14 July 2015

Santa Cruz and aquarium

We decided to head south today...a 45 minute drive to Santa Cruz and then on to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

When we got to Santa Cruz, nothing on the boardwalk was open, and we didn't want to do any of the rides anyway we just wanted to see it. We walked the length and looked out on the beach.

Then we headed on to Monterey and stopped at Monterey's Fish House for lunch. It looked like a dive from the outside...a remodeled Long John Silver's or something...but inside it had big windows, a stone fireplace and white tablecloths. It was a little pricey for lunch but we hadn't had seafood yet. We ordered oak grilled oysters as an appetizer then Al had a bowl of clam chowder and I had a house salad.

On to the aquarium! My Maps app got us in the neighborhood then we started looking for parking. The cheapest ramp/lot was $10. Some were $24 for 8 hours. We found an open meter on the street about 4 blocks from the aquarium and took it.  It was $1.50/hr with a max of 2 hours but we could pay with a credit card. We'd just have to come back and feed it again in a couple hours.

It was a fabulous aquarium in an awesome setting. It was also packed to the gills with people and little kids. There were so many people I started to feel a little claustrophobic. Many of the display areas were very dim and there were so many kids darting around and plastered to the panes it was really hard to see much. You just had to be patient and push in when there was an opening. If it was this bad on a week day, I hate to think what it's like on weekends.

We spent almost 2 hours on the first floor then hoofed it to the car to feed the meter. We were both flagging a little and stopped at a Starbucks on the way back to get coffee and tea. It helped!

Back at the aquarium, we went up to the 2nd floor, which had fewer exhibits than the first floor, and spent some time on the observation deck above that. There was an outdoor tidepool area where people can put on wetsuits and scuba gear to explore in the water with staff. The pool was only chest deep so the wetsuits and tanks seemed like overkill. Even if the water were cold (and it might be, I don't know), I'd think I'd rather use a snorkel than deal with the tanks.

We finished up the rest of the aquarium in a lot less than the 2 hours we had on the meter so we left the aquarium and strolled through the Cannery Row area between the aquarium and our car. It looks like it used to be a bunch of canning factories that have been converted to little shops, restaurants and the like.

We went into an Olive Bar, just because we didn't know what that was. It was mostly all kinds of olive oils and balsamic vinegars that you could taste and buy. So we tasted a number of them. Each one came in a mini keg sort of thing with tasting cups and/or small pieces of bread. If you found something you liked, they'd tap the keg and fill whatever size bottle you wanted. We got a medium bottle of a cara-cara vanilla white balsamic vinegar that was awesome.

There was still some time on the car when we got back but we were wiped. Traffic was ridiculous getting out of town but once we got to the highway it opened up and we made good time. The GPS took us back a different way than we came since we weren't going back via Santa Cruz.

Back home, we decided it was pizza night. We asked Linda about pizza places and she recommended a couple of her faves. We looked at their menus on line and decided we didn't want to pay that much for pizza so we went somewhere else...Fresh Pixx. It's kind of like a Subway or Quiznos model but for pizza. You order your toppings for a 10" pie, they slap it into a 500 degree oven and hand it to you 5 minutes later. We each got one and took them to go then ate them while watching Firefly.

13 July 2015

Big Basin Redwoods

For breakfast, I peeled and ate one of the cactus fruits I bought yesterday in Chinatown. The flesh was really red and full of small, hard seeds. It had the consistency of a soft kiwi, very juicy and kind of bland tasting. The seeds can either be spit out or swallowed but you could break a tooth if you tried to chew them. Al said it tasted like cucumber (which he doesn't like). I thought it was sweeter and fruitier than that but it's not a fave.

We had breakfast and then went to Lucky to get lunch for our day at Big Basin Redwoods. We got another super sub, a bag of pretzel twists and snack pack of hummus and pretzel chips. Back home, we cut the sandwich into quarters, packed our picnic lunch, then headed to Big Basin. It's a state park about 25 miles away but the road is so windy and slow that it takes about an hour to get there.

On arrival, we paid the park entrance fee and got a map as well as info on where a good picnic spot would be. We found a nice spot and started eating until we got swarmed by bees going after our food. We mostly ate walking around because they didn't bother us nearly so much that way.

