Obviously, I love flying. I’ve loved the entire experience of it since I was a kid. When someone moans and groans about being stuck in a small seat in a metal tube for hours upon end, the thought of doing that actually makes me quite happy (this will be exemplified by my upcoming ATL
mileage run with no overnight stays in any of the cities). That being said, my love of rail travel is equal to my love of flight. There’s something to be said about going it old school…seeing the country from the steel roads which crisscross the nation like a spider web. I feel a connection to the past when I’m on a train. And as long as Amtrak keeps on chugging, I’ll keep on riding.
The purpose of this trip was to fill in two gaps in my personal Amtrak travels map: PDX
, and MSP
. So I decided might as well go for the whole route. I last took the Empire Builder in June 2008 out of SEA
in coach class. This time, I bought a Roomette, since the price was right, and since I was going for two full days/nights. For the flights, I chose Frontier ATL
, and then United back from ORD
, since they offer the latest departure of the day between the two cities. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking since there are a ton of them. Hope you enjoy.
This was my first time on a Frontier Airbus since I left the company in October, 2005. It was like getting to see an old friend again. I had seat 16A and the middle seat next to me would remain empty. I’d say the load was about 90...there were a good number of middle seats and some aisle seats left open. Pushback was on-time and we were airborne within ten minutes. I chose to nap on this one most of the way so no DirecTV for me. In flight service started about :30 after takeoff with a beverage service and a buy-on-board snack service. I just had an apple juice…figured I’d grab something quick in DIA on my connection. Pretty much non-descript flight for the most part until we approached DEN
which was seeing some awful conditions with rain and amazingly low visibility. I venture to say that our landing was right at or close to minimums. But, we made it, and as always on an Airbus, extremely smooth landing. Here are the pics from F9425.
This flight was totally full…not an open seat in the house. Push was on time and we were off the ground in just a few minutes following a typically long takeoff roll. It was very turbulent as we crossed the Rockies but it smoothed out considerably after that. Just a Diet Pepsi for me on this one and I spent most of the flight listening to my iPod. Approach into PDX
was spectacular and we were treated to an amazing view of Mt. Hood. I snagged a few pictures of it. We landed about :15 early due to lack of headwinds. Here are pics from the layover in DEN
and from this flight:
*** Portland, Oregon ***
I took the tri met light rail train from PDX
to Union Station in downtown Portland. There, I checked in at the Metropolitan Lounge (Amtrak’s lounge for sleeping car passengers), stored my bag, and picked up a map of the city. First stop on my tour of Portland was Voodoo Donuts, only about a 10/15 min walk from the station. I saw this place on the Food Network or Travel Channel…can’t remember which…and I said to myself “Oh yes, you need to go there”. The line to the place was out the door. The donuts were okay…ambiance was neat. Overall worth a visit. I then hopped on the light rail and made my way to Washington Park to ride the famous zoo train and to check out the zoo. I’ve always liked zoos, and this one didn’t disappoint. After the zoo, I caught the #63 bus to the Rose Gardens. Not all of the roses were in bloom yet, but you got a great view of the city from up there. Just a neat place to hang out. I had some time left after I checked out the Rose Garden and I was going to the Japanese Gardens but I noticed that if I went there, it would be pushing it a little too close as far as time goes for me to get all the way back to Union Station with some time to spare. So, I decided to check those out next time (apparently they are spectacular) and make my way back downtown. On the ride back I met a couple vacationing from Hawaii and we had a nice talk about the Pacific Northwest. After taking a few more pictures of the city I returned to Union Station by 3:45pm. Boarding for the train would begin at 4:20pm. Here are some pics from Portland...
Amtrak train #28 “Empire Builder”
Arr: 1555 (+2)
Superliner Sleeping car (Roomette)
They pre-boarded all of the Sleeping car passengers at 4:20pm. I had room #9 on the upper level. The Portland section of this train only operates with 4 passenger cars: 1 Sightseer Lounge, 2 Coaches, and 1 Sleeper. In Spokane, these four cars get added to the back of the 6-car train that starts in Seattle. So I was pretty happy because I’d be in the last car the entire way, which meant easy access to great views from the rear of the train. Of course, the last car is also the bumpiest, but I’ve been on so many trains I barely even notice anymore. Anyway, we departed on-time. After we left Vancouver the car attendant came around with our dinner choices. Since there’s no true dining car until after we leave Spokane, they offer free cold meal service to sleeper passengers, plus a complimentary bottle of champagne. I had the chicken option, and it was very good, overall. After I finished dinner I made my way to the Sightseer lounge as we began our trek through the Columbia River Gorge. The beauty of it I can’t really put into words, so I’ll let the pics do it for me.
I left the Lounge car about :30 before our stop in Pasco, and had the car attendant turn down my bed for the night. I was dog tired, and I figured I’d be ready for sleep after the fresh air break in Pasco. Indeed, once we departed Pasco, I lied down, and was probably sleeping within five minutes. It was nice and cool ion my room and the bed was comfortable. I set my alarm for 6:00am, which would give me time to shower and eat breakfast before we reached Glacier National Park. Here are pictures from day #1 on the rails…