A CASE for AMTRAK

Hello from Sunny California! As some of you know, I posted lots of photos of our cross-country train trip on Twitter . . . but I know not everyone is on Twitter, so I thought I’d do a little recap here for those of you who missed it.  I’m posting from our hotel room in Seal Beach, California, starting with MUSICA and a question:

adventure and tea

Let’s do both at the same time! You will need sustenance for this post! I’m not kidding. I would suggest you make a pot! I’ve been working on this post off and on, between visits with my family, early in the morning, getting the photos together, this is my third day . . . and here we go!

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So this was me (and Joe), in our train “room with the view” crossing the country the pretty way, from Boston to Los Angeles, “Twittering from the Twain,” a very human, feet on the ground type of travel. And with all the connectivity we have today, it’s very easy to “work” on a train. Not a lot of sketching and painting, because of the train rocking, but almost anything else; knitting, writing in diary, reading, having tea, anything on the computer; all is possible on the train.

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We start at dawn on Martha’s Vineyard with a boat ride.  This is what it looks like when the first morning boat comes in, lots of worker bees coming to the island, trucks and cars unloading and loading. I discovered, watching this, that the new-man purse is a cooler.  Almost every guy getting off the boat carried one ~ I figured out it was more than just lunch when I saw someone open his and pull out a hat!  See that cart in the background, upper right ~ when you come and go from the island, you put your luggage on the cart, they drive it on and you can pick up your stuff on the other side. Very sane.  In thirty years, we’ve never had anything go missing.

Joe, loading up the cart

Joe is just finishing putting our luggage on the cart.

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off we go

And off we go, 45 min to the mainland.

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Arriving in blue-sky Boston at about 10:30 am.

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South Station and here’s our stuff, on the cart, ready to board.

South Station. Boston

South Station . . .Boston, USA.

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Our other three black bags on the cart behind Joe will be put in the luggage car; we won’t see them until LA.  We of the “bring it all mentality” (if that counts as a mentality) will have these bags in our room.  Joe is in cat-bird seat of joy of travel.  See Club Acela in the background?  That’s where we go to wait for our train.

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Anyone who has a room on the train, gets to hang out in the Club Acela (most big cities have them) and drink free cokes and coffee and have free pastries while waiting for the train to arrive.

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And here it is.  All Aboard!  Are you ready?  The red cap comes and gets us and our bags, we follow him to the train and he deposits us and our stuff in our room with a view.

zee pillow

This is the viewing perch.  We have brought the necessities of life for train travel.  I’ve been taking the train to California and back since the 1980’s when I realized just how much I did not enjoy the whole flying experience, since, despite appearances these days, I am not cattle, and so I decided to try something else.  And fell in love with the quiet gentleness of it.

slow down

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We get settled, hang up our jackets, get out our books, and soon, in the gentlest possible way, the train moves a tiny bit, and then, rocking gently, we lumber out of the station on the first leg of our trip. There are hooks in the room, perfect for hanging these very accommodating French market bags filled with the little extras from home that make life sweet, carrots, oranges, celery and peanut butter, gingersnaps, and somewhere in there, a large chocolate bar. You can see what you want through the holes before you go for it.

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I used to only bring an extension cord.  But we had to get over that as we’ve been “gifted” with more and more electric equipment: must have: battery chargers for iphone and camera, cord for computer, then there is the most important of all, the tea pot.

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Because what is morning without your own cup of tea in your room with a view?  Minus the normal styrofoam cups. Why? Because we can. Oh, so civilized.

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And so here we go . . . with appropriate MUSICA . . . to see how America is looking these days . . . past lakes and rivers . . . it’s

America-the-beautiful

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She is looking wonderful, as we ride along roadsides . . .

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Passing traffic as we leave the city . . . Where our train, speeding in one direction, and this truck going in the other, gives quite an interesting distortion for the camera.

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And then it gets truly beautiful as we head toward Chicago . . . a one-and-a-half-day overnight trip from Boston.

leaves

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The gentle rocking movement of the train encourages three things, sleeping, eating, and watching out the window.  It is exactly the same sort of “watching” we do when we watch flames in the fireplace, or the Atlantic ocean when we cross on a ship.  Mesmerizing.

leaves

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It’s fall, in case you didn’t notice!

the world is a garden

leaves

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East of Chicago, trains are different than the ones on the west side of the country.  The west-side ones are double-deckers, with rooms upstairs and down. The trains on the east are like these, only one level but with high windows.  Doubling the viewing pleasure.

