Sunday, October 30, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been so busy!

When last I left you, I was in Philly. Tuesday morning was my last day. Sarah took me to one of the most unbelievable chocolate shops I've ever been in: Lores Chocolates. I was quite impressed with myself; I restrained myself pretty well. I have to admit, though, that part of that was due to luggage space. Ha! Sarah and I went to MilkBoy for brunch, and then it was off to the train station! I just have to say again that the Philly train station is remarkable.

Then I was off to Baltimore! I wasn't really staying in Baltimore, but it was the closest train station to Stewartstown, PA, where my friend, Angela, lives. Angela's hubby, Dan, works in Baltimore, so he picked me up and drove me home. Stewartstown is about 45 minutes from Baltimore, and is sort of out in the country. The fall colors were absolutely stunning!

Once I was in Stewartstown, I was so busy! Ange has two little girls: Ellie, who is 6, and Annalise, who is 3 (but almost 4!). I spent a lot of time reading books and playing school! Ange and I got in some games of Scrabble (which we played incessantly in college), and she beat me twice (which she always did in college).

Then, weather struck! Yesterday, Saturday, it began snowing in the morning and didn't let up until late at night. I don't know how many inches we got. We were supposed to get 6-10, and we were definitely in that range. In fact, when Ange drove me to the train station this morning, there were huge tree branches all around that had fallen from the weight of the snow. It was absolutely gorgeous, but...we lost power around 5 or 6 yesterday. It was nice and cozy until the house started getting really cold. Dan rigged up an inverter from the car (I have no idea what that is) to get the gas fireplace going and to plug in one lamp. Those were turned off when we all went to bed, and we dug down deep in our blankets.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't believe that the power was still out, but when I called today (Sunday), Ellie told me it was back up later this morning. Thank goodness!

Now I am back on the train and on my way to Charlotte, NC, to visit my roommate from Richmond, VA, right after college. Her name is Blair, and she has two little girls also. I haven't seen Blair in so long that I've never met the girls! I can't wait.

Pictures and more later.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Philly Pictures!

Pictures! But first, some confessions. I have a terrible time putting pictures in this blog. I can't figure out how to control picture placement, so these are in no particular order. Also, some of the text came out mysteriously blue and underlined. I have no idea why, and I can't figure out how to fix it.

Given those two things, enjoy! You can click on a picture to see it in a larger format.

Nothing to see here. Just me and the sculpted fountain people. Move along, folks. Move along.

I am trying to rebuild this amazing Lego bench that I really wish I had in my own home! Heave!

The famous sculpture in the City of Brotherly Love!

Do you read Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books? This is in Trenton. No Cluck-in-a-Buckets, but look! Cluck U Chicken! Ha ha ha ha ha! Also notice the awesome Jersey car with flames in the parking lot.

Of course I am a big library nerd, so here I am at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Sarah and I with the Liberty Bell!

Rocky has nothin' on us!

(Below) Holy crap! The Liberty Bell has a crack! Does anyone know about this?!

Just call me Stephanie Plum

I'm in Philly! I am having such a good time. I arrived in Philly, and let me tell you that train station is gorgeous. By far the most beautiful train station I've been in so far. Nice job, Philly. Sarah picked me up, and we headed back to her place.

Since then, I've been quite the tourist. After I arrived on Saturday, we went to see the Liberty Bell. It's quite the job to get in. We had to lift up our coats and twirl around (I guess to make sure I wasn't packing in the back of my pants, or strapped with bombs), and they search all of our bags. Luckily I was not branded a terrorist, so in we went. The Liberty Bell is very cool to see. I will have a picture, but I am currently in a Starbucks and forgot my camera cord. Sigh... This evening I'll have an entire blog post of pictures.

Sarah walked me around to see different neighborhoods. My favorite was Old City, and I have determined that if I ever moved here, I would live in Elfreth's Alley, which is the oldest, continually occupied residential street in the US.

On Sunday I got a great tour, with pictures to come. Occupy Philadelphia is camped outside City Hall. And props to them, since they are all camping on cement. The City Hall is gorgeous, by the way. I have been in Seattle for so long that I forgot how much I love old (relatively speaking -- "new" to Europeans, of course) buildings and history. We saw the famous "LOVE" sculpture. I stopped in at the Free Library of Philadelphia, the main branch downtown. As expected, it's a gorgeous building. I wasn't a huge fan of the children's department. It's an old branch, but I felt there was a lot more they could have done. But it was packed, and I was insanely jealous. The space was not particularly big, but they had FOUR staff people at the reference desk, and another one shelving. And they had their OWN SECURITY GUARD. Sigh...