After lunch we did the Redwood loop trail to see "lots of big redwoods". It was .6 miles and lovely. Then we asked about the shortest hike to a waterfall. We took the Sequoia trail to Semperlireus Falls, 1.7miles each way. It was also a lovely walk, although the waterfall was more of a trickle.

We walked back to our car and drove home, showered and reheated our leftovers from Fontana's for supper. After eating, we ended up sitting in the kitchen and chatting with Linda as she whipped up a pot of soup. Then we moved out to the garden where we sipped wine, chatted and watched the hummingbirds until dusk and mosquitoes drove us indoors. Then we sat in the living room and chatted until Linda needed to get organized for her workday tomorrow.

We retired to our room and watched and episode of Firefly while I knitted.

12 July 2015

San Francisco Sunday

We decided to head back tot he city today. We started an hour earlier than yesterday and, without the Alcatraz part, we should have plenty of time/energy to spend the day there.

We went to Millbrae and caught the train within a minute. We got off at Embarcadero and went in search of a restroom. They are remarkably hard to find. A lot of shops/restaurants don't have them (or do but only for customers). There are very few public ones and the ones that do exist tend to be way over-used (i.e. a disgusting mess) or have ridiculously long lines. Al found one of the former but was past the point of caring. I held out for the ones in the ferry building and it was one of the latter. I did eventually find one. It really does make you want to risk dehydration.

That taken care of, we went back toward the station because that's where the row of vendors was. Yesterday, Al had seen a vendor selling little bikes made out of wire and he wanted to find the booth. We did. It was right by the subway entrance. The guy also made mechanical puzzles. We wanted to get stuff but didn't want to carry it around all day. The guy said he'd be there until 5 or 6 so we told him we'd be back later.

We then consulted the map and headed toward Chinatown. I wanted to find unfamiliar fruits and we wanted lunch.

Just across the street from the wire bike guy was a place called Les Croissants...a place that sells Vietnamese sandwiches. We didn't know what a Vietnamese sandwich was so we decided to try it. We ordered one sandwich to split and figured we'd "graze" our way around, picking up a little of whatever caught our eye as we went. We got a steamed pork sandwich for $5, a tea and a 'ginger jack' cookie.

The sandwich was huge...half was plenty for each of us. It was on a nice crusty baguette with mayo, some shredded vegetable and a Vietnamese pickle. The steamed pork was not at all what I expected. It looked kind of like anemic Spam only less dense. Still, it was a tasty, satisfying sandwich.

The ginger jack was a very dense, chewy cookie. It looked like it had been baked in a very wide muffin pan. It was about 3-4 inches across and half an inch thick with a muffin paper. It was made from oats, flour, sugar, various seeds and candied/powdered ginger. I got it because it sounded interesting and I love ginger. It was just ok and not very gingery.

On to Chinatown!

We wandered through some shops and down some streets but didn't find any grocery type stores. All the people on street were either tourists like us or locals who didn't speak much English.

We went into a bakery and got a bag of mini almond cookies and a can of pop. On one street corner, a woman handed us a coupon for a dim sum restaurant and I asked her about a grocery...fruits, vegetables. She pointed up the street then to the right. So we headed that way. I had no idea how far up or right but that was the general direction we wanted to go anyway.

We called Dad while walking just to check in and were just finishing up with that when we hit the grocery district. At one store I bought a couple cactus fruits, a half-dozen rambutans and some other things that I didn't know what they were. A woman who bagged the stuff for me indicated that you eat them similarly to longans so I got them. Bing cherries were 99-cents/pound so I got some of those too.

We took all the bags to the back to be weighed and paid for. On the way back, we saw many, many bins filled with unrecognized things...no idea what most of it was. However in one bin right by the register did have recognizable contents...whole (and I mean WHOLE) plucked chickens. Just like the gag rubber chickens you see sometimes...head, feet, everything. They weren't wrapped or covered with anything, just piled in the cooler.

We left Chinatown and entered Little Italy. And there was no doubt about where the line is. The streets of Chinatown are cramped, crowded and an assault to the senses. In Little Italy, the streets were wider, there was more space around the buildings and things looked more modern and prosperous. We stopped in a coffee house to use the restroom and buy iced tea. We also ate some of the fruit we bought.