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What can I say? This part of the country is all rivers and streams, lakes and trees and woods.

back of the train

Our dear conductor did very nice thing and opened back of train so I could take a photo, so I could see it the way Lincoln saw it, or Roosevelt, from their little porches on the backs of trains.  Train travel is our heritage. The history of it is long and interesting.

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the views from the lounge were spectacular . . .

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And so it goes, rocking and swaying down the tracks . . .

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And this is the perfect place to do it!

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On a very colorful day . . .

what a wonderful world

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We are going fast and the late afternoon sun is turning everything gold. Thank you God.

storm brewing

Weather was coming into Chicago, and as we got closer we felt it and saw it . . . I just love this photo.  The train moves so quickly that often you just don’t get the photos you want.  This one was a little miracle.

miracles

in the woods

Hill and dale . . .westward we went . . .

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It began to rain . . . I loved the way this tree was dropping its leaves. Lots more nature for the viewing down here at people level than at 30,000 feet.  Leaves blow past our window in constant tatters, piles of them flying by too fast for our cameras to catch.

rain!

We stop all along the way, night and day, to pick up and let off passengers.

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Many streets and neighborhoods look like this.  You often see pumpkins on people’s porches ~

bittersweet

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and once, at four AM Halloween morning, we were stopped in a train station somewhere, I looked out the window and saw a witch getting on the train!  Hat and all! No, I did not go looking for her, I stayed tucked in my bed. Next day, Chicago . . .

good witches

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And here we are, arriving in Chicago.

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Back to Club Acela . . . we were late coming in; so what is usually a six-hour lay-over between trains, was only one. That was good news and bad news.  Bad news: no Michigan Ave for shopping and lunch.  Good news: it was freezing and storming out there, not fit for man nor beast, and we didn’t have long to wait for the next train, the one that would take us the rest of the way, to Los Angeles. 

time

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In the station, amazingly accommodating Red Caps pick you up at the train in these little carts, see the wagon on the back?  That’s our luggage; we sit on the front. They deposit you in the Club Acela, then come back and get you when it’s time to go.  Heaven forbid we should walk the length of a train! Actually we did give our cart up on our way in, to someone who had walking issues, but on the way back, we had it all to ourselves.

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And here we are again, in our room with a view, heading west ~ we each have our own window, there is one behind me too.

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And just in case you would like to see the dining car, this is it.  It’s where we sit for each meal (if we want to come, they will even deliver it to your room if you ask nicely); meals come with your ticket, but tips are appreciated by the servers.  We are usually seated with perfect strangers from every walk of life, from 747 pilots, to Amish couples, to people traveling through America from other countries, kids going back to college, doctors coming home from conferences and us. Some are very friendly, rarely someone isn’t, but politeness is the name of the game in this room.

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Here’s the breakfast menu . . .

get-attachment.aspx  I think they might be lying when they say this is the low-cal choice!  Of course, being the health nut that I am, this is what I had, every day.

too much of a good thing

get-attachment.aspxOn the left, those are two Albuquerque doctors we actually met later that night at dinner; they just happen to be in this picture; and that’s Joe behind them with his camera.  This is the Observation car, speaking of rooms with views.

The thing to do, if you want to travel by train, is get an Amtrak credit card (Chase, Mastercard) … you get points, and travel for free. Oh yes, you do!

sunset

Can you imagine? Free! While rocking in your little bed on the train.

