Mason County News
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009 • Posted September 16, 2009

To Seattle and Back by Amtrak

Late in July of 82 my wife and I, together with David and Deryl Bishop, took an Amtrak trip from San Antonio to Seattle, to Chicago and back to San Antonio. Because of a shortage of planning time (David had to get back for planting) our plans for the trip were formulated in a hurry and we were advised that sleeping facilities from Los Angeles to Seattle would not be available to us.

Undaunted by the idea of having to sleep upright in a coach seat for one night we signed up for the trip and at eleven p.m. on July 28th we boarded Amtrak in San Antonio and headed west.

We were not bothered with beautiful scenery, interesting but not beautiful, until after leaving Texas behind and passing through New Mexico and Arizona. We did, however, encounter one exciting episode between Alpine and El Paso: a pregnant woman, about to have her baby on board the train, was able to postpone the event until we reached El Paso where the task of carrying her downstairs from an upper compartment and into a waiting ambulance was a sight to see. Nothing else eventful between El Paso and Los Angeles.

We left Los Angeles at 10:15 a.m. on July 30th and as we passed through the country around Santa Barbara we, David and I, decided that if we ever won a lottery we would come back and buy some of that beautiful country. Traveling on through California everything went well until late in the evening when it started getting cold in our coach. The conductor would not turn the heat on and we, with only summer clothes on, nearly froze while covering ourselves with newspapers.

The only thing that has disturbed us thus far is the thought of the scenery we missed seeing while traveling at night and while traveling through forests where we saw nothing except trees and wondered what was beyond them.

Upon arriving in Seattle we were met by our hosts Beth and Sidney Swenning (formerly of Melvin, Texas).

The following day we drove to Anacortes where we boarded the ferry which carried us to Sidney, British Columbia by way of the San Juan Islands. Leaving Sidney we drove to Victoria where the women insisted on dining at the famous Empress Hotel.

I could see the imaginary heel marks caused by protesting husbands being dragged into this “highfalutin” establishment. As I looked around at the people dining there I felt assured of the fact that without women’s never ending desire to emulate the high and mighty this place would go broke. I told myself that only men born with a silver spoon in their mouth would look forward to dining in such atmosphere.

After being “force fed” at the Empress we found the area around the hotel to be quite charming and made more beautiful by hanging baskets of petunias and companion flowers decorating the lampposts and buildings. The only thing I have seen in the states that can compare with that is the area around Lake Charlevoix in the state of Michigan.

From this area we drove to the Butchard Gardens which I believe without a doubt is the most gorgeous spot I have ever seen. Located in an excavation that was formerly an old stone quarry it provides flowers of unequalled beauty. This sight set me afire with the desire to go home and turn my entire yard into a similar scene.

NOTE: Much against my wife’s advice I tried to accomplish that feat and only after the preparation and care of some 25 flower beds did I come to the conclusion that she was right and that the Texas weather was not conducive to flower gardens. ( was fun trying.)

Back in Seattle the following day we crossed Lake Washington on the floating bridge; stopped to see the Snoqualmie (meaning Moon People) Falls which is 110 ft. higher than Niagara; stopped along the road to buy fresh raspberries, peaches and apricots; explored the dock area where ships and salmon go from Puget Sound into Lake Washington and viewed the city after dark from the top of the Needle (that tall observation tower built for Seattle’s World Fair).....and gad, what a beautiful sight!

The six of us ended the evening with dinner at the Palace of China, ordering the Ming Tree dinner for four and carried enough food home in DRAGON BAGS to feed the Swennings for days.

After having cottage cheese pancakes for breakfast we spent the third day browsing around Seattle until 4:30 in the afternoon when we boarded Amtrak for the trip to Chicago and thence back to San Antonio.

Nothing of any particular note occurred on the remainder of the trip except for my amazement at the Montana territory. Where I was expecting mountains and cattle I saw a thousand miles of wheat fields through Montana and North Dakota.

The only boring thing on the trip was the food in the dining car. The menus were the same every day of the trip. Had three choices each meal and we soon had no need for a menu for we had it memorized. (They say it is different now). However, after each meal the girls saved our plastic “silverware” and at the end of the trip they each had a service for 12 with which they planned to have an Amtrak party after reaching home.

All in all it was a pleasant trip....the Bishops are a wonderful couple to travel with and Deryl is one of those outgoing people who never sees a stranger, therefore she got acquainted with everyone she met on the train. David is fun and the luckiest fellow at cards I ever played with.....we didn’t lose a bridge game on the whole trip.

Another wonderful thing about Deryl was that if we ever needed anything, chances were good that she would have it in her shoulder bag which, by the way, was nearly as big as she.

After arriving back home on Aug. 7 th. we began reading about Amtrak train wrecks and all felt fortunate that we made that entire trip without a bobble.

P. S.

Twelve years later my wife still has her unused plastic “silverware” just in case someone would like to give an Amtrak party.

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