We continued on to the wax museum, Madam Tussauds. We'd seen a wax display when were last here but it was a different one. Al has some nostalgia for wax museums because he used to go to them with his mom, so we generally go wherever we find them. We bought tickets ($26 ea) which seemed steep but the displays were phenomenal. Far, far better than the ones we saw last time. The figures were incredible! We kept expecting them to move or speak.

After wandering through all the displays, we were whipped. We'd been standing or walking non-stop for hours with only a brief break while we ate our sandwiches or drank iced tea. We were due at the kids' for supper at 6:30 and wanted to shower and rest before then so we headed back via the Embarcadero to the station entrance where the wire bike vendor was. Al picked out a bike and I got several puzzles. Al gave him an extra $5 and told him he wasn't charging enough.

We waited about 2 minutes for our train and REALLY enjoyed the sit-down on the trip back.

At home, we chatted with Linda before she went off to a "mystery room" experience and we went to the kids'. Supper was spaghetti, salad and chocolate mousse. Then we watched some American Ninja and Battlebots for a while. Earlier, Al and Eric had been reminiscing about watching Battlebots when  Eric and Ryan were kids and Eric mentioned that it was back on. It was the lead in to a 'come for supper and Battlebots' evening. I'd never seen Battlebots before and it was sort of interesting but I was really impressed with American Ninja Warriors for the sheer athleticism.

We left around 10:15. Ashley had an early morning coming.

11 July 2015

Alcatraz day

The kids are picking us up at 10:30 for our trip to the city and Alcatraz. We drove to Millbrae to catch BART into the city. We bought our tickets and got right on a train for the 40 minute ride to the Embarcadero station.

When we got up to street level, we were in the middle of a craft fair with lots of vendor booths selling cool stuff...jewelry, pottery, art, etc. We didn't really have time to look at stuff though as we had a ferry to catch and wanted to get something to eat first. We had time but not extra.

We went to the ferry terminal building to use the restrooms but the place was packed so that we could hardly move and the restroom lines were really long. The men's line was shorter (of course) so Al waited in line but Ashley and I decided to try our luck elsewhere.

We left the ferry building and headed up the street toward Pier 33, where we needed to catch the ferry to Alcatraz. We got there with a little time to spare. Ashley and I found a restroom that was actually a big trailer backed into a warehouse building by the pier. It looked like it was run by the park service, based on the uniforms of the people tending it.

There was a hot dog stand set up by the ferry staging area so we picked up some dogs and drinks before getting on the ferry. We were some of the first people on the boat and went straight to the top level to find seats. It was a gorgeous, clear, sunny day and a perfect one to do Alcatraz!

We got off the ferry at the dock and walked up the hill to the cell block building. We picked up headsets for the audio tour and started in.

The audio tour was really well done. It was informative, interesting and timed perfectly so that you had history and general information as you walked between the displays. People were sometimes bunched up a bit around the displays but it generally flowed well as people were always a little out of sync, depending on when they started the audio.
Cell set up as it would be with a prisoner.

"The Great Escape" with fake head in the bed and vent enlarged for escape.

Seagull and chicks nesting on the island.

D Block cells with isolation cells at floor level
Inside an isolation cell. With the door closed, they're pitch black inside.
A little after 3, we caught a ferry back to SnF. We continued walking up the street to Pier 39 (apparently, they don't call it "Fisherman's Wharf" anymore) and ate at Wipe Out, a surf themed restaurant on the pier. By the time we were done eating, we were all a bit wiped out and decided to head back rather than wander around more. We still had the walk back to the train station, the 40 minute train ride to Millbrae and then 30 minutes or so by car back to Cupertino.

10 July 2015

Mt Diablo day

We were all up around 7 today. Linda was up early to pick up her car before work. I was chatting with her about her garden and asked what the huge, blue flowers were. Artichokes! If you don't pick the 'chokes, they become these big flowers. She said she'd left some so they'd bloom and attract bees.

She also has some hummingbird feeders hanging from the eaves of her house. We have occasionally heard their hum outside our bedroom window. They aren't like the ruby-throated ones we have at home...I think they're Allen's Hummingbirds.

We packed up a few things and headed for Mt Diablo State Park.

