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Another 48hrs on the train

22 Apr 1400hrs: We had a 4hrs layover at Chicago Union station, that gave me the chance to do a walking cruise downtown Chicago and had lunch.

Bright and cheery gallery car.

Then we board the #7 Empire Builder. We are doing this ride from the originating station to the destination station… I think we are the only passengers that will be on it for the entire journey, not counting the crew of course. Even then, some crews get on/off at various points along the way too.

I would love to own acreage with flat grassy farming soil and a cliff on the back.

On the Empire Builder, cabins are exactly like our last train, but there is a gallery and lounge car that is such a treat. I guess it doesn’t make good sense to have a gallery car on a overnight train like the #49. Whereas the Empire Builder is going cross country and in daylight everyone would want to hang out and mingle. Again, I am happy that the ridership is about 30%, such that the gallery and dining car were never so full up.

Heading into the cascades.

I am a happy patron of the lounge, no queue, and my beer is nicely chilled. Its surely double what I pay for at the supermarket, but its about the same when I buy it from a pub. So nah, I dun have a problem with buying 2 bottles a day for 2 days. Poor attendant was not getting enuf customers nor tips to make his trip worthwhile, and train passengers are not really the generous tipping kind… sigh… guess why the grumpy lounge attendant was happy to see me? 🙂

Our view from the dining car. A moment of peace as we finish our last bites.

Oh yes, I must say that I am very happy that we have our own kettle, especially on this longer leg where we are stuck on board for 48hrs. We certainly saved money from not buying lousy coffee or cup noodles (chicken flavored only!) from the lounge car. We brought our own coffee mixes, tea bags, cocoa, instant cereal and “hot and spicy shrimp” cuppa noodles 🙂 … I have 1 each morning 🙂 Also on the Empire Builder, cabins have a drinking water spigot and small disposable cups that were very handy. So its less yucky to have to get water for the kettle than from u know where.

23 Apr: We spend all day on the train passing thru flat farming lands as far as the eyes can see, stopping at little towns with train stops where some passengers get on/off or just a cig break. I am happy that we had AT&T network connection most everywhere so I kept up with my little people games on my iPad 🙂

Was difficult to get a good picture in a moving train.

Altho the seats are not as comfortable as beds, it seems we slept quite well and frequently doze off during the day too. I think we are definitely getting 8hrs each day… if not 10 🙂 . The train does rock a fair bit, making it hard to write a diary or draw a house plan, but I manage to do a little work on the computer while at the lounge car. Reading is really quite popular…socializing otherwise, only few people are playing phone games.

Morning in the Cascades.

By 1700hrs, the terrain changed from rolling farming plains interlaced with lakes and rivers to one that is woody and rocky. Seeing the Cascades in the distance with the setting sun in the back is a treat.

Getting a 1800hrs dinner car reservation for us, having a great steak (for me) and salad (for Doug), as we enter the Cascades was the highlight of this ride. Our experience was only slightly marred by the mother and kid that we shared our table with, and other diners near us who ruined my expectation that dining passengers are well heeled high society types…. I guess not on this trip… Well, I was thankful that most diners ate their small meals and left quickly, leaving us (the last 2) to eat up our expensive bigger meal in peace.

Kings Street station in downtown Seattle.

24th April 0700hrs: By now, we have changed time zone for the 2nd time. Morning in the Cascades was beautiful and we are in good spirits nearing the end of our long journey. I mean we go on long journeys all the time, but we are always in the driver seat and its just us in Calliste, or us just in Fordie as we drove east last fall. Sure, we cant wait to step off the train and be in control of our immediate environment again.

My daisies! Planted last summer, survived winter without me.

I am more of the veteran passenger than Doug as I have had been on cruising, flying and train riding vacations in so many countries from childhood…. so I did learn to make the most out of each riding experience. In many ways those things that I pick up makes my next journey more comfortable and interesting, mostly with regard to timing when to do what kind of things when bound in a cabin with other people 🙂

1000hrs: We arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule, in downtown Seattle. Got our checked in bags, they arrived unscathed 🙂 . Leaving Doug to watch our bags at the station, I walked 1 mile, guided by my trusty phone and Google, to Budget car rental.

