We Arrive in Portland

Sunday, September 2, was our last day on the Empire Builder. We had evidently made up time during the night and were only about 25 minutes behind schedule (we’d never been more than an hour and a half behind, but we’d gone very slowly through some construction areas where we saw bundles of new ties and piles of discarded worn-out ones). Since Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, according to the timetable, are 52 minutes apart, we figured on being about 25 minutes late (based on the time we left Vancouver) and were skeptical when our son reported that the Amtrak website was estimating an arrival eight minutes ahead of schedule, but in fact we did arrive at 10:02, eight minutes early. Because the dining car goes to Seattle, we could not get a hot breakfast Sunday morning. Instead, cold boxed meals were being issued in the club car. There was nowhere to sit in the club car or observation car, so we brought the meals back to our roomette and used the fold-down table for the first time. Barney was still feeling queasy and so barely touched his, and then only after waiting some time. I ate most of mine, though without much enjoyment—a few pieces of fresh fruit, a cup of strawberry yogurt, blueberry streusel cake that was entirely too dry to persevere with, and a very good croissant filled with ham and cheese. There was a cup of huckleberry cream cheese nestled in the center of the croissant, presumably intended to be spread on the sandwich. I was dubious but decided to try it. Surprisingly, it didn’t add any noticeable flavor but did mitigate the possible dryness of the sandwich. Naturally, I took a photo of the meal before eating it, selecting the macro setting of my camera for the purpose. It was not till we reached the Portland station and I started to photograph a historical exhibit there that I realized that I had never turned the macro setting off. So all the hard-won shots of Mount Hood and other scenery I took all morning will be disappointingly fuzzy, I expect. So maddening. The morning was not without incident. We heard Errol tell the travelers in Room 10 that the train would stop twice, and they would get off at the second stop. Since we were at Bingen-White Salmon, the last station before Vancouver, I assumed this meant they were getting off in Vancouver. As it turned out, they did, but not by design. In fact, as usual, the train stopped twice, once to align the coach cars with the platform and again when our car was at the station. But evidently the door of our car did not open. As the train pulled out of the station, we heard Errol on the intercom saying, “Conductor, we were supposed to stop here!” There was no response, and the train continued to pick up speed. It seems that somehow the couple’s intentions, communicated to numerous people, had not made it to the last person who needed to know—the conductor on that particular stretch of the journey. So then we heard the man on his cell phone talking to the people who were to meet them in Bingen, explaining the situation, then again to another party arranging to be collected in Vancouver. I learned that they had planned to make a trip with these people starting at Bingen, and the route between Bingen and Vancouver was to be part of it, anyway, so they ended up just doing it separately. They agreed that they were treated to another hour of spectacular scenery and gained a great story to tell about their adventure. We didn’t have any such mishaps and, as reported, rolled in ahead of schedule, were met by our son and daughter-in-law, and are now comfortably ensconced in their home for a week. We will be flying home, and it may be a while before Barney forgets the hardships of this particular journey and is up for what we decided should be our next adventure, the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco.

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