The climb up the mountain starts in a residential area. The switchbacks start after the houses end and you cross through a gate. There are some shear drops and no shoulder part of the way but it doesn't get really scary until you get up into the cloud layer and can't see more than 2-3 of the center line dashes. The road is 2-lane, without a shoulder much of the way and popular with bikers. So at any point you could come around a hairpin turn and find a bicyclist grinding his/her way up the mountain.

Over about 10 road miles, the climb is 3849 feet. Eventually, we got above the clouds and it wasn't so scary. We got to the parking lot at the visitor center and, quite thankfully, got out of the car. There were spots where the clouds thinned a bit and you could sort of see the valley below. Mostly, though, it was looking out over a vast plain of cloud.

The cloud line is right there at that corner

The visitor center and cloud plain
One of the turns below the cloud line

Peak of the visitor center

Hairpin turn

We went up to the observation platform and looked in all directions. Then we went into the visitor center where the actual summit is. They built the visitor center around it.
We;re standing on the actual summit.

We looked at the displays, including a gallery of artwork commissioned in the 30s as part of the public works projects. They were detailed botanical drawings of native plants and wildflowers.

By then, we were getting hungry and wishing we had packed a lunch to eat at any one of a number of picnicking spots we saw on the way up. Instead, we headed back down the mountain to look for lunch.

We found a little district of shops and restaurants and decided on Primo's Pizza/Pasta. We sat at a wrought iron table outside where we could look out over the area and people watch. After lunch we wandered a little and ended up at Sweet Street...a candy and gelatto shop across the street from the pizza place where we had lunch.

Then we got in the car and headed toward Livermore and the Concannon Winery. Concannon is one of the few brands of wine that we will buy by the case and always really like the wine tastings at our local wine club that feature their wines. At wine club, we heard about their state of the art facility with a fully solar powered production building and wanted to see it in person. We discovered that there are no tours on Friday. We wandered around outside on our own, we just couldn't go into the buildings. Ah, well...

We headed home and arrange supper with the kids. They picked Fontana's...an Italian place they knew. It was good! After that, we went home, walked Odie to get our dog fix, puttered a bit, then went to bed.

08 July 2015

Petaluma day

We decided that today was the day to go to Petaluma...where we stayed on our honeymoon 7 years ago. We headed to San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge then on north to Petaluma. It was a cloudy, misty day...good for driving.
Crossing the GGB, sailboat and Alcatraz through the bars

We parked along the main drag and started walking, looking for a place to have lunch. It was very nostalgic...that was how we selected most meals when we were there before. This time, we ended up at a Turkish restaurant that wasn't there before...mostly because neither of us had ever had Turkish food before.

We ordered a combo appetizer platter and then a sampler plate for the main course. We split both and it was PLENTY of food for us. It was also awesome.
Appetizer combo plate
The place was a little hole-in-the-wall, like we like, cozy, clean and nice inside, with a grape arbored patio outside. There appeared to be 3 employees...or maybe the owner and 2 employees (1 cook, 1 waitress). There was a sign out front advertising for help, so maybe it's new and growing. It must be authentic, too. I overheard a guy in the large group at the next table saying he was from Turkey and he spoke Turkish with the owner.
Patio at the Turkish restaurant
From the cover of the menus at the restaurant
After lunch, we got our jackets from the car and commenced a ramble around town. We walked past the cottage where we stayed on our honeymoon, then down toward the river and the old industrial area that has been converted to shops and restaurants. It looked like a prosperous area.
Hotel with field of lavender in front

The cottage where we spent our honeymoon
It had been misty and drippy all day but then it started to look like it was going to rain in earnest. We saw a sandwich board on a street corner advertising $1 coffee at Petaluma Coffee & Tea Co just up the street so we headed that way. Our timing was perfect because just as we sat with our hot beverages, it started pouring outside.

We sat there for a while...Al reading the NYTimes, I journaled and bought some tea. We mostly just relaxed and hung out until the rain let up. Then we walked back to the car, took a nostalgic drive down main street then headed back home.
Petaluma Coffee & Tea Co, waiting out the rain

We pulled off at Sausalito and parked on the Marin Headland side of the Golden Gate. We walked across the bridge (1.7 miles) and back again. It was overcast and breezy and made for a comfortable walk.

