She had a ticket to ride

Oh fine, this blog is going to amuse my younger readers, for sure! People are so used to just booking everything by phone, or online nowadays, that the concept of this might just blow a few minds!

Back in the mid/late 70’s, after I’d started work for the first time, I also started taking holidays by myself for the first time, which was fun. Now, back in those days, when the railways over here were still government owned, it was possible to travel the whole country by train, under the auspices of one rail company all over the country. And back then, it was made even easier by the fact you could buy one ticket, called a rail rover, and for 7 glorious days, the rail network was your limit. I started off doing the regional Southern version, and planning trips that I could do in a day, and get back home again for the night.

But before long, all those remote, and intriguing lines further afield, in deepest Wales, Scotland and the like took my eye, but to do that, I’d need the national version, and I wouldnt be able to get home every night. So I did! The main thing that would amuse my readers now, was that you couldnt just book these hotels online, like you can now, you either had to pick up a phone (which wasnt as cheap back then) and call them, or, write a letter! And yes, I tended to do the latter.

So armed with a very bulky British Rail timetable, and an AA hotel guide, I’d plot out my routes, plot out where I wanted to stay, then write a pile of letters booking my hotels. In truth, it was very rare not to get my first choice, but as I was tending to book in the ‘less obvious’ places, that may have been why.

One place I set my eyes on, was a very winding, very lightly served line in the north of Scotland. Funnily enough, nowadays, its called the Far North line, and runs from Inverness to Thurso, and Wick. Back in those days, the train divided at a remote station called Georgemas Junction, and a couple of coaches ran to each terminal. Nowadays a single train serves both! The thing is, its a very long line, and there are only 3 or 4 trains a day during the week, so its not easy to do. Also, it takes forever to cover the full length of the line.

So I looked for an interim place to stay, somewhere different, somewhere a little quirky, and found it. The Forsinard hotel was very close by to the railway station, which was ideal, but apart from a few other residences, that was it! By the time I got there, being summer in the North of Scotland, it was quite late, but not yet dark. A meal, a room with a bed, and breakfast in the morning, before heading back to the station, taking a train to Thurso (as I hadnt been there, but had been to Wick), having about 40 minutes to dash through town, before getting the same train south all the way back to Inverness!

Anyway, for some reason best known to myself, I decided to have a look, and see how much they charged for a room nowadays, as it cant have been too expensive back then, as I was on a budget, of course. Sadly, its closed, closed about 4 years ago, as much as I can tell, presumably through lack of trade. I know, I was never likely to go back in truth, but the sad thought that I cant do so now, still gripped me. Of course, I suspect they didnt have many other residents the night I was there, but after 40 years, I dont remember.

But yes, its probably the most remote place I’ve ever spent a night, and probably always will be. But still a shame that I will never stay in Forsinard again, all the same.

(I have passed an equally remote hotel while in a train, the Izaak Walton Inn, in Montana, but sadly never stayed there)

Video. I cant believe I’ve never used this before, but the tags say I havent, so lets have some very early Carpenters tonight

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My first US National Park

Well, I think it is at least, dont remember doing any in ’87, but dont quote me on that, I’m assuming the Niagara Falls area (or White Mountains, NH) isnt one at least? On that trip, me and my partner took one train journey, at that time, my first outside UK and Ireland, from Boston to New York. Nothing terribly exciting there, in all honesty. The only reason we did it was because she didnt fancy driving into New York, and I never blamed her for that.

My first long distance experience of US rail travel, was a much longer journey, between Seattle and Philadelphia, with a change of trains in Chicago. I think the longest journey by train I’d ever done before, was London to Inverness (or reverse), and thats about 11 hours, or was back then. Now apparently the electric trains can do it in about 8 or 9, but those journeys were a long while back, when trains werent as powerful. Seattle to Chicago, about 44 hours on its own!

Doing it in January, as I was about to discover, only heightened the experience. Given the train leaves Seattle early evening, what happens is that you wake up in the Rockies, and yes, you’ve guessed it, in January, lots of snow! Thing is, trains still run on time, unlike over here when you get a few grains of the stuff lol! Where I woke up, was the Glacier National Park, and what a sight it was, I had never seen so much snow in real life, I guess it was several feet deep, but had no idea from the warmth of the train. But it looked an amazing sight, what little I saw of it, with astonished eyes.

Sorry, thats all I ever saw 0f it, what you could see from the train. So I probably missed a lot of good bits. What can be said is that Montana left its mark on me. Its called Big Sky Country for a good reason after all. But no, I’m not really likely to go back, lets just call it the public transit syndrome of being a non driver, and leave it at that! Its why that though I visit the US a lot, I’ve rarely seen much countryside in all that time, I do city trips for a good reason! There is also the snag that coach trips generally depart the cities early, and if you’re in an airport hotel for budget reasons…well, you get my drift!

That was one bonus last September, I got to see more of New England than just Boston, thanks to Kate, and so appreciated it was too. I suspect I will see more this September too, and looking forward to it. Next year I plan one day to take the coach to and from Buffalo, from Rochester, because the train timetable sucks for doing it that way around lol. I know, it will just be the Interstate probably, but at least I will see some country. I’m hoping to get to see some of Kansas next September, given that hotel rates in Wichita arent so high, so might be in town, and have more chance of coach trips around there?

But lets just say that for a Brit, for whom really cold weather was in the low 20’s F, to experience -25 F was quite something! Minot, North Dakota will always remain in my memories because of that. And yes, that was the mid afternoon temperature there! What the low was that night, I dont want to know lol!

I suppose one day I’d love to visit one of the Alaskan parks, but guess as I get older, its going to get harder for it to happen, especially as I’m cutting down on travelling beyond the mid west for the foreseeable future.

But yes, I will always remember Glacier National Park, and all that snow! The video, well, I dont think this was shot in January lol!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CglkZx5rrlM