. However, early on in the three years we lived there, Daddy had become ill himself with two hernias and some contagious sickness. He was unable to care for the family of two kids and wife.
(**To Be Continued of possible novel**)