Stairway to under-the-bridge access to the other side, with bike ramp on the right
Us at the GGB!
 On the far side of the bridge we saw signs about the toll for the bridge...for which there are no toll booths. You have to pay electronically...either with a monthly pass thing or by credit card online. And of course there are penalties if they have to track you down. You only pay toll ($7.25) when entering the city...so we didn't owe toll for our drive across the bridge earlier today but would on the way home. We took down the number and decided we'd take care of that before we drove across.

We took care of that, crossed the bridge and headed back to Cupertino. We got caught in a traffic jam but otherwise made it back without incident. The evening was supper, a little wine and watching hummingbirds in the garden out back.
My hair on humidity. It's been 20+ years since I had long hair and I never knew it was wavy!

Getting acclimated

Our first full day in Cupertino, we had some mundane things to take care of. We needed to pick up our rental car, find a grocery store, have lunch, then meet the kids around 5 at Google for a campus tour and supper.

We talked a bit about it with Linda before she left for work and she said that we wouldn't be able to get a cab to go get our rental car...she suggested we use Uber. We'd never used Uber before...

First, I got registered and downloaded the app to my phone then I put in pick-up and drop-off info for a ride. From the time I started registration until the driver dropped us at the rental car place took 40 minutes. Sweet!

Unfortunately, when we got to the door of the rental car place, we saw the sign saying the location was closed and had moved to another location. We managed to catch the driver before he got out of the parking lot and he took us to the other location. Once we got there, it took longer to get the rental car squared away than it did to get the Uber ride.

We stopped at Lucky on the way back to Linda's and had breakfast with the stuff we bought there, even though it was almost noon by then. We hung out, read the paper, journaled, etc for a bit, then decided that if we were going to meet the kids for supper at 5, we should eat lunch sooner rather than later.

My Maps app said the Andes Cafe wasn't too far from where we were and it sounded like the kind of hole-in-the-wall sort of place we like, so we headed there.

Where Maps said it should be was nothing but houses. If one of them was actually a cafe, it didn't have a sign.

Maps said that Judy's Kitchen was in the next block so we thought we'd try that. We did find that one but it was Szechuan food (not what we thought with Judy's Kitchen would be) and not really what we were looking for.

Giardiano Chicago looked close. Maps directed us to a dead-end road in a residential area without a business in sight.

We ended up back at the Lucky to get sandwich parts and make our own. In their deli section, they had these pre-made giant subs that came with mayo and mustard packets for $6. The sub was big enough for us both to have 2 lunches and we wouldn't have to worry about having leftover bread or condiments when we left for home. That with some cookies made a good lunch!

After lunch we took a nap, watched some Netflix then left for the Google-plex. We were early so we wandered around some, met up with Ashley and waited for Eric to get off work. He checked us in, got us our visitor badges, and started our walking tour of the campus.

It's an amazing place! It's huge, for one thing. There are Google bikes (single speed, retro-type) strewn around. If you need to go to another building, you just hop on a bike and ride it there. When you're done with it, you just leave it wherever and someone else who needs it will take it somewhere else.
Yellow and green Google bikes are everywhere for employees to use. The tent behind the racks is for bike repairs...personal or Google.

There is a sport complex that includes basketball courts, football/soccer fields, an exercise circuit, a little mountain bike course with a jogging trail over the hills in the background. There is a gym with fitness classes and exercise equipment. There is a laundromat. There are multiple cafeterias. There was a constant stream of buses stopping at various places to pick up employees and take them toward home. There was even a guy whose job it was to call out each bus' destination. Each floor of the buildings has a break area stocked with chilled water bottles, coffee, espresso, juice, snacks, milk, tea, etc.  There are nap rooms.
Part of the sports complex.

All of it is free to employees.

Eric took us to one of the cafeterias for supper. There are no cash registers there. Employees can eat 3 meals a day, 7 days a week if they want...no charge. He could even bring us as guests for free, although there is a limit to how often an employee can do that.

We got there right at opening and there were huge lines at all the stations. The crowd was oppressive but well ordered. We all picked up whatever we wanted and took our trays outside to eat.

We chilled at home for the evening then called it a day.

07 July 2015

Train day 2 & CA arrival

I slept MUCH better last night. I figured out how to sleep "flatter" so that I didn't get jostled so much with the train's motion. Or maybe I was just exhausted from not sleeping the night before...