Got the car that I prepaid for and got Doug and our bags before noon. Back on our home run route, stopped at Walmart to restock the cabin. We are home by 4pm, unloaded the car, and with still a good amount of daylight and energy left, we walked the grounds and smell the flowers 🙂 . Oh cabin, we’re home!



65hrs train ride (part 1)

Yup we must be going somewhere 🙂 … slowly

Just us and few others.

Its spring, time to head back to Port Townsend to check on my cabin… and to get summer projects rolling for Doug. Yeah sure we could choose to fly, but with all that luggage that Doug is bringing, taking the train is cheaper and less security hassles. Plus we get to see all that scenery and feel touristy for a change.

Flying feels rushed… there is a very business feel to it…

Arriving at Chicago. So many tracks.

Where taking the slow train seems kinda fun and relaxing to me …. maybe its the novelty, maybe its the wide seats and huge leg room and less than 25% ridership vs 100% on most flights…

Remember seeing this place on the big screen?

21 Apr 1800hrs: A great friend came to transfer us from our apartment in Malta to Schenectady. Car ride 40 mins. Its nice that there is no check in 2hrs early requirement :)… so in fact we were there way too early … yeah, but we didn’t want to be held up by rush hour traffic and miss the train, so it worked out.

Looks that maintenance is a daily chore around here

Me! At Union Station, Chicago, IL.

21 Apr 1930hrs: We start off with #49 Lake Shore Limited from Schenectady, NY bound Chicago, IL. 15hrs overnight train ride, not much to see, but we are just excited to be on our way home. Our mood was light and happy as we settle down into our seats and ate the dinner that we prepared back in the apartment. We brought a travel kettle and instant hot beverage packs so we could have a steaming hot beverage anytime and right at our seat … not to mention we save $2 for each cuppa that we don’t buy from the lounge car :). Yes, we got the water on board… from the bathroom…. yikes? Yep, that’s how I felt about it, but Doug was unfazed.

This almost could be Singapore River.

After hours of eating and talking, we laid our seats fully back and pulled out the foot rest to seat height. To be stuck for such a long journey in a seat, the chair must be a lot more comfy than a plane, otherwise who would put up with it?

I like that globe at the foot of that tower. Wonder what is the significance.

Then I notice the more veteran train riders brought their large swooshy pillows. The real thing, not the travel type. That and a travel fleece blanket made so much sense. I guess on our next trip, we’ll have a few tricks of our own…. nevertheless, I slept most of the night away and maybe was just a little sore in the morning. Doug did pretty well too.

River taxi going by.

Thru the night, the train made quite a few stops. Passengers came and went. Nobody, we learned, was going our distance …. 🙂

Chinese not open.

22 Apr 1015hrs: Arrived at Chicago on schedule. Our next train is 4 hours away…. its so nice to have unlimited mobile data and not lose network throughout this trip, maybe we did but I wasn’t constantly needing data, anyway pre arrival, I google mapped Chicago Union Station surroundings, wondering where can I go to get us some good bites for the next longer leg. Only then did I realize that the station is right downtown in Chicago! How convenient. Unlike airports which is always bus rides away.

Japanese not opened too!

Doug prefers to sit with the bags in the lounge while I go check out the city. We both like this arrangement 🙂 … except that he warns me about the gangs that are everywhere in Chicago, especially in Chinatown … well we just have to trust my guardian angel when I am out there walking myself 🙂

Robinsons it is!

So there I went, checking out the historic Union Station, then walking towards the riverfront, crossing the little bridge into downtown Chicago. Its a Saturday, not many people around… tall building line the river… a river taxi goes by… felt just like Singapore on a Saturday.

Surprisingly real and tasty food.

Oh NO! Just like Singapore, food places that I was so looking forward too were not opened, because its a weekend!