We went on to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Again, the building was gorgeous, and even more amazing as we got closer. There was beautiful, detailed painting on the building that you can't see from a distance. And of course, at the bottom of the stairs, was a statue of Rocky. I hope it goes without saying that we took a picture. Behind the museum was the Fairmount Waterworks, a hydroelectric plant on the river, and a lovely park. Actually, I loved this historic center of Philly. It's sort of a massive park/mall surrounded by historic and/or old landmarks: the art museum, library, the Benjamin Franklin Institute, the science museum, the natural history museum, a gorgeous old cathedral, etc. It was very beautiful and fun.

On the way home, I saw the most hilarious thing. There was a couple standing on the sidewalk. I think they were waiting for something. Now I am not kidding about this: the woman was standing there squeezing her boyfriend's manboobs. Just standing there, squeezing away. Her boyfriend gave her an irritated look and stepped away. Then she says, all whiny, "Why are you mad at me?" Well, gee, I don't know? Maybe because you are out in public squeezing your boyfriend's manboobs?!?! You think? I thought he was actually very restrained. If I was him, I would have had a bit of a stronger reaction.

Then, of course, it being Sunday we went to a bar in Society Hill, which I also loved. It reminded me a lot of Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia, except a bit newer. The Steelers won (Go Stillers!).

Today, Monday, is a fantastic day. Sarah is Trenton, NJ! Those of you who read Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books can imagine the heaven I'm in. We were early, so we got to drive around. Most of Trenton is exactly like I imagined it. Of course, Sarah and I were looking for specific things, one of which was Cluck-in-a-Bucket. We didn't find it, but we DID find "Cluck U Chicken." I was just as happy with that. I took a picture, which will be posted later. I also noticed what seemed to be an awful lot of fire stations in a relatively small area, but Sarah reminded me that this IS the hometown of Stephanie Plum, so of course. Now I am sitting in a Starbucks, which isn't very Trenton-like (although this place is busy), so my dreams will probably not come true, but I am waiting to see a Grandma Mazur, Lula, or, in my beautiful, beautiful dreams, a Ranger. We did see a black SUV with tinted windows, and I choose to believe Ranger was in there, although I would have been happy with Tank, too. Later I'm going to take a walk to the Public Library, which is just a block or two away, so maybe I'll get lucky.

Okay, pictures later, but I'll let you know if I have a Sighting.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Pillow Fight of '95

What a difference being on time makes! I actually made it to the Pittsburgh train station on time and learned a number of things:

1) Another reason I love the train is that loved ones can go right up on the platform with you! In fact, remember how great it was when people could meet you at the gate at the airport? You can get that feeling on the train! In fact, I even saw someone with no ticket at all help a family member on to the train and then get back off once the family member was settled in. Right on the train! With no ticket!

2) Do you remember how I wondered how people know which car to get on, on the Capitol Limited since the cars weren't labeled? I found out! It turns out there are nice, helpful people stationed along the platform who ask you where you're going and direct you.

3) You get to choose your own seat! But the experience isn't all panicky like when you fly Southwest Airlines. Why? Because every seat is huge. Every seat has so much leg room that I (at 5'2") can only reach the seat in front of my by stretching out my tippy toes. And there are no middle seats. Basically, the only choice you have to make is aisle or window!

To make this train, I had to get up at 5am. Those of you who know me well know that such an hour is torture for me. Well, I'm learning each time I have to sleep in coach how to do it better. This was the second time. I brought earplugs, first of all. They made a huge difference. Luckily, the train wasn't full, so the seat next to me was empty, and I knew just how to set myself up to snooze! By the end of 30 days, I'm going to be a total pro.

Those of you who know me well also know that I am almost never cold. As I tried to go to sleep I was freezing cold. As a car attendant walked by, I asked if there were blankets and pillows available. Here was his awesome answer: "I'm sorry. We haven't had pillows and blankets since the Pillow Fight of '95. It took two days to clean that car." He was dead serious. Of course, I was immediately filled with questions: How did the pillow fight start? Did everyone join in? Was it violent? Did anyone get hurt? Anyway, I love that there is an event in history called "The Pillow Fight of '95."

