USA trip: The Great Train Adventure

Last Friday I shared the highlights from watching my first live American baseball game in Seattle. Suzie is a big fan of train travel and we decided to travel together to the ACFW writing conference in Indianapolis on the train. The Amtrak Empire Builder train travels along the main northern train line from Seattle to Chicago. Our plan was to catch a connecting train in Chicago to Indianapolis. Below is a photo of the Empire Builder train at King Street Station, Seattle.

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Suzie and I shared a roomette. During the day we had two seats facing each other, with a fold up table between us. At night the seats converted into a lower bed and an overhead shelf was pulled down to create an upper bunk bed. The sleeper carriages have an attendant who looks after you, and all your meals are provided in the dining car.

Amtrak have recently announced their new Writer in Residency program. They are offering free trips for writers, and I can understand why many writers are interested in applying. Suzie and I spent most of our time on the train writing and brainstorming new book proposals while we enjoyed the scenery. I started brainstorming and outlining three new book proposals that I hope to sell to my publisher.

There is something inherently relaxing about train travel. I didn’t get a lot of writing done on my current work in progress (The Doctor’s Return, August 2014 release) despite having a deadline less than three months later. My problem (if you can call it a problem, lol) was that I was entranced by the view outside the window. I’m used to seeing gum trees in Australia. The Pacific North West, for example, was a big distraction with miles of fir trees in the gorgeous Cascade Mountains.

We spent two nights on the train. The sun set on our first night while we travelling in Washington toward Spokane. We travelled overnight through the northern part of Idaho and woke up in Montana. The photo below was taken from the train in Montana.

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The Canadian Rockies were on the far northern horizon as we continued our journey through Montana toward North Dakota. The Amtrak staff were super-helpful and the servers quickly learned how I like my English-style cups of hot tea with two percent milk instead of cream. I also tasted grits for the first time, courtesy of another passenger who shared our breakfast table. We met some interesting people during our meal times, and I was delighted to meet a group of Aussies who were travelling to Minnesota.

I’ve always wanted to see prairies, since I was a little girl who loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and the Little House on the Prairie tv series. We travelled through hundreds of miles of flat prairie and beautiful mountain scenery in Montana.

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The sun set in Montana on our second night and we woke in the morning in North Dakota, not far from Fargo. We were supposed to be in Minnesota by morning and stopping for 45 minutes in St. Paul. Suzie and I had arranged to meet our other writing critique partner, Stacy Monson, at St. Paul station. We ended up seeing Stacy for ten minutes on the train station platform. Those precious minutes were a highlight of my trip.

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I was thrilled to see the Mississippi River for the first time in Minnesota. At one stage we stopped beside the river for half an hour while we waited for a freight train to pass us. The stops along the river provided great photo opportunities and another distraction from writing.

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By lunch time on our second day in Minnesota, we knew for certain that we were going to miss our train connection in Chicago to Indianapolis. The Amtrak staff were helpful, and kept us updated on our options during the afternoon and early evening as we travelled into Wisconsin. The sun set before we reached Milwaukee and travelled along Lake Michigan to Chicago, Illinois.

Stop by next Friday to learn about our unexpected overnight stop in Chicago and impromptu road trip to Indianapolis.

USA trip: American Baseball

Last Friday I shared my Seattle highlights and visit to the Space Needle. I’ve always wanted to see a live American baseball game. I was thrilled when my friend Suzie Johnson told me that we’d be in Seattle on a baseball weekend. The Seattle Mariners are her team and they were playing an afternoon game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field.

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We visited the merchandise store and I purchased Seattle Mariners baseball caps to take home to the family. Since we had arrived early, we walked around the staduim and absorbed the atmosphere.

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The photo below was taken from the seating right next to the diamond.

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We had purchased seats in the cafe, which is different to what I’m used to back home at sporting venues. The seats came with a food voucher for lunch. We sat at a long bar style table right in front of the window. The photo below was taken during lunch while we watched the game.

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The Mariners ended up losing the game, but Suzie and I enjoyed a lovely day at the baseball despite the loss. The other thing I’ll always associate with baseball is dirty chips. I walked around the stadium and all I could smell was garlic. We have hot chips in Australia, usually seasoned with salt and occasionally with chicken salt. My kids like hot chips with tomato sauce (ketchup). Dirty chips are seasoned with garlic, chilli, parsley, parmesan and chopped pork belly. I couldn’t resist ordering a bowl, just to see if they tasted as good as they smelled!

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Stop by next Friday to read about another highlight from my USA trip…the great train adventure.

USA trip: Seattle

Last Friday I talked about visiting the Peace Arch in the Pacific North West. My USA trip continues to Seattle. Suzie Johnson and I travelled by train from Mount Vernon to Seattle. A scenic trip south along the picturesque Puget Sound.

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We arrived at King Street Station in Seattle. The interior of the main waiting room has been restored and I’ve included a picture below.

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We were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the Seattle Space Needle on a clear day with no rain or fog obscuring the views.

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The photo below has lines through the picture because I couldn’t bring myself to take photos with my iphone by holding it over the edge. I was surprised that we could stand outdoors and walk 360 degrees around the viewing platform without getting blown away by the wind. I had originally thought there were clouds on the horizon, to the right of the city skyline, until Suzie informed me I was looking at Mount Rainier.

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Seattle is a pretty city and we travelled by monorail to the Space Needle. Many of the streets we passed were tree lined and reminded me of Melbourne, Australia. The photo below was taken from outside the Space Needle.

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We enjoyed a lovely sunset from the rooftop of our Seattle hotel. Western sunsets over water always fascinate me because I’ve only ever lived on the eastern coast of Australia. In Canberra, where I live, the sun sets over the Brindabella mountain range.

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Our hotel was located across the road from Safeco Stadium.

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Next Friday I’m going to share one of the highlights of my stay in Seattle…American baseball.