We crossed to Pacific time in the night so it was 6am when we woke and headed to breakfast. We sat with a couple of guys (Rick and Arnold) who got on in Albany, New York. Rick is originally from Australia and something of a train buff. Arnie was born in Florida, grew up in northern Ontario and been in NYC for the past 15 years.

Rick showed me how to track the train on my phone. I saw someone doing that yesterday and intended to figure that out but him showing me was a lot easier! Now I don't have to wonder where we are or what that highway is.
Our train is the gray circle in the upper right quadrant.

The 4 of us sat and chatted for a long time. We were really enjoying the company and scenery.

After breakfast, we got our cribbage board and went to the lounge car to play and watch Railroad TV out the window. We ended up sitting at a table with Barb and Jax. We all chatted while Jax drew maps, Barb cleaned pictures off her phone and we played cards.

At Reno, we got off the train to stretch our legs. The conductor refers to these as "fresh air" breaks but since there's no smoking on the train, all the smokers get off whenever they can to light up. The air around the platform is anything but fresh. We use them as "leg stretch" breaks. It's wonderful to be able to swing arms and take full-size strides for a change.There's an awful lot of sitting on a train ride...

When we got back on the train, I went to use a restroom in our car just as Craig announced that all the bathrooms in the car were non-functional and that they have people working on it. I went to the next car.

We stopped in Truckee, CA...which just begged for a limerick, so Al obliged:
     There once was a train stop called Truckee
     Where mallards would go to get lucky
          One drake always dates
          And frequently mates
     'Cause he is a really good ducky

Truckee reminds me a lot of Lanesboro, with all the quaint little shops and a lot of small-town Main St feel.
Truckee, CA

After lunch, we heard an announcement with the ETAs to Sacramento and Emeryville...both with connections to San Jose. There was a commuter train leaving Sacramento for San Jose within minutes of our train's arrival at Sacramento. We got to wondering if we could get on that train and get to San Jose a couple hours earlier than scheduled.

We went in search of someone who could tell us how that works. In the dining car, we talked to Craig, who suggested we ask the conductor. He gave us directions to the conductor (including going through the door that says "Staff only" on it). We laid out the situation for the conductor and he said he thought it should be fine, it didn't matter to Amtrak how we arrived at the destination, as long as we had tickets for that destination.

We went back to our room to discuss. It seemed both reasonable and odd. You certainly would never be able to just hop on a different plane to a destination... So we called Amtrak and talked with an agent who said, "I don't see why you couldn't do that." and "It should be ok." and other wishy-washy things.

What it boiled down to was, we couldn't confirm anything, we just had to try it and see if it worked. If it did, we'd get to San Jose 2 hours sooner. Worst case scenario, if we got off the train and couldn't just get on the other train, we could go to the ticket booth and get reticketed on the next train to San Jose, which is the one we would arrive on if we didn't do anything.

We decided to try it. We gathered our bags and got off the train in Sacramento. Craig told us to get on the people mover that was sitting there and it would take us to our train (sitting on the other tracks up ahead of our train). We did and the driver proceeded to dawdle along, trying to find a single passenger to fill out his car. All the while the train we wanted on was due to leave in 1 minute.

We finally (!) go up by the train and I called out, "Is that the 543 train?" The driver said it was and I said, "That's our train!" He said, "But it's leaving in 1 minute..." and I said, "We can make it!"

So he pulled up to an open door and told the attendant that there were 2 more for him. We pulled our bags off the cart and jumped on the train as it started rolling. We found coach seats upstairs and high-fived each other with whoops for making it. What a rush!

A while later, the conductor came down the aisle to check tickets. We showed him ours, he scanned them, and without batting an eye hung up the check papers over our seats.

We spent the trip watching Netflix and called the kids to let them know we'd be early. They picked us up, and drove to the Elephant Bar for supper, then to our AirBnB lodging where we met Linda (our hostess) and her beagle Odie.

06 July 2015


Woke up somewhere in eastern Colorado to flat scrub land and drizzle. It was not a restful night. The train would being going along peacefully then the car would jerk sideways or front/back and it was like someone shaking you awake. So I'd wake up, then go back to sleep. Lots.