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there's the moon

And the moon too, and the stars, all from your bed.  There are many in congress who would like to do away with the train system (not the freight part, just the people part).  Over the years I have seen a huge difference as they cut back on everything. Many of our routes have already been discontinued; a few years ago they came this far →.← from taking away the Boston to Albany birdroute, which meant I would have had to drive five hours to get the train in New York to get to Chicago! We were saved by the bell, but it’s a very bare bones route these days, no dining car for one thing; and often not the kind of repairs you would hope to see in the sleeping cars. But many other routes have not fared even this well; they are already starting to put trains in museums.  Some folks have to drive hundreds of miles to get on a train. Beggars can’t be choosers. It’s a terrible thing in my opinion . . . and in the opinion of this guy . . . 

the situation

Just a regular person, not an Amtrak employee (fighting for his middle class job), but just someone who cares, who took the time to write this smart letter, make copies and leave them lying around in the lounge car.  I could not agree more.  Even if you will never take the train yourself, I would hope our children could see our world from these windows if they want to. It’s birdvoting day, an appropriate time to think about the stuff that makes America great; personally I vote a straight “I love the train” ticket.  Train lovers love America, they love the middle class. Trains use much less energy than any other form of travel, they could even be updated using our wonderful American we-can-do-it kind of know-how; it costs nothing to drag along a few extra train cars . . . maybe a massage car, or a meditation car, a car for MUSICA, a children’s play room, a library, a tour guide or lecturer, or any old thing; I wish Disney would buy it!  But not to be too picky, if we could at least just keep what we have I would be happy.  The cross-country trains provide much needed down time in this crazy world of ours, that’s something to protect.

FYI, with lve from the Heart of the Home and me.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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wide open spaces

And now, for your arm-chair training enjoyment, the wide open spaces of the wild and wonderful Mid-West . . .

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Skies began to clear, the storm was behind us . . . And here is just a part of the Heartland of our beautiful country.  Falling in Love with the English Countryside?  Now we fall in Love with the American Countryside.

Inlovewithnature

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Where generations of families came from all over the world to make a place for themselves; here they farmed the land. I know some would have us believe there is a disconnect between the coasts and the Midwest, but I don’t think so.  So many of us have roots here, my mom was born in Iowa, I think the Iowa in me is my best part!

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Here they laid mile after mile of track; we see houses that are so far from each other, we’re pretty sure they must celebrate Halloween at The Grange!  It is not neighborhood door-to-door trick-or-treat around here! But when we have come ‘cross country on the train at Christmas time, we’ve seen every house lined in colored lights. It was touching to see them, those houses, some seemingly in the middle of nowhere, twinkling celebration in the dark, the whole country, lit up cities and towns, pulled together in gratitude.

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another sunset

Another sunset, getting redder all the time, as we go toward Colorado . . . whistle blowing across the land . . .

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And stop here in Albuquerque. Sometimes we get off here, get a car at the airport and drive one hour to Santa Fe, then up and over the mountains to see our family in Durango . . .

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  It’s always a one-hour layover, they wash the windows and we get to walk and drink in the fresh air . . . and look at the Native American jewelry they sell in the station. 

red

The dirt in New Mexico is red! The sky is blue, the trees are green and the adobe is either white or brick colored.  It’s very primary out here.

wild and wooly west

And now for the land of sagebrush and rock . . . it’s cowboy country right outside your window . . .

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There’s a poem called Out Where the West Begins written in 1917 that sings a song of this part of the country . . .

Love

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“Out where a fresher breeze is blowing . . .”

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“Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing . . .”

IMG_8204  “That’s where the west begins . . .”

last night

One more of these . . .

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And the next morning we come over the mountains to arrive in Los Angeles, our destination, and travel spot for the next three weeks.

oh my

hearts and flowers

Yes, to go away we had to leave these faces for three weeks . . . and it was hard, but our friends, Will and Debby, are staying at our house on the island and sending photos and we know they are in good hands . . . And in exchange . . .

Paden and Mason

We get this . . . for the last two days we’ve been with these faces; my nephews, along with my mom and my sister Shelly ~ and my sister’s twins, Paden, on the left and Mason, on the right.  They are eleven and this is the first time in my life I’ve totally been able to tell them apart. Whew!  Maybe they can now forgive me for all the times I’ve had to say, “Which one are you?”

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the boys

Paden on the left, Mason on the right.  Poor things, they don’t know how to have fun. I feel so bad for them.

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They helped us move into our hotel . . .

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After they finished with the cart . . .

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which took a while . . .

the boys helping us

But we finally got it together . . . it’s so nice to have some (extra) men around the house. 