As the car attendant walked away, he turned back with a twinkle in his eye and said, "The reason it's so cold is to get people buy more coffee and hot chocolate. It's a marketing ploy." Then he turned and walked away. What?! Was he kidding or serious? I have no idea. If it is true, it's mean and brilliant all at once.

Just a quick note, FYI. On the train, I ate my Double Trouble cupcake from the Oakmont Bakery. Oh, my heavens to Betsy. People, this may have been the best cupcake I've ever eaten in my life. It was a moist chocolate cupcake, infused with chocolate mousse, with a mound of chocolate mousse on top, covered in a chocolate shell. Holy Toledo.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Burgh

I am at the end of my four days in Pittsburgh already. Sigh... Allow me a small rant really quick. For those of you not familiar with Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is NOT "right next to" Philadelphia. It is a six-hour drive from Pittsburgh to Philly. The cultures are completely different, and they really have nothing to do with each other except for being in the same state. Got that? Pittsburgh. Philly. NOT the same city.

Anyway, right now it's gorgeous here. The fall leaves are fully on display. However, for every beautiful leaf, there also seems to be a construction cone. Good grief, there's a lot of road construction! Much more than in Seattle. It was a pain to get anywhere. I have never seen so much construction!

Some highlights of my trip include lunch at the Harmony Inn (it's haunted, Blythe!) in historic Harmony, PA. To anyone traveling through Western Pennsylvania, I strongly recommend visiting Harmony! My Dad and I went to see the movie "The Ides of March." It was fantastic, and really depressing (just FYI).

Today was a really fun and busy day. Through sheer chance, my Mom is in town for a wedding and to visit friends. I met up with her and family friends at the Chelsea Grille in Oakmont (Killy, look! Their home page has a squirrel on it!), which is just about the cutest town I've ever seen. It may also be the home of the most amazing bakery I've ever been to in my life: the cleverly named Oakmont Bakery. It may have been the hugest, most filled-with-baked-goods bakery I have ever seen. People, I could easily live there. And eat there. And live there.

This evening I met two high school friends, Kim and Chris, for dinner so we could catch up. Later this evening my Dad, his wife, Sue, and I all went to the 3rd Anniversary Party of the Bottlebrush Gallery, which is owned by my friend, Miranda. All of the art they sell is made by Pennsylvanian artists and craftspeople, and most of it is made in Western Pennsylvania. As usual, I bought way too much stuff. Please notice they have an online store!

My visit to Pittsburgh was very relaxing, but way too fast. Tomorrow already I leave for Philadelphia (yes, Philly, despite my above rant) to visit my friend, Sarah, who just moved there from Seattle (Kirkland, actually). Sarah is originally from Pgh and, in an interesting twist, the sister of the husband of the high school friends I had dinner with this evening. Did you follow that?

The oh-so-aptly-named Pennsylvanian leaves at the disgusting hour of 7:20am. Yuck.

Onward to the Burgh!

I didn't have a sleeping car to Pgh; I was in coach. Let me tell you, coach is lovely during the day. The seats are huge and are actually recliners with leg rests and all. The train provides pillows and each car has a water dispenser and cups. However, coach sucks overnight.

I got on the Capitol Limited so late that there were no dinner reservations left, so soon after leaving I headed down to the cafe to eat a little pizza. When I got back to my seat, I read a bit and then tried to sleep. The key here is "tried." Sleeping in coach was really hard. Even with the recliner sleep was impossible! We were told that the car attendants would wake us up when our stop was imminent, so we had to be in our seats at that time. After we were well on our way, I moved across the aisle to two empty seats. I set my cellphone alarm clock for 4:10am so I would be awake and back in my seat in time, and was able to fall asleep cuddled up in that pair of seats.

When I woke up, I had 20 minutes before my stop, so I went down to find a bathroom to freshen up. The bathrooms were amazing! They were huge, with a dressing room, toilet, sink with vanity. There was tons of room in there!

Despite leaving a half-hour early waiting for those of us transferring from the Empire Builder to the Capitol Limited, we were 20 minutes early to Pgh! In fact, my Dad was just arriving to pick me up, walking up the stairs to the platform, as I was going down the escalator.

