Taking a ride on a big wheel, and other things

Right, and so to complete the posting from Seattle scene…

Thursday, I decided that the little toe on my left foot wasnt going to stop being an issue anytime soon, so decided that was the day to ride the full length of the Seattle Light Rail, up the other extension since I was previously here, the one up to the University of Washington. I have to say that the extension at this end of the route (to Angle Lake) has been an absolute boon, as its nearer than the Airport station to here, and walk-able. Well, in perfect health, maybe, but I survived. There is one killer (but thankfully short) uphill stretch on the walk from here to that station, which I wont be missing now!

Coming out of the University station, I rather expected to be on the edge of the University grounds. Ah well…What I was very close to, was Husky Stadium, the home of the University football team. Well, seemingly in these days of glorious sponsorship, its now called Alaska Airlines Field, but will always be Husky Stadium to me! I hobbled a short distance further, didnt find anything more than sports facilities, so gave up on that idea. When I got back to the station, I did find a map, and the grounds were relatively nearby, but decided I wasnt going to push my foot by setting out again, in a totally different direction. So, defeated, back into town, earlier than planned. So I headed for a landmark with memories for me, that I knew hadnt moved, the rail station. Wrong time of day to see the Empire Builder train, though I did see a goods train trundling through the station, heading south. One of these days I will do another long distance train journey, though whether it will be the repeat Empire Builder again, or more likely, Los Angeles to Chicago (via Kansas City, please note), I have no idea. In theory, I could do a ‘Clara Johnson’ and travel by train from Oklahoma City, via Texas, to Los Angeles, if timed right, but I wouldnt put good money on that one. Requires a change in Texas, a slightly shorter one than I suspect Clara did!

After that, I headed down to the front again, and ended up seeing the city from on high again, this time from a giant wheel, hence the title of the blog! The last time I did one of those was the London Eye, with my mother, and that would be about 25 years ago! This time, it wasnt just one turn around the wheel, but 6, but then again it was a lesser radius, which probably explained why! Blonde moment, I realized eventually that I’d only looked in 1 direction for about 5 turns, so turned to take in the other side, and that was when the wheel stopped at the bottom lol! Ah well…

Yesterday, day time at least, was relatively quiet. Went and did the holiday shopping for others, and also found myself a new (much needed) handbag, that certainly looks vintage, even if it clearly isnt! I also found a gorgeous dress in another store, very 30’s, but a bit pricey for me (about $60, plus tax, however much that might have been), and was only a medium size, so I talked myself out of it. Hindsight to that, I discovered I wasnt quite as impoverished as I thought I was, so I decided to go back today, and see if it actually fitted, or not, and probably buy if it did. But no, someone had already beaten me to it, not surprised, it was gorgeous. Macy’s did also have some nice period dresses, but with them you’re talking over $200 each, plus tax, so didnt even consider it, way beyond my purse!

Yesterday evening saw the return to Safeco Field, and the Mariners, this time, all went far more smoothly. I also have to thank Melissa for the Goody Bag (not that she will see this) that was provided too. Must be a lucky mascot, mind, as I saw them win twice! Hobbled back to the Light Rail station just in time for a train to pull in empty, and run back from there, to Angle Lake. Still got my commuting skills, got a seat, no idea how!

Today, beyond the failed shopping trip, was the farewell tour. I didnt go right down to the water today, its a steep route down, and more critically, up, as I discovered on Thursday, so settled for a seat at the top of the steps, and looked out over the water from there for a while. Then back to the Light Rail, the ride out of town, and for now at least, the final farewell. In theory, if nothing changes in my life, I’ll be back in 6 years time (my post retirement trip), as this place will be my stop off point to Alaska. In reality, the way my body is currently falling apart, I wouldnt put good money on being in strong enough health for that, even with breaks en route, but we will see. Thats one thing I have realized, west coast trips really are going to be a no go, very soon, if not already! There will be 1 more, even if I have to drag my shattered body to LA, it will happen at some point! But Seattle…?

Tomorrow, I fly back home, back to work on Wednesday, blessed with a bank holiday this week, which enables me to do it this way. Covering as Team leader again for that week, should be interesting, once I’ve caught up on work emails at least! 2 weekends from now, is Blackpool! Then, as far as I know, thats it until a few days away in Scotland in September, couldnt afford more at present, anyway! Especially as, maybe in November…? You’ll have to wait on that!

Right, video time. Big clue in the blog title, absolutely! Live performance, nearly 50 years old, now I really feel old!

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

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