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Yes, I know, I’m almost done being delightful. 🙂 I just want you to know, it might take me a while to get your comments moderated (which I have to do in order to prevent spam from loading up our comment section), but I’ll get there ~ never fear.  We’re off to my mom’s as soon as I get done here. Until then, one small favor? If you could close your eyes for a moment and say a little prayer for Blog Daddy, he doesn’t feel well.  We’re going see him in Arizona on our way home in a couple of weeks, but until then, could you please surround him with your blessings, Girlfriends?  Thank you! You are the best! XOXO to you and a special Muah! to Blog Daddy.

If you don’t have our November Calendar, here’s what you almost missed!  Happy November Girlfriends! XOXO Make it a wonderful one for you and the ones you love.

November

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466 Responses to A CASE for AMTRAK

  1. Vicki says:

    I only had one experience with Amtrak…San Francisco, Santa Barbara; that coastal route. Wasn’t a very good trip, possibly before things were more refined over time; toilets backed up in the cars, etc. I love children but there were tons of them running wild which became quite distracting. Of course, we weren’t overnighters and didn’t have a room we could retreat to for privacy or quiet; gosh, it had to be 30 years ago. I was a young adult with Mom and I told her, “Never again will you get me on a train!!” But I’d heard retired friends speak of how wonderful cross-country train travel was, and now this incredible travelog from you with such great photos…I think I could be convinced to give train travel another chance in my future. My parents fondly spoke of train travel in the 1940s when, according to them, it was somewhat more formal and luxe. The freight trains don’t run through my town anymore like they did in my youth. We lost a lot of industry; agriculture seems to use trucks (maybe because of the perishable aspect?). I would hate to see passenger trains OR freight trains die a slow death; it is my heritage as well…my grandpa was a foreman on the Rock Island line. Anyway, thank you for a glimpse of a better way to travel as we face retirement; I, too, have become wary of flying although I’ve done a lot of it in past years. If you’ve got a little extra time, seems like a passenger train might be the way to go rather than beating the pavement by car, which I’ve done as well. One time in the desert southwest/Texas, I drove 300 miles without seeing another car and it was monotonous terrain I could have skipped; driving can be tiring. I can see where on the train, you have options of walking around, taking a nap, window-viewing, eating whereas car travel can get confining. Yes, I think you may have me sold on trains now!

    • Vicki says:

      Well, I’m over it now but, earlier, I was just gutted that I couldn’t get to Cayucos for your book signing today; I’d planned it for weeks. Sometimes despite best plans, things change…but I will look forward to another time and another book from you to sign! (Was the heatwave bad there or were you cool-coastal? It can get so hot in Paso and Atascadero, for instance…)

      Just wanted to say that I have read this serenely-hypnotic train posting of yours over and over again; your descriptions of train travel have lit up something good and bright inside me for future trips…a solution I hadn’t thought of…and, now, I just hope it’s still around when I’m ready to do it.

      I also wanted to express thanks for your blog as I, too, have eschewed by choice much of social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; it all became too much of a leash, for me. Just another list of ‘to-do’s’ taking me away from my own life. I believe these things often complicate our lives when we might instead need to simplify. In your case, I know it’s different because you are also running a business and all exposure is good…I can’t imagine, though, how time-consuming; so, many thanks again for the time you spend for the actual blog; thoroughly enjoyable for us, and informational.

      I am newer to the blog and didn’t quite understand the concept of Blog Daddy…that he’s a real daddy. Continued best and healing thoughts for feeling better!

      Also, have a great trip back to the East Coast; tell us more about it!

      Seriously, if we wind up with a life without trains, libraries and post offices…it’s just too much of a loss; it’s American heritage.

      I’ve wondered a lot lately what’s happening to our lives when I’m surrounded by people on the street with their heads down, staring at a little device in their hand. It used to be, I’d sit in a lobby of something somewhere and people would annoyingly talk loudly on cell phones. Now, that quickly (time marches on), I can sit in that same lobby and there’s utter silence because everybody (but me) is attached to the thing in their hand.

      But if I hadn’t ventured into the worldwide web, I wouldn’t know about your blog…or a lot of other things. Computers made a huge difference in our lives even if it wound up putting a lot of secretaries out of work once their ‘bosses’ could type their own correspondence. Instant information is addictive. But, like all things…balance; moderation. Mindfulness. A lot of the old ways were better. Some weren’t.

