Alaska 2012:
Day 13 - Empire Builder


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Alaska 2012: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Seattle] [Day 3 - Victoria] [Day 4 - Vancouver ] [Day 5 - Inside Passage] [Day 6 - Juneau] [Day 7 - Skagway] [Day 8 - Glacier Bay] [Day 9 - Ketchikan] [Day 10 - Inside Passage] [Day 11 - Seattle] [Day 12 - Empire Builder] [Day 13 - Empire Builder]

Monday, August 13, 2012: We awoke in Debbie's hometown of St. Paul. That's the Minneapolis skyline in the distance.
Maersk! It's always nice to get a win even if no one else is awake enough to play.
This fancy train car, called the Sierra Hotel, is rented out to very wealthy people.
We had a long stop here, so Tom and Debbie went into the station looking for vending. We had run out of dollar bills so we came back empty-handed.
So we headed to the dining car for last call breakfast and had some Diet Pepsis with our breakfasts.
Tom had to deal with some work business, so he took advantage of the excellent phone service to talk to his colleagues back in the office.
We passed Snelling Avenue, just a short distance north of Macalester College, Debbie's alma mater.
Here's St. Paul's High Bridge.
This is the Minnesota Centennial Showboat, a boat-turned-theater where Debbie's family enjoyed many a melodrama in her youth.
"Bank with the one at the top!" That is probably Debbie's all-time favorite business slogan because of its clever play on words. She lights up every time she sees the iconic building in downtown St. Paul that has "1st" outlined in neon on the top.
We followed the Mississippi River right out of town.
She's a mighty river, she is.
We passed this unnamed dam, ...
... and this majestic bird.
Here's the bridge to Hastings, Minnesota, ...
... and here's the town of Red Wing.
Here's the tiniest glimpse of Lake City, Minnesota, home of the halfway-to-Grandma's-house Dairy Queen. Stopping there is one of the great pleasures of driving the Great River Road.
Here's the overlook at Winona, our last station in Minnesota.
We had a stop here and got this picture of Tom for Stretch's Pizza. That's the code to indicate that this picture isn't really of Tom -- it's of Cigarette Guy (behind Tom) who got out at every train stop to have a smoke.
There's our train car -- we were in the two center windows on the upper level.
The ride from the Twin Cities was quite nice, ...
... with lots of river scenery.
But now it was time to cross the Mississippi, ...
... and see a little of Wisconsin for a while, ...
... starting with the town of La Crosse.
At 1:00, we went to the dining car for our last meal of the trip.
For each meal, we'd fill in our car number and room letter, then sign our names, and our orders would be marked on these forms. By this time, we no longer had to stop and think, "What room are we in?"
We passed the town of West Salem, ...
... and some of the most wholesome scenery ever.
Here's Tomah: "Where the I Divides." Look it up.
We got our desserts to go: single serving cups of delicious Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
Here's our source of electrical power: an extension cord we brought along with a USB power adapter attached. We had juice, and plenty of it.
We arrived at the Wisconsin Dells, site of many a Schilling Reunion, ...
... but we'd never really noticed the train tracks or train station before.
You know you're in the Dells when you see a wedding chapel and a torture museum on the same street.
But here's the real Wisconsin Dells: a Duck tour through the beautiful Wisconsin River.
Wisconsin folks really, really love to hunt, and we saw deer hunting stands set up all over the place.
Debbie and Tom were using Foursquare to check into each Amtrak station along our journey, when local phone service permitted. This check-in was at Portage, Wisconsin.
The scenery in Wisconsin was beautiful, with lots of marshlands and pretty birds, such as these white cranes.
Our girl was out cold for much of the afternoon, but this isn't the first time she's visited Wisconsin and it sure won't be the last.
Checking into Columbus, Wisconsin, yielded ...
... a Trainspotter Level 7 Badge! How exciting!
After half a country's worth of beautiful train stations, Milwaukee's train platforms were pretty industrial, but we took a moment to stretch our legs anyway.
As the train turned sharply right, we could see the Amtrak Cascades engine at the front of the train that had likely joined us when two trains coming from Seattle and Portland respectively were combined in Spokane.
By the time we departed Milwaukee, we knew we'd be quite late getting into Chicago. The Amtrak staff were making announcements regarding alternate arrangements for those who wouldn't be making their connecting trains.
It was raining in Chicago, signaling the end of our vacation, and thus, the end of our amazing weather luck.

We arrived at 6:18 PM, nearly two and a half hours late. No problem, though, because we had wisely driven to Chicago just in case this happened. We took a taxi to O'Hare and were back home again in Indiana just after midnight.

** THE END **


Alaska 2012: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Seattle] [Day 3 - Victoria] [Day 4 - Vancouver ] [Day 5 - Inside Passage] [Day 6 - Juneau] [Day 7 - Skagway] [Day 8 - Glacier Bay] [Day 9 - Ketchikan] [Day 10 - Inside Passage] [Day 11 - Seattle] [Day 12 - Empire Builder] [Day 13 - Empire Builder]

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