Drats, just have to get whats in Union Station. Well, there is a food court with the usual suspects… then I saw this Mom n Pop shoppe that I just must try because its not everywhere and everyday that I see honest real people behind the counter. And for $8 it was honest real food. Simple and yet very tasty!

1 hour walk, 1 hour to eat, 1 hour to find the boarding platform to #7 the Empire Builder. Time pass quickly, but it was enough time for me in Chicago on a Saturday…


Last snow storm for the year?

Hello beautiful.

Just when we start to get 65’F weather and I was thinking the worst is over… I returned Fordie to the leasing co and got ourselves a cute little VW Golf …. we get slammed again. 12 – 18″ of snow fell and was blown around by huge winds that is prevalent this time of year. Meaning that snow that would normally settle on roof top are blown around and settles on ground finally, making it 18″ at least everywhere.

Good looking butt.

Only days before the storm, was a clear sunny weekend when I had all that energy to cut out a full suit of “decal armor” for the little redsy. A tad too much contrast, IMO… I didn’t have a good supply of light grey, so I used white against my better judgement.

The works!

It was a state of emergency and we are advised to not go anywhere unless it was in a snow plow or emergency response vehicle. Look, less traffic, less accidents, less need for emergency responders and snow plows work more effectively. So yes we are not going anywhere in Fordie in these conditions, and much less in this lightweight little scoot of a car…. we haven’t settle on a name for this little reddy… nothing we think of seems to suit him/her… yes, we are not sure about that too…

Yikes, snow banks taller than me.

Since the forecast sounded really bad, the kind of storm that gobbles up little cars… I move our new little red car into the garage, something I vow to never do after I broke the back window of the Fordie doing so 3 months back. This time, I had help from Doug… phew… Only inches to spare in the front and back.

Banks of snow everywhere in the hood.

Ok, we out lasted the 36 hours storm. We were snug, cozy, warm, well fed from foods that we stacked in the fridgy, little reddy is in a heated garage, what more comfort can we ask for 🙂 . No wonder people in affluent societies get fat in winter…

And look! Right in front of the garage door is where the plows deposited the snow from the cul de sac… Little redsy would have been buried in 18″ of snow and then crushed by 8′ snow bank. Lucky girl (I guess that’s pretty much decided after all that flowers eh?), and lucky us, we don’t have to dig her out … phew.


Too much snow

Beginning of winter. Light covering of snow.

Just settling down into our now furnished and comfy apartment… and it began to snow. It was fun at 1st, playing in the slowly falling drizzle in about 30’F…

Star cracks on frozen pond.

Took a walk through the private reserve on Steeplechase property. Nice little park with benches, streams and pond.

Notice these star shaped cracky patterns on the frozen pond and wondered about them. We deduce that some residents came walking and threw pebbles on the water just as it was a thin freeze. Now even the cracks are frozen over solid. I threw pebbles and they just skid over the ice. Too late to make my own star.

Nice solid bridge.

Cross over on that very solid timber bridge to St Ledgers Woods, a adjacent private community that shares this private reserve. Steeplechase is in the background in this picture, somewhere in that cluster is our rental.

Clear day after snow storm.

Weeks later, light flaky snow became more like the blizzard variety. Lots of wind, driving snow and wind chill … less fun, but still in the low 30s… Still manage to drive Fordie to Lowes and bought some 2x4s, but look at the snow piles.

Every property must have and run their snow plows so that the residents can go to work/shopping/emergency… and every mall must do the same so that customers can get there. And the city plowers clears the major roads constantly. Seems like a pretty fine tuned operation. We decided to call this snow management 🙂 … Interesting to watch all that work to make it possible for people to continue with daily living despite weather…

I build this snow man village.

Then it stopped snowing and sun was coming thru in the shorter daylight hours…. The irony is clear sunny days are also the coldest days… typically less than 10’F. Scarves and mittens are needed to walk 1/2 mile from the parked car to the office building.

Me and my creations.

Well, get over it! And enjoy our time here in upstate NY while it last…. I think that to myself, hoping that it will make me feel better …  So lets put on more layers and go play in the snow 🙂 …

Indulge and built a whole snowman village… that was fun.

