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I love taking the train, these days it’s really only when I’m heading to west Michigan or Chicago.

Written By: Gary on July 17, 2013 No Comment

So we were pretty bored on the train, it was 40 hours so far and I was pretty stir crazy. We’d stopped at some towns but nothing for more than a few minutes (We stopped in St. Payl / Minneapolis, MN for a short time, but I slept through that). We (the guys) wanted some snacks and something different than what was on the train. The problem was that most of the towns were just a quick stop and there was nothing nearby. So we watched the next few stops and the next stop in the middle of nowhere we saw a little shop (a little farther than across the street) and we ran like cRaZy. We made sure the guy from the train knew where we were going, and we knew they weren’t going to leave a few kids behind, but we didn’t really know for sure(!), so we ran and ran like our lives depended on it (my Mom would have killed me!) and got some drinks/snacks and got back on the train.

Thinking of the train station in Dearborn, there’s nothing there if you were just traveling by, the station is a small building and it’s behind the police station and library, nowhere that you could really get anything. Plus, if the train stops for more than a few minutes, it’s only because it’s early, I don’t think I’ve generally seen it sit there for more than 5 minutes, if that. People get off, people get on and it’s gone (very efficient).

So it was the last day on the train and we were ready to get off the train and glad to arrive in Chicago.

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From my journal:

6 pm – Got into Chicago and took cabs from the train station to the hotel. Mr. Kuhn gave us money and we got food from Burger King. Then we went up the Sears Tower.

We stayed at the Ascot House in Chicago. It was a weird shaped really large room that we ended up with. I’m not sure how many of us were in there, but after running around Chicago we were pretty tired and it probably didn’t matter. This was at 1100 S Michigan Ave, it’s a Best Western across from Grant Park, I really don’t remember the nice park across the street, maybe it wasn’t as nice back then? Maybe we just walked out the wrong way out the side door?

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We ran around all over the area in Chicago, we were pretty unstructured and unsupervised this evening. A few of us hung out and went up to the top of the Sears Tower and checked out the elevated train. I can’t remember if we got on it just for the heck of it or if we took it to get to the Sears Tower, which was kind of far away.

If you’re reading this post out of context, this is me re-journaling a trip to Alaska from when I was a kid. You might want to click the “trip to Alaska” link and go to the bottom and read them in order. I’m posting each entry on the same day that it happened years ago.

Written By: Gary on July 16, 2013 No Comment

The first thing we realize is that the tracks in Canada are much much smoother than in the United States. This train is so bumpy it’s not even funny.

We have a small cabin area, kind of like you see in the movies when they can open the door and go in and the beds fold down. It’s kind of nicer than the VIA trains, but it’s so small (smaller than movies) we really don’t stay in there, so it doesn’t make much of a difference.

From my journal:

7am – Slept okay. French toast was pretty dull. Found out the menu is the same every day.


8 am – Stopped in Whitefish (Montana?) for 17 minutes, nice little town, had a lot of shops but most were closed.


Rest of day – Stopped in a few more small towns. Read a bit in an empty cabin I found.

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Some more photos from the train ride home. We were pretty bored…

If you’re reading this post out of context, this is me re-journaling a trip to Alaska from when I was a kid. You might want to click the “trip to Alaska” link and go to the bottom and read them in order. I’m posting each entry on the same day that it happened years ago.

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Written By: Gary on July 1, 2013 No Comment

After another night on the train we eventually arrived in Edmunton, Alberta.

VIew from the Train

VIew from the Train

VIew from the Train

FYI, the slide scanning was done at CostCo and I’m not really impressed but the quality. Yes, the slides are old but they were stored in plastic bags that were tied shut and stored in a box. But it’s CostCo, I probably could (and should) have gotten a refund and tried them somewhere else.

In Edmunton we stayed at the Sheraton Caravan. Most of the hotels we stayed at on this trip were pretty nice, if I recall correctly.

It was Canada Day so I mentioned that “most stores were closed”. But I did buy a poster at a mall, but I have no idea what kind. Was it of Edmonton or nothing to do with the trip at all?

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I have an assortment of key souvenirs from this trip.

