Quincy - Seattle

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Until June 29, two days before we were to began our 28 day journey, we did not know whether we would be riding the train all the way to Seattle or would drive to Minneapolis and then take the train the rest of the way. Because of flooding in central Wisconsin, "bustitution" had been used for about 3 weeks between Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It made no sense to take the train to Chicago and then ride a bus to St. Paul, rather than driving directly to Minneapolis.

However, On June 29th we were relieved to hear the Empire builder would begin taking an alternate, but very slow route, over the Union Pacific between Chicago and St. Paul. It's ironic that when this track belonged to the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, it was called the Route of the 400's because passenger trains made the 400 miles in 400 minutes.

So on July 1 we biked to the Quincy station, and after boarding, stowed our bikes in a space near the front of our car, probably wheel chair space. We departed on time at 6:12 AM, and arrived in Chicago about 10 minutes early. The conductor taking sleeping car passenger's tickets in the 1st class lounge in Chicago said we would be taking the regular Canadian Pacific route to St. Paul for the first time in over 3 weeks; and we departed on time at 2:15PM. Before long, having gotten up so early, I had Gul, our outstanding sleeping car attendant, make up our bed so I could take a nap. I woke up as the PA system was announcing a smoke break in Milwaukee. After walking around on the platform, I took another nap. I woke up as we were slowing down to about 5 MPH on the outskirts of Watertown, WI. Next I noticed the farm field sloping downward slightly; then the plants all turned a bright orange; and soon we were crossing a lake.

Temporary lake between Watertown and Reeseville, WI. We were on the left track; and we passed a mile post on the left side in which only the numbers on the top were visible. The post itself, which must be 4 or 5 feet tall, was completely under water. Only the top inch of the rail on the right side of the train was above water (Photo courtesy of Robert Tabern)

There was not much, if any, evidence of flooding along the Mississippi between La Crosse and St. Paul. Against all odds, we arrive in MSP on time.

At the risk of offending that faction who hate Great Plains scenery, I really enjoyed the many lakes in North Dakata. North Dakota and eastern Montana was so green, I thought I was in Ireland.

Smoke stop at Havre, MT
Steam engine at Havre, MT depot. It once pulled the original Great Northern Empire Builder
Gul, our sleeping car attendent at Havre, MT
1920's Alpine style station in Whitefish, MT, Whitefish is a place I would like to see more of. It is in a large valley with several lakes, surrounded by mountains.

On July 3 we arrived In Seattle on time at 10:20AM, After reassembling our bikes, our first order of business was to stop of at the Bicycle Alliance of Washington office and thank Mark for emailing info and advice and sending me several excellent bicycle maps that would come in handy during the Seattle - Port Angeles leg of our journey. He also recommended we get to the Moore Hotel via the bike path along the water front and then take the elevator up to the Pike Market Place. From there it was only one steep block to the hotel. Good advice!

The Moore Hotel near the Pike Market Place is the only downtown hotel for under $100/night; and it was much nicer than I remembered the two times I stayed there in 1992. The lobby, halls, and rooms had been nicely renovated.

After a short nap, we went out for a warm-up ride along the Elliot Bay and the Burke-Gillman bike trails. The later follows Lake Union for a while. We rode as far as the University Shopping Center. Here we had supper at Safeway's supermarket's deli, a custom we followed every day except when we were visiting someone. We returned to the hotel via the Lake Union bike route.

Seattle's Lake Union seen from the Burke-Gillman bike trail

I had a rude awakening when I read my email on July 4. As always seems to be the case, just before leaving home, I received a request to make changes to a debt collection program that runs on the internet. This time is was to add a Spanish language version to the dunning letters that get sent out. Seems a little Spanish had crept into the English version of the letters; and I needed to fix it fast. Fortunately, I found an internet shop that was open even on July 4, and was able to fix the problem.

That done, we headed south for a ride on the Duwamish and Green River trails. We made it as far as downtown Kent before heading back north on the Interurban trail. After about 35 miles, we decided to take the bus back since we still had about 15 miles to go. The first bus had one of its bike racks occupied, so we continued and finally caught one near the next trail exit. It took us to within a block of our hotel.

On our way from the Moore Hotel to the bike path along the water front. Puget Sound viewed from near Seattle's Pike Marketplace
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