On the way home, Dad and I stopped at Eat 'n' Park, a Western Pennsylvania restaurant that 'Burghers love. I don't know why it's special to us; it just is. After a delicious breakfast, we headed back to my Dad's place and we both went back to bed. My visit to Pittsburgh had begun!

Will we make it?!

When I woke up on the last day on the Empire Builder, we were still 2.5 hours behind. At this rate, I was going to arrive at the Chicago train station just when the Capitol Limited was to depart. Midday, the conductor got on the PA and announced that two groups of people heading north to different parts of Michigan would be taking buses instead of trains, because they'd be missing their connections. Then he ominously announced that he didn't know the status of the Capitol Limited, and would let us know.

That day at lunch I ate with two very interesting people. One is an author! I checked, and Seattle Public Library doesn't have his book, so I put in a purchase request. The reviews on Amazon were really good. His name is Peter Olsson, and he's a Doctor of Psychiatry. The book he talked most about was "Malignant Pied Pipers of Our Time."

After lunch, all of the Capitol Limited passengers were on pins and needles. I wouldn't have worried so much, but I did NOT want to ride a bus overnight from Chicago to Pittsburgh. Only a half-hour outside of Chicago, the conductor announced that...the Capitol Limited was being held! Yahoo! The minute we pulled into the station there were red caps waiting for us in their trolleys. I hopped on one, and I'm so glad I did. The red cap asked to see our tickets, and let us out at the appropriate car. I didn't see any signage at all, so I have no idea how I would have found the Pittsburgh car on my own. Others headed on to the South Bend, IN, car, or the Cleveland car.

Life. was. good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Still not a morning person, even for Glacier National Park

I realized that yesterday I didn't give as much context as I should have. As I wrote, I bought a 30-day Rail Pass from Amtrak. After leaving Seattle, I was taking the Empire Builder (I love Amtrak line names!) to Chicago, where I'd transfer to the Capitol Limited to Pittsburgh, my first destination.

So, before I went to bed in my awesome sleeper car Saturday night, Noelani, my sleeper car attendant, recommended I get up really early for breakfast so I could get a seat in the observation car as we went through Glacier National Park. I tried, I really did! I got up at 7:30am, went to breakfast (pancakes and bacon -- yum!), but I was so tired. So, so tired. So...I went back to bed. So long, Glacier National Park! Maybe next time.

That breakfast was also where I met one of the only cranky passengers. All he could do was whine and complain about Amtrak. Then you know what, Mr. Crankypants? Fly!

When I finally got up, I used the little shower. Let me tell you, that's an experience on a rocking train!

Then Noelani surprised me. There was a wine and cheese tasting that afternoon for sleeping car passengers! It was hilarious. Noelani was the hostess, and as she said, "It's less about tasting and more about drinking." Ha! After the "tasting," train employees asked trivia questions, and passengers who answered got a bottle of one of the wines. Eventually, passengers got to ask the questions. It got very riotous as the wine "tasting" went on.

That evening, things got interesting. I was sitting in my sleeping car when we stopped really hard, and there was no station. The conductor came on the PA saying that some idiot tried to cross the railroad tracks in front of the train. We had to put on the emergency brake. We didn't hit the person, but after an emergency stop, the train and the tracks need to be inspected because such a stop puts a lot of pressure on both train and tracks. Then, not a half hour later, we stop again. The conductor announces that yet another asshole tried to cross in front of the train ahead of us. Really?! So that train and those tracks had to be inspected. Finally, the conductor got on the phone and asked that people just be patient when a train is coming so things like this wouldn't happen. The silliest part was that these were only passenger trains! About 10 cars long! These weren't freight trains with 10,000 cars.

So here's a trivia question for you: What city in the United States has the most millionaires per capita? I bet you'll never guess...

...Williston, ND! No joke. I guess they have big oil up there. But who would have guessed? A town in ND, more than DC, more than Beverly Hills, more than Manhattan. Huh.

The result of all this stopping and starting was that we were running three hours behind when I went to bed that night. How did this bode for my connection in Chicago? Find out...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Chicken Debacle

This post is completely unrelated to my vacation, but I thought I'd share.

About a month ago, I was housesitting for some friends. One of my duties was to take care of the seven chickens. The first day I went over to the coop to refill the waterers. It was at this fledgling point that my brain apparently fell out of my head. I have no other way to explain it!