      I stubbornly continue to buy real books. I go to the post office every day where I keep a brass post office box set in worn wood which has been there since 1930 and in my one family since 1964. We’re keeping our landline phone…my husband is an emergency responder and advocates this…and I pay dues to support the struggling local library. Sounds like the best thing we can do for trains is to use them!

      • sbranch says:

        What a wonderful comment Vicki! Every word a pearl! Thank you so much!

        • Paula says:

          I agree with you, Vicki~~trains, libraries, post offices, and real books are worth saving~~and very healthy for our souls! 🙂

          I recall looking around, while waiting for a flight one time, and seeing several people working crossword puzzles with a pencil. I struck up a conversation with one “puzzler.” I commented to my husband recently that now people are playing games (perhaps even crossword puzzles) on their phones. There is something more restful about the paper way.

          However, as you noted, Vicki, without the internet we would not be able to access Susan’s delightful and beautifully inspiring BLOG! Hopefully, we will all retain a peace producing moderation in our personal choices. 🙂

          I hope you have a cozy day!

          • sbranch says:

            It’s called Words with Friends, it’s Scrabble! When you are waiting for something, you whip out your phone and play a game. I have done it, but I like my Country Living Magazines better!

      • Diane says:

        Thank you for putting such an eloquent voice to my thoughts. I think what saddens me the most is seeing mothers going through the grocery store with their young children in the cart and ignoring them while they chat on their cell phone. What a missed opportunity for both of them to connect.

  2. Fan in California says:

    Seal Beach!!! Right around the corner from my house. PLEASE do not tell me you had a book signing here (I didn’t remember seeing anything on your schedule) because I would HATE to have missed you!

    Thanks for all the gorgeous photos — I think I need to put a cross-country train trip on my “bucket list”. Thanks again!!!

  3. Karen says:

    Thank you Susan! Loved this. My prayers for your Daddy

  4. Nina Bhatia says:

    I loved reading your blog. Thank you ever so much. Prayers for Daddy.

  5. Nina Bhatia says:

    Wonderful reading your blog. So glad that I discovered it. Thank you so much. Prayers for Blog Daddy.

  6. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Blog Daddy, so sorry you’ve been ill, I’m sending prayers & blessings for you! And, gentle hugs!

  7. jademichele says:

    i really love your recent book about your travels in England-and reading this post has caused me to wonder if you’d ever write a similar book about your cross-country travels here at home ?!(sorry if you have already answered this somewhere!) we have criss-crossed this country a few times,and there really are so many beautiful places,all so different but so special ! i’ve been a ‘fan’ for years-love your blog,artwork and books ! (i hope your Father is feeling better now.) <3

  8. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Absolutely delightful blog dear Sue (& Joe)! This land is our land, & so beautiful! GF your words & pictures are always so charming, but hard to read through my tears – lots of blinking required! You always touch my heart! Your CA baggage handlers are a joy to watch! Cutie pies – do 11 yr olds cringe at that?! Hello to your Mom, the Iowa girl, & thanks for sharing you with us! Wishing the best for your travels! I think I can even feel you’re in CA, magnetic pull? Arghh, plans didn’t work out for me to travel down south to meet/greet you & Joe, surely next time!!! xo

    • sbranch says:

      These eleven year olds are so used to be called Cutie Pie they think it’s their middle names! No two people were better suited to be appointed “twins” than these two. They have enjoyed every moment of it. Next time Joan! xoxo

  9. Sara McKeefer says:

    What a wonderful tour, Susan! Instead of “See the USA in your Chevrolet’ I’m humming ‘See the USA, board the Amtrak today’! I’ve ridden the New Orleans to Chicago route and then east to South Bend when we lived on the Ala Gulf Coast and came home to visit family but not your route. However, my Grandma & Grandpa Powell did around 60 years ago when they went out to see the great American Southwest. I still have the silver and turquoise bracelet Grandma purchased at the Navaho Indian Reservation. And my mom went to B.C. and the Northwest with a group of retired teachers, bringing a stuffed bison home for my son. Good times, good memories.

