Trip Start Sep 03, 2007
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Sunday, October 21, 2007

We passed through 'United States Customs and Border Patrol' at Victoria. This involved passport and visa check, questions as to where, why and how, fingerprint checks and photo taken. The fast water jet catamaran took 2.5 hours to Seattle- a good, comfortable run. Once docked it took another hour to pass through the customs and immigration centre. These guys are thorough. To the hotel and then a quick burger ( there was nothing else open around at this time ) and then crashed out.

Monday, 22nd October

A fine, sunny day - 14 deg  (58 F here). Visited the 'Space Needle', a 600 foot futuristic tower built in 1962 for a World's Fair. Excellent views of the area from the observation deck. There is also a monorail from the same period. Seattle is a big port city that has only a few items of tourist interest in the usual plenty of shops and restaurants. I felt it had not really developed  from this start it had in the 60's.

Tuesday, 23rd October

Another sunny 71 day, very warm and pleasant. Norah went downtown round the shops and then visited the aquarium. Generally a chill out day.

I went on a boy's day out - a trip round the 'Museum of Flight', down at the original Boeing field. Lots of aircraft including a "Dakota" and an "MR71 Blackbird", I had heard of an SR71 and did not see the difference - still impressive though. On the airfield park was the first Boeing 737, 747 and a 707 that had been 'Airforce One' for Kennedy, Nixon and Johnson. Interesting but pretty basic inside - still I suppose it was in the 60's. I then faced my angst and went onboard the 'Concorde' that they had on display there, still not agreeing with the 'Australian manager' of British Airways to axe them. I suppose ..... but no, I'll bite my tongue and get over it !!  She is still the most beautiful aeroplane in the world though.

My afternoon was a trip round the new Boeing plant at the other side of town. A very impressive building a third of a mile wide and three quarters of a mile long - the largest unsupported factory space in the world. It could fit all Disneyland in it and still have plenty of space left. They were building the new '787 Dreamliner', which looked quite a smart aircraft and will take some 6 weeks to build from shipped in sub assemblies. Also saw the '777' production line, which currently takes 3 months to build. Quite impressive - I'm glad I don't have to worry about getting the parts in on time and building them !! 

A meal at night in which the waiter didn't bother to give us bread or water, only Norah was asked if she wanted a dessert and neither of us was asked if we wanted coffee, just dumped with the bill. This was a final syndrome of Seattle, in which the taxi drivers ask where you want to go before they'll decide to take you, where you can walk for ages without finding a bar to get a drink and where you can get old waiting at the pedestrian controlled crossings whilst the 'walk / don't walk' lights keep you waiting !

Seattle,   "Sleepless"  - I don't think so.  We found it dull and not a lot of interest at all.

Wednesday, 24th October

Our next stage is by train on the 'Coast Starlight' Amtrak train which runs from Seattle to Los Angeles. We were going as far as San Francisco and our trip was going to take 22 hours, arriving in San Francisco at 0815 early morning.
We were at the station for an 0945 departure and at 0915 we were told that there was a problem with the train and it would not depart on time. Eventually they replaced a sleeper coach (which turned out to be ours) and the train left at 1140. OK so only 2 hours behind.

The double decker combined train had some sleeper compartments on the lower level and full compartments and 'roomettes' on the upper decks, as well as standard carriage seat coaches. There was a dining car and an observation lounge. This was different to the observation dome we had had on Canadian VIA rail and had single and double swivelling seats down each side of the upper deck for great views.

We lunched and enjoyed the views down the west coast south of Seattle, with mountains in the distance and big cattle farms in the foreground. We reached Portland, Oregon for a quick stop and then progressed onwards in the fine sunshine. The north American (and Canadian) rail systems are mostly single track, with occasional double tracks for passing. We had waited at a passing place for a north bound train and were moving back over the points when the train shuddered and stopped suddenly with a jolt. We waited for a while and then there was an announcement that there was a 'problem' with the locos that was being investigated. After an hour it was announced that one of the locos had 'jumped track' and derailed and there was now going to be a considerable delay whilst they figured out a 'Plan B'. This was about 1630.

The dinner meals were being served from 1730 onwards and we had reserved for 1930. They were able to start the early seatings but at 1900 it was announced that they were going to disconnect the locos, which were supplying the main train power, in order to keep trying to fix the 'problem'. As they disconnected we went onto (very dim) emergency lighting just as it was going dark. We were treated to a gorgeous sunset though. As it became more dark the car attendants came through with lightsticks, which you shake to mix 2 chemicals in a tube and it glows. You can just about see but not to read or anything detailed. At 2030 we were asked to go to the dining car where they had managed to heat up steaks or fish, so at least people could eat. In the glow there was only the candles missing to make it really romantic - like being broken down on the Orient Express in an Agatha Christie thriller!

At 2130, 5 hours after we had derailed, 'Plan B' was announced. Our locos had not quite blocked the points ahead and after clearing a freight train that was backed up behind us, locos from Portland, 7 miles back, were coming out to pull us back into a siding. They would then return and rescue our locomotives and take them back to Portland for checking. The new locos would then hook onto the front of us and take us onwards. We rolled back to Portland and waited and at 2230 decided to go to bed.

The roomettes were situated each side of a central corridor and were two single bench type seats each facing each other, like the old British Rail carriages. The seats pulled together to form a lower bunk and the upper bunk hinged down from the wall. They were, however, along the length of the train so I figured this boded well, remembering the VIA rail to Vancouver. The train at this time of year was not full so I was given a lower bunk in the roomette opposite and turned in. At some time later we were hooked up and set off. I was looking forward to some 'Rock a Bye' sleep after the days events but it was worse than the 'Rock and Roll' Canadian trip. The train jerked and bounced and I swear at times he was running on cobbles! This was 'Rock and Rock' !!! Exceedingly uncomfortable I did not sleep at all well. I sleepily looked out of the curtains at times and saw misty forests passing by in the dark.

Thursday, 25th October

Next day was bright and clear and we passed through rolling hills and down into the Sacramento Valley, where the tracks followed the path of the river. There was a large lake that was really low in water. The land opened out into wide pastures and fruit and grape growing country - welcome to California. We eventually rolled into Emeryville, the station for San Francisco and now had a 1 hour bus ride in the Friday rush hour into town. The train was eventually 9 hours late and this had been a journey to remember!!  Still, I suppose it's a case of swings and roundabouts.
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