From my “journal” which is really just some pages of loose-leaf paper –

Noon: Explored the city when we were supposed to go on tour because others were late. Turns out everyone eryone else didn’t go on tour either. Found LOTS of arcades. (If I recall correctly, I think some of the kids took off since we were tired of waiting, but since the tour fell through, I don’t think we got in much trouble).

Later on that day we went up to the observation floor of the of Telus Plaza which was called Vista 33 and it also happened to be a telephone museum. I really don’t remember much from the telephone museum, but I obviously thought it was cool enough to purchase two of the souvenir coins they had. I was into tech then, so I’d have thought it would have made more of an impression. Speaking of tech, I’d had my first computer job all lined up for my return. As soon as I got back I was to start work at the Family Computer Center selling computers and teaching classes (which was owned by the same folks who owned The Doll Hospital and Toy Soldier Shop).

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I specially mentioned that it was a “great view but I only had my 110 pocket camera” so this means there are more photos than just the slides that I have. I know where there are a few B & W prints from the 33MM camera, but I wonder where those shots from the pocket camera are?

We did a “tour” of town via subway which I thought was “stupid” and since I generally (at least now) like trains and subways I’m assuming it was stupid in that it was something put together quickly to make up for the earlier screwed up tour and it wasn’t much of a tour.

The other thing that I remember is there seemed to be huge amounts of construction of tall buildings downtown here and in Calgary (we go there tomorrow). This made a huge impression on me, Detroit had a lot of tall buildings by where I lived (Berkley and the surrounding area) most building were only one to three floors, tall buildings were the exception, there were lots in these cities. Even now in Detroit if you go up in a tall building there are so few tall buildings in the distance you can generally figure out where the are located.

If you’re reading this post out of context, this is me re-journaling a trip to Alaska from when I was a kid. You might want to click the “trip to Alaska” link and go to the bottom and read them in order. I’m posting each entry on the same day that it happened years ago.

Written By: Gary on June 30, 2013 2 Comments

We had a four hour break from the train in Winnipeg (the capitol of Manitobe) and listed as “where the prairies begin” (that’s from my trip notes). I wrote:

We stopped in Winnipeg (still taking train). A big city, but not much interesting and we took a tour by bus.

I know I talked a lot as a kid, but I guess I didn’t write a lot!

VIA Train passenger
This was one of the people on our trip, I remember them but don’t ask me their name.

Speaking of the people on the trip: There were ten boys about my age and if I recall correctly most seemed to be spoiled kids where were probably sent away to get rid of them for the summer. There were about 40 adults and I think they were mostly (but not all) retirees. The adults seemed kind of well traveled about two-thirds were married and traveling together. I didn’t realize this at the time but all of the adults traveling alone were women, some were marked “Ms.” and some “Mrs.”, not sure if the latter were windowed or they left the men at home.

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I’m sure I thought this statue was cute then, since I still do now!

The sculpture of the cubs looks to be something of Leo Mol and may now be located in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden which opened after I took this photo. It looks a lot like Bear Cubs (1976) or Playful Cubs (1975); those two are so similar it may be one of them or another similar one (thanks to Nancy for pointing this out in the comments).

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Saint Boniface Cathedral is a link to Wikipedia, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Thanks to Nancy for identification of this too and a link to Wikipedia.

I guess my high point of the day was when I was playing Bingo and “won a VIA key chain bottle opener”. I do remember winning something playing Bingo, but I don’t remember the keychain at all and it’s not in my box of souvenirs.

If anyone can identify the items in these photos better, please do! Especially if you know I’ve got them labeled in the wrong city!

If you’re reading this post out of context, this is me re-journaling a trip to Alaska from when I was a kid. You might want to click the “trip to Alaska” link and go to the bottom and read them in order. I’m posting each entry on the same day that it happened years ago.

Written By: Gary on June 29, 2013 No Comment

So yesterday we boarded “Canada National’s Finest Train” The Super Continental. While the route goes across most of Canada, we will get off at Edmonton.

The Super Continental
Map courtesy of Wikipedia.

We’re on the train for a few days and we sleep on it, on the 29th I said that the “breakfast food was OK”. I cannot believe I don’t have a picture of one of the sleeper units. It was the old fashioned kind of sleeper where you pulled the curtain closed. They were stacked two high. We were on a few different trains, maybe I have a photo from later on (I can’t even find a good representation on-line).