    I bet those boys just love you and Joe to pieces…what fun! There’s nothing quite like being with family for a giggling good time, is there? Praying that every day will be filled with precious moments of making new memories and sharing old. Prayers for your entire family, and especially for continued good health for your dad.

    🙂 Sara 🙂

  10. Susan from Bainbridge Island, Washington state says:

    Just a little after-note from me….cuz I already sent you message earlier…I got the new newsletter from the Beatrix Potter Society and there you are, in a picture honoring you and your book, A Fine Romance…..What a nice way to start your day! So fun to see you there! (((HUGS)))…from my Island to you!

  11. Pat R. says:

    Susan,
    I loved your train trip pictures. It was so good to see the U.S.A. from a train window. Flying gets us there fast, but after a trip to the northeast in September, I thing I might consider a train. I took a bus from Cape Cod to Boston on a day trip and I think it let us off at the South Station. It looked familiar I am sorry to hear about your dad feeling bad. I am sure his spirits will be lifted when he sees you.

  12. Jennie Lou says:

    Oh, Susan! How happy I am to read your journey! As a girl, and a military dependent, and daughter of a wife who WOULD NOT fly, I had wonderful adventures crossing the US by car, the Atlantic by ship and Germany by train. Oh, the memories you have brought back! And the musica! I adore Aaron Copeland. I admit to “fortifying” with some leftover Halloween candy ( a tough job, but someone must clear the way for Christmas candies…) I wish you a safe and joy-filled journey and stopped mid-way to say a prayer for Blog Daddy – may he be surrounded by all the love and hope and peace you inspire in us every day.

  13. Lori from Maine says:

    What a wonderful post Susan! I enjoyed seeing South Station – when we take the bus from Boston back to Bangor, Maine we hang around in the train station until it’s time to go. So much fun people watching and there’s also some great food! Did you notice the kiosk that sells just grilled cheese and tomato soup? I had one called “The Gobbler”. Turkey, lettuce, stuffing, cranberry sauce and cheese on whole grain bread…yum!! Hubby and I went to Washington, DC on Amtrak once – what a treat, seeing the country whizzing by. I’ve also gone from San Diego to Portland, Oregon – an overnight trip. That was magical. I remember the dining car had white linen tablecloths and heavy silverware. Very classy!! Hope you have a great trip and enjoy seeing your family. Prayers, love and light have been sent to Blog Daddy. Hope you find him well and in his usual silly state of mind.

    xoxo from SW Hbr., Maine

    • sbranch says:

      The kiosks in that train station are amazing. It is very hard to choose what to get! Thank you so much Lori!

  14. JoAnne Daniels says:

    Thank you for taking me with you on your train trip across the county. I think
    I would love to do that too — I love trains and I hope they never do away with them — it makes so much sense not to! I’ve enjoyed a few, shorter, train excursions and I know how relaxing it is. I will say a prayer for Blog Daddy.
    Enjoy your stay with family in CA.
    JoAnne from chilly NJ

  15. Cathy H says:

    Oh Susan…thank you SO much for taking us on that beautiful journey with you!! I have traveled to Virginia by train (from upstate NY) and just love it! I had not heard that Amtrak was under fire and some very ignorant senators are trying to get rid of it. You can be sure that I will be checking with Governor Cuomo’s office and my senator’s offices to see where they stand. Have a wonderful time in sunny CA – serious cold coming our way next week. You left Dodge just in time!

    Cathy

  16. cecelia says:

    Susan,
    We love the train too! I first learned about Amtrak travel from one of your early Willards. THat is the only way we travel now.
    Prayers for your Dad on its way
    Cecelia

    • sbranch says:

      Happy to hear that, I know just which Willard you’re talking about . . . the one where Joe is feeding me pieces of left-over everything.

      • cecelia says:

        yes it was that one. ANd had a cute picture of you sitting in your train-bed looking out the window. Love the train!!! Everytime I hear the train horn, I want to be on one.

  17. janet shane says:

    Susan,I have never written you a note before even though I have enjoyed your books and fabric and blog for a long time. I love to read about your home and the things you like to decorate with make me as happy as they make you. I also love train travel and take The California Zephyr to visit my daughter and son in San Francisco. I just arrived here in California from home in Illinois. I met the cutest young couple in the dining car from Birmingham England. I told them of your wonderful book about your trip to England. They are excited to read it. And one more thing– my cat Buzz looks like Jack with no moustache! Thank you for all of the happiness you bring.

