Sunday, July 01, 2007

SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick Meet in Union Station

I am not able to get a Verizon Wireless signal (only roaming) until almost Vancouver, but sister Mary (alias SpongeBob) calls around 8:00 am and tells me (alias Patrick) the train is supposed to be coming in early at 10:05 am (scheduled for 10:45). I have now figured that one of the ways Amtrak is able to keep on schedule is by faking some of the numbers and adding some wiggle room. The long stops in Minneapolis, Fargo, Havre and Spokane can be shortened to make up for lost time and they add an extra 40 minute to the time it is supposed to take to get from Vancouver, WA to Portland, OR which is just across the river. When we get to Vancouver, the conductor announces we will be in Portland in 20 minutes, we arrive in 15 – customers are happier this way, I suppose.

Soon the skyline of Portland is in view. Coming through The Dalles and Hood River, the clouds had parted and the sun was blinding as it reflected off the wide Columbia. Coming into Portland, the sky was again overcast and we have be hit by a few showers. This throws my sense of direction all off so although I know I am looking at Portland, in my mind it is in the wrong place. After three and a half days of rocking back and forth, I think my brain may be a little frazzled.

But before I know it, Union Station is looming before me and we have reached our final destination.

Feeling a bit like a kid coming home from camp, I am torn between engaging my fellow travelers one last time to exchange some final pleasantries and a burning desire to get to meet my family. I say some final goodbyes and particularly thank Juice, our sleeping car attendant who really was a great addition to the trip.

As I drag my bags across the tracks in front of Union Station, I see my sister Mary waiting for me in front. Hugs and kisses, it’s like coming home.

Union Station in Portland, OR is one of the gems of the American rail system. Not quite restored, it retains many of the old accoutrements of its former glory, and has almost a museum feel to it. Many of the great stations have been modernized on the inside and retain that old glory in the larger spaces, but here in Portland, things look very much like the way they probably did a hundred years ago. When I leave in five day, I will have to take more pictures and explore the station more.

Sister Mary whisks me off in her new Toyota Camry Hybrid and we are soon on the freeway heading toward the Hilton Homestead Suites where I will have an apartment-sized room for the extent of my stay.

After a shower and shave, we head down to Elmer’s for a mid-day breakfast and chit chat. As I sit in the booth, the room is still moving. If I had just gotten off a boat, I would call it “sea legs.” In this case it’s Amtrak Legs!

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