Yup, we definitedly have no plans to make this one of our basecamps.



Setting up a rental in upstate NY

Thats my corner. All those windows above the 3 garages are my new space.

Thats my corner. All those windows above the 3 garages are part of my new space.

We will be in NY for a while… few years I think. Immediately, we need a place to stay. Being new to the area, and not really committed to being here for long, we look to rent and not to buy.

Moving in today. Nothing to put my stuff on.

Moving in today. Nowhere to put my stuff on.

Ok, so I visited 6 managed communities and chose a rather high end 1 bedroom apartment with the usual facilities. Yes, I want to be comfy and not to worry about maintenance or digging Fordie out of the snow or clearing the driveway. I want to just furnish it, move in and go to work, in that sequence preferably….

IKEA delivery was here.

IKEA delivery was here.

But it was not to be…. we moved in, ordered the furniture, go to work and complete the furnishing over 3 weeks. At least the mattress and bedding came within 1 day, the 1st night that we moved in. As for whatever we need in the kitchen, Walmart is only 10 miles away.

Altho cheap desk and shelves are available at Walmart, we hated how it look and feel so much that we rather eat on our laps and sitting on those crates.

Contemporary and comfy to me.

Contemporary and comfy to me.

I did check out the local furnishing stores, and find that did not suit me. Did I want to drive 3hrs to IKEA in NY? And rent a Uhaul trailer to bring back those IKEA boxes? Nah. IKEA has been really good to me for over 20 years. I have always been able to furnish my space with everything IKEA, it got so comfortable to me that I could just order online and know exactly what I will get and everything is exactly as describe. I never realize how much I have come to trust and rely on a business! :O

A doorway to close off the stairway in the plans.

A doorway to close off the stairway in the plans.

I could have saved $300 by renting a trailer and driving to NY, and gotten my furniture sooner. But nah, I paid the flat fee $380 for delivery which includes the guys bringing up every box to the 2nd level. Phew! I am glad we didnt have to do that ourselves. Assembly was back breaking enuf. By the time we finished, we were already living in the apartment for 3 weeks.

Doorway in the works.

Doorway in the works.

Our shipment from PT arrive just after 2 weeks and that was a good thing, cos we needed some tools. After a full month here, we are all comfy and now shift into a home improvement mode. Things like adding roller shades, adding shelves and even constructing a doorway to keep the heat in our living space.

Doorway DONE

Doorway DONE

And by golly, am I not smart! I designed the doorway without a single screw into the walls. See, I am not sure if we are staying here for more than the 1 year lease arrangement, so I want to have the least patching possible.

Pretty good eh?


Journey to the East part 2

Yay we are headed to Niagara! This surely is the highlight of our road trip.

A park map at last.

A park map at last.

A short 6 hours drive from Michigan City, we arrived Niagara just after dark. Sigh… but it was ok, still early enuf for me to go walk around the park… well, but 1st, lets check into the room…  3 star Wingate by Wynham group. Great ratings and I thout $76 was a good price, being so close to the falls. Its clean, quiet and has all that we need in the room. Not fabulous, but no complains.

Its just past 8pm when I head out for my walk. Doug’s not joining me… too dark, too cold… too lazy IMO. So its me on my own on this clear evening, about 50’F and a slight wind blowing.

Water coming thru, headed for the falls.

Water coming thru, headed for the falls.

I started by walking in the general direction of the “circle” where the toursit info is. They are closed, of course, and they have no brochures or maps lying around. No problem, I have my little Google maps handy and I am not one to worry about data. Was great to have Google place me on the map and directing me as I walk close to the Niagara state park. … but what Google maps doesnt tell me is where to get the best view of the falls at night. See, the park is lit, but not too brightly, so I kept walking into what look like fenced off walkways. Finally I asked and got directions to view that everyone is wanting to get to. Well, but Google did get me this far.

In Buffalo NY looking over the Niagara falls into Canada.