    • sbranch says:

      It’s so funny, we are connected, and we connect others . . . it’s a very nice thing. Thank you Janet!

  18. Marsha MacLean says:

    Sending love and get well wishes to Blog Daddy!
    Thanks for such a terrific post, Susan. I took the train last year the length of California and loved it!
    Take care,
    marsha

  19. Rosanna says:

    First – your father is in my thoughts and prayers. Somehow just knowing that others are thinking of you (and praying) makes you feel a wee bit better.

    Next – I just have to say that after this train ride blog, I think you could set up a travel agency of sorts – Susan’s Civilized Travel – or something like that.

    Your comment on air travel being like a cattle call was totally correct. (I expect them to bring out the bull whips any day now – and play “Rawhide” as background music) And saying – as well as showing how scenic it is compared to 30K feet – yes, I’d say sign me up for a train trip! (Seriously – I’m now looking into train travel for the trips I’m expecting to make in the near future.)

    Must tell you: Used my Spiralizer again – this time to make chicken ‘noodle’ soup – actually chicken ‘vegetable noodle’ soup – and served it with nice slices of Mother Effie’s bread – which is another HUGE hit around our house by the way.

    Oh – and I thought the twin valet service at your hotel was outstanding – and entertaining. 🙂 Too cute! (But don’t tell the ‘guys’ I said that – guess it isn’t a word they like to hear at their age.)

    • sbranch says:

      “Rawhide as background music, LOL!” It felt that way to me when I last flew in the 1980’s — I can’t even imagine what it must be like now! I haven’t had time yet, but I want to try parboiling sweet potato “noodles” when I get home, instead of quick-frying them. I think it should work — did you do it that way for the soup? They didn’t get mushy?

      • Rosanna says:

        Susan – I’ve found that using the Spiralizer is a bit like a science experiment – so when it came to doing the soup, I did not parboil anything – but sort of timed it in terms of what veggie I put in and when – cabbage went in first so that it would have a nice long time to break down – potato and turnip went in while everything else was bubbling away – and I kept checking them to make sure they wouldn’t disintegrate – but you know – even warming up the soup a second (and third) time didn’t destroy their noodle shapes – so I’m not sure that parboiling would be necessary in something like a soup.
        I found a great chart online – lists the various vegetables, if you should parboil or not – or both – but I’ve determined I’m just going consider myself the mad scientist in the kitchen when I use the Spiralizer – and have fun with it!

        Speaking of that – I realized that you can spiral the stalks of broccoli – so when I make my ‘spaghetti with broccoli’, it will have broccoli ‘noodles’ as well as the broccoli flowerets!

        • sbranch says:

          Interesting. I figure we might be scientists until we squeeze all the goodness out of this machine, then our favorite techniques will just come naturally. Hopefully. Like the broccoli!

  20. Melinda, mom of 3 beauties says:

    The youngest of my 3 beauties is Emma, or my Lil’ Em. One of the things I love about her is the way she wakes up in the morning. In just a few seconds she goes from completely zonked out & embedded in her mattress, to a gentle smile and slowly opening her eyes. Then in a flash, her eyes and smile both widened to maximum capacity and she announces the event she’s excited about for that day. This is every day! This tendency is as beautiful as she is and I do what I can to learn from her and find excitement in the morning for each new day.

    Well this morning I woke up stretched looked around, smiled and it was very easy to find the excitement – it’s Susan branch day! I am on the southern coast of California on a very, very rare get away, away from my three beauties! I miss them but I am excited about being here and for the chance to meet you today.