VIA Train Bench
Why would I even take a picture of one of these couches on the train and not the sleepers?

The trains were Canadian National (you’ve seen the CN logo on trains, right?) but trains were labeled “VIA” that was the passenger trains distinction (I think that was still relatively new at the time).

View from the dome car in the train.
View from the dome car in the train.

We basically spent all of June 29th paying games and talking about plans for the trip to the Canadian Rockies (and Alaska). On our off time, we probably ran around the train checking everything out from end to end.

We did make a quick 20-minute stop in the town of Hornepayne, Ontario which I wrote was a “pretty small dull town”. It probably had a population of under 2,000 at the time and as of 2011 has a population of 1050, so maybe my evaluation wasn’t too far off!

(See, I told you the first few days were going to be a little boring).

If you’re reading this post out of context, this is me re-journaling a trip to Alaska from when I was a kid. You might want to click the “trip to Alaska” link and go to the bottom and read them in order. I’m posting each entry on the same day that it happened years ago.

Written By: Gary on August 1, 2009 3 Comments

I’ve never even heard of the Michigan Central Station before today. I happened to see a photo of it in the (overly-dramatic titled) The Remains of Detroit photo essay on Time.com (which got mention on one of The Economist blogs) yesterday.

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Opened in 1913, the terminal was designed by the architects Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stern, the same firm that designed New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. “It’s staggering,” says Hemmerle, “that such a phenomenal piece of architecture could stand empty for twenty years.”
- From Time.com

I did a little more looking and found this six minute video.


Direct link to Michigan Central Station video.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard mention of such a huge train station in Detroit; at the time it was built it was the tallest train station in the world. I can’t even picture it, so I might have to take a ride this week to see where it is.

I guess the city was looking to demolish earlier this year and I never heard a peep (someone is suing Detroit since it’s a historical landmark). And they filmed some scenes for the Transformers movie here a few years ago, never heard anything about that either.

The video mentioned 75 trains in and out a day. I felt like those were mostly passenger trains, but maybe I was wrong. I’ve mentioned many times before that I love the train but now the Detroit station has six passenger trains a day (see page 2), three going west and the same going east from a small building near the Fisher building. These are the same trains that hit the Dearborn station a mile from my house which makes it very convenient when I want to head towards Chicago.

Photo courtesy of WikiPedia.

Written By: Gary on August 9, 2008 3 Comments

So the guy at the Amtrak station always makes me feel funny when I stop to pick up my tickets the night before (I’ve already pre-paid them) like I should wait until the next day. But I always think I’ll feel rushed in the morning when I do it. And today I did feel rushed and there wasn’t even a line. I’ll just be getting my tickets in advance next time, it’s just not something I need to have to be concerned about (I’d rather get 5 minutes extra sleep).

They train isn’t too full and I got a seat with power! So that means my laptop is powered and I’m all set for the ride (I can charge my phone as I tether it too).

There are two little girls and a baby in front of me, so I’ve been pretty entertained by them. Although the older ones are already half-asleep

The poor woman behind me wants to go to Hammond (Indiana) but I guess this one doesn’t stop there, the next one does so she’s trying to figure out what to do. I always thought these three trains did the same route all three trips. Now that I’ve checked out the Wolverine Wikipedia entry it still seems like it stops there.

Unfortunately, my return train is already sold out, so that’s gonna be packed. Well, if the last thing I do is roller blade, maybe no one will want to sit next to me :)

Later: This train is starting to fill up.

Written By: Gary on August 8, 2008 No Comment

Davecago3So a bunch of bloggers are getting together tomorrow and I’m going. It’s officially DaveCago 3 which means Dave from Blogography is in town and organizes a get together. So tomorrow evening we’re getting together to have drinks and dinner and drinks and just generally have a great time. I’ve gotten together with some permutation of this group the last two years and I wanted to do it again. I’m not even sure who’s coming, I only know of a few for sure but I’m assuming the group is more like 10-15+ people.