We got dressed and went to the dining car for breakfast but there was a wait list so we got our number and went for a ramble up and down the train. We walked through the observation car and lounge and then a couple of the coach cars.The coach cars were warm and humid  and smelled of warm, humid humanity.

We went back to the lounge car and sat at a table watching Colorado roll by until our number was called over the PA system. We were seated with a couple from Switzerland. They flew from Switzerland to Chicago then got on the train to San Francisco to meet their son...a TV journalist in Los Angeles.

The people at the table across the aisle from us were from Denmark.

We sat for quite a while after breakfast because no more people needed tables and it's a nice view. When we got to the outskirts of Denver, we went back to our room.

There was a PA announcement about entering "tunnel country"...we'd be going through 40-some tunnels in the next several hours and climbing from 5280 ft (Denver) to over 9,000 feet. The day was still gray, foggy and rainy.

We went to the observation car but there weren't 2 seats together. We ended up at a table with a woman working on a computer. There were 3 Amish couples playing cards at the next tables. I don't know what they were playing. The cards weren't regular playing cards...they didn't have suits, just big numbers in different colors.

We headed for the dining car and lunch just as they made the announcement that lunch service was starting. When we got there, we got seated right away. We were seated with a couple from Sweden who got on in Chicago and were headed to San Francisco for a few days, then by train down to Los Angeles, then flying home. We had, by far, the best scenery of the trip so far. It had stopped raining and cleared off a bit so we could really see the valley and river canyon we were rolling through. We all were almost too busy ooooo-ing and aaaah-ing over the view and taking pictures to eat.

We lingered a bit over lunch because the scenery was so great and our room was on the wrong side of the train to see it. But since we were in the first seating, there were others waiting and we couldn't in good conscience stay too long.

We went back to our room, Al took a nap, then did some Sudokus, and I knitted.

Somewhere along the way, we'd crossed the Colorado River and it was now on our side of the train. I noticed that the river had actually turned red at some point. Kind of an oily-looking red, like it was floating on top of the water, not just red-dirt runoff mixed in to make it all red. A while later, it had cleared up and was its usual river color again.

Around Glenwood Canyon, we pulled over and stopped for about 20 minutes because of some work on the tracks. We started moving then stopped again later to let the #6 train (Zephyr eastbound) go by. That's the train we'll ride home next week.

Maybe it's only because we're going slower, but the ride seems much smoother now. At breakfast, we were constantly reaching for glasses to keep them from toppling over as the train swung and jerked. Now, it wasn't nearly so bad.

The dining car attendant came around later in the afternoon to get our dinner reservations. Breakfast and lunch were first-come-first-served but dinner is by reservation only. They start in the sleeper cars and work their way up to the coach cars and only take so many slots per time period. When the attendant gets to you, you have your pick of whatever's left. We got 6:00.

We had supper with Barbara and her 8 yr old grandson, Jaxon. Jax lives in Chicago and Barbara in San Francisco. She flew out to pick him up and they were riding the train together back to SnF where Jax's family would join them.

05 July 2015

California, here we come!

Karen and John picked us up at 5pm for dinner at the Iron Horse restaurant in Osceola before taking us to the train station. Our train was due to leave Osceola around 7:30 so we had plenty of time, even with the 45-minute drive.

By the time dinner was done, according to the tracker app on my phone, our train was going to be 16 minutes late. The train actually arrived at 9:08 and departed at 9:12pm. When they say to be out on the platform in your assigned position and ready to move, they aren't kidding!

Our car attendant, Craig, met us at the door and directed us to our roomette and told us that if we wanted dinner we needed to go directly to the dining car as they were about to close service for the evening. We'd just finished dinner a couple hours previously so we weren't hungry but, hey, it was included in the ticket so we went to check it out.

We sat with Dave, a veteran train traveler who gave us advice about train travel...specifically, tipping.

Craig made up our beds...the seats convert to the bottom bunk and the top bunk folds down from above...and we snuggled on the bottom bunk for a while, watching the occasional fireworks in the distance from small-town holiday celebrations and some lightning, followed by rain.

Arriving at the station in time for our departure.
Karen and John waiting with us at the station.
Waiting as the train rolled in. The group up there is for the coach section. We were standing with the sleeper section people.
Half of our roomette in the seat configuration with the upper bunk stowed.