In Buffalo NY looking over the Niagara falls into Canada.

As it was pretty dark and I have no idea how long the walk across the little islands was going to be, I decided to leave that for tomorrow morning. For tonight, I am just doing the simple walk thru the main attraction site and get my selfies on FB…. like most everybody who’s out here tonight is doing too, with their pro-selfie equipment…. I can only get whatever with my arm’s length…

Yes, I made it.

Yes, I made it to the Niagara Falls.

And my trusty ol entry level Nikon DSLR got me the better pictures, without me of course. I think the night lights turn out pretty good, definitely better than my iPhone 5, IMO. No, phones are not a subsitute for quality pictures. Never!

A welcome squirrel for the morning visitors to Niagara state park.

A welcome squirrel for the morning visitors to Niagara state park.

It was a really pleasant Nov evening at Niagara. I stayed out for just about 2hrs, soaking in the sounds and sights. Wasnt interested in the Casino, thought about a nice restaurant dinner, but its too late for that already.

The same rushing water in daylight. So the saying goes, its night and day.

The same rushing water in daylight. So the saying goes, its night and day.

This is a low toursity time, just a few around at the falls and they seem to be a higher proportion of Asians that I have come across for a long time. Of course I am not comparing that to Chinatown in Vancouver where I was recently visited, but on this drive from Seattle and it all the places that we stopped, Niagara Falls feels very international to me.

Maid of the mist doing her rounds.

Maid of the mist doing her rounds.

At breakfast in the hotel dining, the feeling of “international” is with me once again. I have a feeling of being watched, and it seems like the other Asians wondered about me. It was kinda uncomfortable for me in a strange way… hmm…. especially for one that is not travelling with a fellow Asian partner.

Niagara by day is most spectacular.

Niagara by day is most spectacular.

With breakfast out of the way, a rejuvenated Doug will walk 3 miles with me this morning… nope, he wasnt aware thats what I had in mind 😉

Autumn at Niagara state park.

Autumn at Niagara state park.

This time we crossed the bridge to Goat Island where the more spectacular view of Niagara is to be had. And its so true. It is so neccessary to spend a few hours in the evening and another few hours in the morning to fully take in the experience of being at such a grand place.

Another view of Niagara and Toronto

Another view of Niagara and Toronto

I could very well stay another day on this trip… but Doug didnt think it worthwhile to spend another night in the $75 hotel… And I wanted to do some shopping before with arrive in Saratoga Springs, NY… distractions and commitments… so many people come to the Niagara for a day and left without total fulfilment… I felt a bit like that.

Yep, so we both got a few more pieces of appropriate office working attire at Niagara malls. That was some success. Then drove just 2 hours to Rochester for a $62 night in Best Western. Its just a place for the night, and the breakfast was okay. Next morning, made contact with several apartment leasing agents in Ballston Spa. We actually got to see 2 apartments before checking into Saratoga Springs Downtowner motel. Well yes, boutique hotel in great downtown location for $68… and we stayed 4 nights before moving into our newly lease apartment.

Sigh… we’ve come to the end of this driving cross country adventure. Time to get serious about making money to play again.







Journey to the East ….

Nice log truck, great weather, beautiful Cascades.

Nice log truck, great weather, beautiful Cascades.

2.5 years ago we decided to lease Fordie, and we proceeded to put 31000miles on her already. Who would have known that it would have been better to buy her outright? I didn’t know that I was going to take up a job in Malta, New York…? Maybe I could ship her, since relocation package would take care of it…. but I thot this might be a good excuse for a road trip!

Okay, so we damned the mileage and are driving Fordie to Malta. 🙂 Altho this isn’t the greatest time to be touristy… its the 1st week of November… some high altitude roads are experiencing wintry conditions, parts of Yellowstone is already closed for the season… Overall, the days are just getting shorter, and who likes getting to a new place in darkness?

Driving east means driving into the day.

Driving east means driving into the day.