What else? I’m not sure if anything’s up for Sunday but if not, I’ll have my roller blades because down by the water in Chicago is one of the best places to go blading. I going to try to hit Standing Room Only for my ribs one of the days (it’s not too far from my hotel).

I’ll be taking the train, because I love the train!! I get too tired if I drive in on the same day to do stuff, the train lets me go in the morning and be awake the rest of the day (and also lets me be semi-productive for those five hours). If only I could take my bicycle on this stretch of the train, I really like having my bike in Chicago (you can really cover some ground).

Written By: Gary on June 4, 2008 No Comment

So we made it to Cardiff via Train from Paddington Station in London. Very easy trip, Cardiff is the end of the line so no chance of missing anything. Beautiful day here! And the view for the train ride was great too.

800Px-Roald Dahl Plass - CardiffWhile I love Cardiff so far, I hate to say that it’s included the biggest disappointment of the trip. Why? Because the Roald Dahl Plass is under construction. I was very very disappointed that the very tall shiny waterfall and a bit of the Plaza (Plass) was closed (especially the waterfall).

I haven’t seen any kind of internet cafe here, I’m at a pub using the ‘net. People seem like to party around here, lots of bars and discotechs. It’s a college town at one end, but I’ve not sure that’s who the party people are.

I’ll check out the ones nearby after I go see what Cardiff Bay is like once it gets dark; especially how the Wales Millennium Centre looks.

Just in the few minutes I’ve been here, it’s really started to fill up!

Travel tips: The train was about 50 pounds for the round trip via National Rail (certainly not the deal that someone mentioned to me on-line) I think pre-booking is cheaper (although I think we’d have paid eve more the day of instead of the day before), but if we had left London before 9:15 am it was way more (almost double I think) so check the times (return time did no matter). Many hotels offer late check-out and early check-in, they charge for it (about 10 pounds the few places I’ve noticed it), but it’s worth it for hotels that that don’t have a place to leave your luggage. We were going to stay until 4 or 5 tomorrow, but since late check-out is only until 2 pm, we’ll be leaving at 2.

* Photo courtesy of Wikipedeia.

Written By: Gary on October 6, 2007 3 Comments

So I’m looking for a practical and cheap and semi-direct way to get from London, England to Cardiff, Wales. I figure my choices are train, bus or rent a car (I have no problem driving on the left). When I go to London in the spring I was thinking of spending a day or two over that way. Also, I’m looking for a place to stay in Cardiff near public transportation, decent but not too expensive (of course) a hotel or bed and breakfast would work. Of course I’ll want to visit this general area so I’ll need some walking tour information too (or book recommendation).

Cardiff Words LightI keep seeing it on TV and movies and other places so I thought I’d check it out. I’ve never been in that direction, I think the farthest west I’ve been is Stonehenge/Sailisbury.

Also, any bloggers who lurk around here and want to meet up drop me a note. I’m also looking for restaurant and other tourist recommendations. And if anyone knows about any Torchwood filming dates in the spring (I’m thinking they’re editing around now, so probably not) I’d be interested in that too, especially if you have any contacts related to seeing some of it.

Written By: Gary on October 5, 2007 One Comment

So my friend who was in the Train Crash last year tends to have more problems on the train than most people I know. Delays at the start of the trip and at the end so we tease him about it. Today I called him after he left for his parents and the train left about 20 minutes late, no crisis. But, he calls me about an hour later, they’re stopped west of Ann Arbor and they hit someone on the tracks. He didn’t have much in the way of details.

So I just called him for a status and it turns out it was a guy on a bicycle (I’m assuming on the tracks); I guess the conductor said he saw him before they hit him (I’m surprised they gave them that much info). The train was stopped for a while (I’m guess less than 2 hours) while things were checked out; he could see flashlights and cameras going off. The odd thing is they never found the guy, but they found the bicycle.