I simply left the coop door open. Yes, just left it open. I just did it. I have no explanation. So just take this as a given, and let's move on.

As I filled a waterer in the corner of the coop, I heard some excited clucking and turned around to see that all seven chickens had happily walked right on out. I have very little chicken experience, so I naively thought, "No problem. I'll just herd them back in." Those of you with chickens are probably laughing yourselves to death right now, but the fun has only just begun. Of course, I didn't herd the chickens back in. Pretty quickly, though, I managed to lure Chicken #1 back in with some corn. As she was busy eating, I left the door open and, after about 10 minutes, managed to chase Chicken #2 in. At this point, I slammed the door and realized that I could no longer keep it open, or we'd have a revolving door of chickens going in and out. Chicken #2 was the rooster, and this was when the games really began.

Once the rooster was in the coop, all the five outside chickens wanted was to get back in the coop. Seriously, that was their only goal in life. How can it be that the chickens and I had the same exact goal, and yet we couldn't accomplish it? I think that was the most frustrating part of the entire experience.

As I thought about all of my options, I decided I had a great idea. I'd go in, get a sheet, throw the sheet on the chickens, wrap them up, and toss them all back in the coop! In picture books, foxes never have a problem throwing a sack over a chicken and slinging it over his shoulder, so it should work! (By the way, in those books where the chicken outsmarts the fox? It would never happen.) I got my sheet, and also got the most dramatic reaction of this entire experience. I threw that sheet and everyone went batshit crazy. The chickens scattered like buckshot, and the rooster and chicken in the coop went nuts, flying into the ceiling and against the walls, and the noise was deafening. So...apparently not a good idea. A chicken-owning friend of mine told me later that her chickens go nuts when she just hangs the laundry out to dry. Sigh...

I regrouped and started chasing the chickens around and around and around the perimeter of the coop. They would head for the door as a group, but when I sprang ahead to open the door, they'd scatter. This idea failed multiple times.

I'd like to point out that this entire time, the other house pet, a little cat by the name of Layla Grace (who is all of three pounds fully grown) sat on a coop post watching me. I'm guessing she was laughing hysterically on the inside, but I can't know for sure because that would involve a cat showing emotion. What I do know is that she never left her source of entertainment, and she never helped.

Eventually I found a long stick. I chased the chickens around the coop to the door again, and tried to push the door open from afar with the stick. After several fails there, I managed to succeed, at which time Chicken #3 went in. Yes, folks, I was far away, the door was wide open, and only one chicken went inside. Mm-hm. As the chickens continually circled the coop, most of them tried to get into the coop by squeezing through the chicken wire. What this actually meant in real life is that their head made it through, and that was it. But if chickens have one trait, they are apparently tenacious. They would stick their heads in one hole after another, sure that the next one would work. It was while Chicken #4 had her head in the chicken wire that I snatched her up. I am very grateful that I didn't break her neck, but I did get a wing in the face for my trouble. I tossed her in.

I would like to highlight this chicken behavior: as the chickens came around, I would often open the door, either myself or with the stick. The chickens would walk right around the door and wistfully stare in from the hinge side. Their look said, "How will I ever get back to the harem and my man!" Their actions said, "I have half of a brain cell, and it's tired."

The coop was one big square, but one end had an additional enclosure that stuck out. This created an inward corner. I noticed that a lot of the chickens stopped in this corner. So I grabbed my trusty stick, and when one of the chickens stopped at this corner, I would leap from behind the addition, and bar them in the corner with my stick. I actually managed to catch both Chickens #5 and #6 in this way.

That left me vs. Chicken #7. By this time I was hot, sweaty, covered with feathers and hay and dirt, and I was dreaming of fried chicken, chicken teriyaki, chicken parmesan, chicken noodle soup, chicken and rice, and any other dish I could think of that involved chickens. These chickens, in particular. They are very lucky I don't cook. Anyway, I was angry and frustrated and lost my patience. I just flat-out tackled Chicken #7. Flew through the air like my true love, Troy Polamalu, and tackled that chicken.

People, this post is not that long, but this entire episode lasted TWO HOURS. I almost gave up so many times, and I now hate chickens with a passion. Is there any dumber creature on earth? I mean, there may be, but I'm skeptical.

I have to admit, though, that as I told chicken-owners this story, I got to feeling pretty good about catching seven chickens by myself. Apparently it isn't easy, even if you are familiar with chickens.

