Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Adventure no. 2

Tuesday, 9 June

Last weekend was the second round in my adventure travels this summer. And the adventuring part didn't even involve my bike. I took the train from Seattle to Bingen, which is across the Columbia River from Hood River, OR, site of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic. The only time train travel makes the news is when it's disrupted and passengers are diverted to buses. My only expectation about this trip was that I would eventually get to Bingen.

The adventure started with a bus ride from the end of my street. It's a route I never take because it goes downtown (where I never go). I think the Kingdome was still standing the last time I was at the King Street Station, but I managed to find it. Have you ever noticed that it's impossible to tell where the "front" of that building is or where the front door is?

My train ticket said I had a "reserved" seat, but that's not the same thing as a specific seat. So I had to stand in line for a rather elaborate ritual of getting an assigned seat before the train arrived from parts north (it starts in Bellingham and goes to Eugene). When I got on the train, my assigned seat had already been given out to a rider from Bellingham. This was not a good sign, but I managed to find an open seat (next to a very chatty man from Bellingham from whom I learned much about senior services in Whatcom and San Juan counties), and the train left on time. Completely uneventful ride after that. I did not venture to the lounge car to sample the food--I have awful memories of train food from a trip to Montana ages ago. I read a little, dozed a little, and people watched a lot. The train itself is pretty quiet, but there were some noisy parties of two and four that kept the chat level up. The women in front of me were griping bitterly about going on bike rides where people ride too fast and couldn't possibly enjoy the scenery they were riding through.

I had a two-hour layover in Portland, so I got to venture out into the Pearl. Found a nice coffee/chocolate shop, tried not to drool on the goods in the Pendleton home store, and almost walked over to the yarn shop.

The train from Portland to Bingen was altogether different. It's the Empire Builder and goes to Chicago. Most of the folks had checked their luggage and were loaded down with bags of snack food and bottled water. Mmmm, two or three days of sitting in a train seat and eating granola bars. But the cars on this train are bigger, and passenger seating is on the "upper deck" so the view is even better. Since the train follows the Columbia from Vancouver to Bingen, I made sure I got a window seat on the view side. And a great view it was. Mt. Hood peeked out, and we saw a bunch of kiteboarders as we got into the Gorge. But I was definitely ready to get off in Bingen.

The rest of the weekend was filled with water bottles, feed zones, watching for poison oak, and two short but fun and scenic rides on my bike (which got to Hood River by car, not train). The weather was cooler than expected but there were some spectacular views of Mt. Hood on Saturday.

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