Update – This mLive Ann Arbor Article says no one was hurt and contradicts a bit of what my friend says that he heard the conductor say. It’s the only article I can find and it was from early last night, so I have no other way to verify info. (This is the right link, their whole site just seems to be having problems right now)

Written By: Gary on December 1, 2004 No Comment

So I had a quick (less than 24 hours) trip to Kalamazoo, it was supposed to be longer but it got cut short (hmmm… I never mentioned that my sick grandfather passed away last weekend, did I?). I’m liking K’zoo more and more. It started off great in that I took the train and I love the train; so easy, so cheap. I got a great room, they were full or they liked my smile or something but it was a nice suite for the same price as the other people at the conference. When I say “nice” I mean the bedroom was bigger than most hotel rooms, the living room was bigger and they kitchen had a dishwasher, I had a couch, seven chairs, three phones and a gazillion lamps. And wired high-speed Internet! (thanks to my airport express) I (and my neighbors) had wireless Internet access. The city has some lights set up but by the time I checked in it was pouring outside (which later must have turned to ice which closed the schools). The snow looked great this morning, I wish I could have checked them out in the dark with the snow. Last time I was there we went to the museum and the planetarium and the very nice (new) library. BTW, the session at the conference was very good, so it was a successful trip.

Written By: Gary on October 18, 2004 One Comment

At least it’s not bright and sunny out today, I hate leaving a holiday when it’s nicer when leaving than when there the whole time. I think I slept a lot last night, so that’ll help (except for the weird car crash nightmares, but since I’m on the train, they shouldn’t surface).

Bonus, I don’t have to hoof it to the metra station! Heather’s still around to give me a ride! I travel with WAY too much junk. And Heather teases me about it, but when Heather said, “hey do you have a video camera in all that stuff” and I said “yes”, she could only mock me so much, right?!?

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Written By: Gary on October 14, 2004 One Comment
1. When’s the last time you went on vacation? Where’d you go?
London, England. Short vacation – Chicago/Evanston, IL (which I’m currently en route to).
2. What’s your favorite mode of transportation to get to/from/go on vacation? Plane? Train? Boat?
I love the train! It’s a mile from my house. Today I left my house at 5:25 for the 5:34 train. Parked 100 yards from the train. And guess what? We left at 5:34!!!
3. How important are vacations for the human spirit? Do you think it’s healthy for someone to go 20 years without a vacation? Why/why not?
I need them. I think that some people don’t, it just depends.
Bonus Question for Comments: What’s your ideal vacation/time off from real life?
I really liked my last trip to Costa Rica. Mostly staying in one place not running around crazy from place to place. It might have to happen again this winter.

From 3x Thursday

Written By: Gary on June 18, 2004 No Comment
1) Are you taking a summer vacation this year? If so, where are you heading? If you already went on vacation, where did you go?
London, England!!!!
2) Planes, trains, or automobiles…what is your preferred mode of transportation to get to your vacation get-away?
I absolutely love the train. Lots of room, no waiting, no running around (the airport) lots of time to relax and get stuff done.
3) Any vacation locales you would recommend for those looking for ideas?
Costa Rica! I like the Jaco area on the Pacific side of the country.
4) What US city/state have you never been to but would love to visit?
Hawaii would be a nice trip.
5) What international city/country have you never been to but would love to visit?
Paris, France. I’ve always wanted to go.

From Friday Forum

Written By: Gary on December 29, 2003 2 Comments

Well it’s been a nice long weekend (5 days). I got to ride on the train (did I tell you I love the train?) and visit the crew on the west side of the state again (Heather, Nan, Tina and more…) and we ate (lots) and played games (WordDrop/Euchre). We also went to a museum which had all sorts of cool stuff (and the signage actually explained stuff) and a planetarium visit. Got to play with Heather’s & my blogs. Saw many other friends and managed to relax a whole lot…

Well that’s a bit of a few sentences that doesn’t say much specific.
Hmmm…. “I had lots of quality time with friends, had lots of fun and relaxed a lot!” That pretty much says it all…

Written By: Gary on December 26, 2003 No Comment

I’m off to see friends (Heather, Nan and the rest of the Allegan crew and whomever is visiting) and I’m on the train from Dearborn to K’zoo and I’m loving it. It’s so easy and you get the landscape (if you can call it that) floating by the window and I can blog/read/computer/etc. It’s pretty full (and left a little late) and I’m sitting next to this really quiet woman (reading Steven King) with my coke, my blog and I’m ready to watch a movie or something…

The Dearborn train station is a mile from my house and has free parking that’s right next to the police station which makes this extra convenient for me!

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