2990 miles, according to Google maps, is our driving distance if we don’t do any detours. But obviously we are going to stop every night at reasonably good hotels at decent prices, and we may stop at Yellowstone North Entrance visitor center and definitely at Niagara where I booked a 4 star hotel 🙂 Off seasons rates were good. So anyway, I think 3200 miles is more like it.

The best hotel in this trip.

The best hotel in this trip.

Starting just after noon on the 1st day, we made it to Spokane,WA for the night. Our shopping trip at Federal Way delayed us for an hour, but I feel we absolutely need to shop at Daiso, to get my specialty knives and Japanese household knickknacks for our new place in Malta. Fairbridge Inn Express (by Marriot) was a not so fantastic to deserve the $65 that I paid for it. The hot breakfast selection was the best part of it, but nothing else.

Leaving at 0645hrs, bound Yellowstone. If we make it before 1400hrs, I would like to spend 2 hrs in the visitor center, else I guess its not worth the $25 entrance fee that is good for the whole week… but we were still 40 miles away at 1400hrs, so we decided not to make that 80 miles roundtrip detour and just head straight for our next motel at Billings, MT.

Omaha Iowa city...

Omaha Iowa city…

Was happy to arrive at Motel 6 before dark. After 2 days of long driving and less sleep than we are used too, we were hoping for a nice snooze, but it is not to be. The plumbing was horrible, so we could hear whos been to the toilet in this block. At least the room was relatively clean and the bed was firm. $60. Never again, I hope.

We were so eager to leave, we left 0530hrs. Well, this is going to be our longest distance yet. The most value for money hotel I could find was in Omaha, and nothing in Sioux City or Sioux Falls. So we expect 12hrs of driving, lots of time to talk, enjoy the scenery and sneak in cat naps. We take our turns of course.

Lunch stop on toll road.

Lunch stop on toll road.

We left the Cascades behind, drove thru high desert, down to flat farming lands with lots of corn, some wheat, dairy, sheep … got gas and lunches from huge gas stations. Seeing all this in our personal luxury carriage is great! We get to set our preferred temperature, seat heating on/off, radio on/off, wifi on/off … Life is good… until we were lost in Omaha at 1900hrs … sigh.. it was 2100hrs went we actually laid down. 14 freaking hours of driving between us.

Truck stop comforts have certainly come a long way.

Truck stop comforts have certainly come a long way.

Carlson Inn by the airport was fantastic! For $68! The bed was fabulous, the breakfast was fabulous, we didn’t use the pool, gym or Jacuzzi but they look good too. Most important thing to us, it was quiet. We never heard another guest walk by in the corridor, altho we knew for sure they were there, cos the breakfast was served to a full house of guest. Really loved it… we hung around till 11am… 🙂


This is Carl’s Junior… but its brand in Chicago is something else… same good burger tho.

Its a short drive today, shouldn’t take more than 6 hours, and since we had such good rest, we were in great spirits.

All these country and cities are new to both of us. Getting to know the new chains of gas stations, supermarkets and fast food is part of the travel entertainment. Like who would have thot that the US have long distance toll roads! And that they have food and gas concessions as well. Feels like travelling on the NS highway from SG to KL, except that its much much much cleaner…. but so sad it doesn’t have those Nasi Lemak packets on the table…

Driving by Chicago!

Driving by Chicago!

Have to settle for Carl’s Junior Mushroom Swiss. Was a good one. Glad we stopped here.

And who drives by Chicago without stopping in for something? Us. There is nothing that attracts us to a city. And we have no intention to visit NYC either. Its us.

I found a decent hotel in Michigan City, ID for the night. After being spoilt by Carlson, Microtel by Windham does not meet our elevated expectations. We cant complain about the $62 for sure, it was way better than Fairbridge and Motel 6. … It was clean, bed was nice, bathroom was great, very quiet… breakfast was ok.

Another day of not rushing. We left 1000hrs, bound Niagara 🙂

To be continued.


Sailing 2015: Port Townsend(WA, US) -> Costes Island (BC, Canada)

Sailing 2013: Singapore -> Okinawa -> Kobe

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