26th – 29th April
SouthwestChief / Empire Builder
This train journey was amazing. It took us through the spectacular country of the south west, over the waterlogged plains of the centre and through many towns and cities, all the way from LA to Chicago. The 45 min stop at Albuquerque allowed us to check out the market set out on the platform. Many knicknacks for sale, and of course, most of us fell for something.
At each meal I was placed with different folk, all of whom had a travel story to tell. The food was pretty good (for railway food), but it was the company at each meal which made it great!
The train to St Paul leaves Chicago before the train from LA arrives, which meant a 23 hour layover in Chicago. I had booked myself into a neat hostel just two and a half blocks from Union Station.
Next afternoon it was off to St Paul. Once again it was the company which made this journey great. Most of the 8 hours was spent in the lounge car, where, together with others I ended up doing crosswords and playing bananagram. The time passed in a flash.
On my arrival I was met by my friends who that very day were celebrating the birth of another grandchild, and were absolutely over the moon.
29th April – 5th May
St Paul MN
My time with these friends is always a pleasure and a real time to relax. Took the opportunity to attend the Toastmasters Club on the Saturday morning. A great experience, meeting members whom I had met on previous trips. Since I have visited St Paul many times on my four trips, I now feel that I can go out with confidence, having some idea of where things are and how to get there.
It was in St Paul that I picked up the vehicle which I am driving – Dodge Caravan – a medium sized SUV. All bar the front seats have been removed, giving me tons of room for my luggage and camping equipment, as well as somewhere to sleep at times of necessity.
Having completely relaxed and caught up with life’s necessities such as washing, I was ready to leave St Paul for Boston.
5th – 8th May
Had planned to do this trip in three days, but somehow, that plan did not work. Having allowed the motel manager to talk me into taking the route through Chicago, rather than my preferred route, of going well south, and by passing Chicago, I was faced with enormous traffic jams. In the end it took me something like four hours to do little more than 100 miles – despite being able to drive straight through the tolls with my tag.
This little nightmare was followed by a day and a half of almost non stop rain, making the going quite slow. After the first night at a roadside motel, I spent the next two nights at truck stops, one in PA and one in eastern NY state. Had great meals at the restaurant, a good night’s sleep, and in the morning, breakfast and a shower.
Once again, I met the most amazing people – truck drivers – who convinced me that it was both safe and permissable to sleep at the truck stop. When I awoke in the morning I realised that not only had I have my guardian angel watch over me, but, being parked right next to the Trucker’s Chapel, am sure the lord himself was watching as well.
All the plazas along the NY thruway have free wifi, and I availed myself of these over lunch. That at least gave me a feeling of being in touch with family and friends. However, the atmosphere at these places was not exactly conducive to typing up a blog.
8th May – 15th May
Despite the fact that I will be travelling quite a bit during my visit, it is here in Boston that the real purpose of the visit it – my three beautiful grandchildren, to whom I am little more than a stranger. It is hard to establish a real family relationship when they are so young and you only see them every few years.
Now a week later we have spent much time cuddling and hugging and reading and walking and playing ball and whatever else the little ones wanted to do.
On Mother’s day the children presented me with lovely cards they had made, and last night I was again presented with cards which they had made, with the assistance of their au pair. I will be back for birthdays in July and August.
Here too I had the opportunity to attend a Toastmaster’s club, and help fill a vacant spot on the agenda. Once again it was a case of meeting members whom I had met on previous ocassions, as well as new members.
Now I have a trip to Alaska planned, calling in on friends along the way. There are two months ahead of me, travelling, and hopefully allowing me to tip my toes into the Arctic ocean, just as I did some years ago, in the Antarctic ocean.