But chickens, if you are reading this, I hate you.

And so it begins...

With a trip to New Zealand not working out, but with a month of vacation on the books, I decided to buy a 30-day USA Rail Pass with Amtrak. Planning this thing was like planning...well, I don't know what, but something with a lot of logistics. The trickiest bit was working around the number of travel legs I was allotted: 12. Trust me, 12 is not a lot when it often takes multiple legs to get anywhere.

Saturday afternoon (10/15) my friends Taffy, Aaron and their two sons drove me to the Seattle King Street Station to embark on my big adventure! Issue Number 1: we were blocked by the big Occupy Wall Street protest parade downtown. I don't know how many people were involved, but as we watched them cross the street light change after light change, I swear it seemed like 10,000. Protestors, I completely back your cause, but seriously, tying up traffic downtown while you walk around is not going to win you any love. Could you please stay in one place? Or at least wait while the light changes? You nearly gave me a heart attack.

After some creative driving on Taffy's part, we made it to the train station where I promptly discovered Issue Number 2: I left my purse at home. My purse, with my non-replaceable 30-day Rail Pass, my ID, my wallet, my cash, and my phone. At this point, I nearly had a stroke on top of my heart attack. So Taffy and Aaron drove like NASCAR champs back to my place (while skillfully avoiding the protestors), grabbed my purse, and actually made it back in time for me to catch the train! Taffy even came in with me because I must have looked wild-eyed and crazy. I got my tickets, but it was too late to check baggage.

We ran down the platform to my car, and this is where things began to fall into place. My sleeping car attendant, Noelani, was the perfect person to meet me. She calmed me down while I was acting like a total spaz, put my luggage on board, I gave Taffy a hug, and Noelani walked me to my roomette (watch the little movie!).

At this point, I'd like to profusely thank the Gallagher-Zapf Family for saving me. I really, really hope Sterling didn't pee on you Saturday night. I really owe you, and will even take care of your chickens again, that's how much I owe you (more on that later). I love you guys!

Noelani, in some sort of ESP mind-reading, somehow knew I'd be in a panic, because she had set my roomette up with a bottle of champagne and chocolate. (If anyone from Amtrak is reading this, please give Noelani a raise.) I was utterly enchanted with my roomette. It was the cutest little thing! It had two big seats facing each other, a huge picture window, two little shelves, and a little folding table (and champagne and chocolate). As I finally began to calm down, the train left at exactly 4:40pm. Exactly. I know this because there was a big digital clock outside the window, and at the stroke of 4:40, we began moving. Impressive, Amtrak!

Soon after we left, one of the dining car attendants came by to take my dinner reservation. Oh, yes. My dinner reservation. Champagne, chocolate, my own roomette, and dinner reservations. I was beginning to feel just a little bit snooty!

Then I explored. On my floor there were four roomettes and two larger rooms. There were also three bathrooms and a shower/dressing room. The cool thing was that the bathrooms were all at the opposite end of the car, so I had easy access to the bathrooms, but didn't have to smell them or hear people going in and out! I went upstairs where there were a TON of rooms. I don't even know how many. I learned I actually access the dining car from upstairs, not downstairs.

When my dinner reservation came around, I went to the dining car. The dining car is communal dining. Each table has four seats, and they fill each table. The trend over the course of the ride was that I ate with a couple and another single person. Almost everyone was really nice (not you, Mr. Cranky Breakfast Guy), and it was interesting to discover the sort of connections I made. For example, the couple I had dinner with were in Seattle visiting their daughter, who just got her MLS but couldn't find a job. She moved to Seattle with AmeriCorps.

All meals were included in my sleeping car cost, and I was shocked by how good the food was! I won't bore you with every menu, but here's what I had the first dinner: side salad, grilled salmon, veggies, rice and rolls, with cheesecake for dessert. Who knew?

That evening, Noelani turned my roomette into its nighttime set-up. The two chairs slid down to make a bed, and the mattress was hidden up in the bunk bed. She brought the mattress down, already made up with sheets and blankets. It was really comfy! It took awhile to get used to sleeping on the train. I had left my window curtains open to see the night sky, but quickly realized we often passed really bright lights, so those ended up closed. The rocking and sound of the train were actually very soothing, but the stops and starts woke me at first. All in all, though, it was very nice.

And that was Day 1! More to come later.