    As with all the lovely things you say & do and share to bring delight to the rest of us, thank you for traveling out here and sharing your time for us girlfriends to have a chance to meet you and delight in a gathering. I also hope the gathering today can help bring comfort to your heart – it isn’t easy when you’re so concerned with someone you love so much. Cheers to traveling with Bridgewater mugs and cheers to a beautiful day!
    Love, melinda (proud mom to 3 beauties)

  21. Tawni urrutia says:

    What a completely marvelous post! Such a treat to see all the beauty America has to offer East to West. You have such a talent for taking photos that tell a story. I love the church steeple picture, the blue sky patches repeat the pattern of the Trinity on the cross…only YOU could get that shot, and from a moving train at that! And the incredible farm houses, are just so beautiful, they don’t look real! They remind me of the Charles Wysocki posters and calendars from the 80’s. I always wanted to live in one of those posters! And then BOOM red dirt of Colorado! Love it!! And then my home state of sunshine and citrus and the magic Pacific ocean. And your nephews are so stinkin cute! Oh thank you Susan! I join all the girlfriends in praying for your darling dad’s continued improved health. His humor and wit are just terrific! Best of everything to you and Joe on your travels.
    ❌⭕❌⭕,
    Tawni Urrutia Lodi, Ca

  22. Hi Susan,
    What a treat to read this post and also to hear that Blog Daddy is feeling better. He is in my prayers.
    That picture of your French toast breakfast on the train evoked memories of my late aunt Marge and her husband Uncle Tom. In the ’40s and ’50s, they lived in LA, where both worked in movies and television, and traveled East each holiday season to visit our family in N.J. and his in DC and also see plays and musicals in NYC.
    I am lucky enough to have her old travel journals from the 1950s, where she describes their trips (much like you do) and comments on the food served on the train – especially the wonderful French toast. “I have to ask the steward how they make it,” she says on one page. “Whee! Had that great French toast for breakfast again this morning,” she comments on another.
    They would also get out and shop in Chicago, walk around in Albuquerque and enjoy the gorgeous scenery from the domed scenic-view cars.
    So glad that this mode of transportation is still with us and hope it never goes away.
    I want to make a cross-country train trip at least once in my lifetime. But if I don’t, I appreciate the fact that you have made it come alive for me, just like Aunt Marge does in her vintage journals written 50 years ago.
    Thanks again, Susan, and have more great times with your family and a safe trip back to the Vineyard.
    Hugs,
    Nancye T.
    Wells, Maine

    P.S. I hear the whistle from the Downeaster, which goes from Brunswick to Boston, several times a day. The tracks are about 1/2 mile from our house and I know it is time to get up when the 5:59 a.m. train pulls in to Wells and pulls out again at 6:01 a.m., its whistles blowing. It’s my morning alarm clock!

    • sbranch says:

      Nice alarm clock you have there Nancye! When I hear stories like yours about the travels of your aunt and uncle it makes me think that things haven’t really changed at all. That’s what I love about the train. It’s more than just travel.

  23. Betty Marie says:

    Hi Susan, Thanks for taking the time to share the information how it works to board and depart a train. I learned so much and I hope to be able to take Amtrack to San Antonio Texas to see my sister. I don’t want to ever fly again, and going by car is not realistic for us being seniors. Have a wonderful vacation.

  24. mary of PA. says:

    Oh, Susan, the train ride is great. We went by train a few years ago, I like to keep my feet on the ground. Thank you for sharing.
    Prayers to Blog Daddy.

  25. Mare Hare says:

    What a wonderful post. I was right there with you. In my small Wiconsin town a group was trying to stop the train whistles which have been a part of our history forever. Fortunately those of us who value memories and nostaligia prevailed. There is something so comforting about a train: the whistle, the rocking, the special perspective it gives us on the word. Thanks SB for sharing yours with us,

    • sbranch says:

      Stop the whistles? Cur-A-zee. I hear so much romance in the sound of a train whistle . . . Joe always points it out to me when he hears one . . . “Listen, a train.”

  26. Joy Pence from Ohio says:

    Praying for your sweet father. Please let us know how he is doing. Thank you for taking us the train with you. I picked up recent Ohio Country Register and there you were with your cranberry relish recipe, that made me so happy! Enjoy your visit.

    • sbranch says:

      Nice to hear that Joy! Yes, I talked to my dad yesterday, each day he seems to be feeling a bit better, but soon I will be there with him. They are planning a small tea party for us and their friends! Makes me happy we all have so much to look forward to.

  27. Rae Ann R. says:

    Dear Susan-Thank you for the blog…I am not on Twitter so I really appreciate it…lovely pictures-except for that scary looking witch!!! Enjoy that sunshine…snow is suppose to be with us every day this coming week here in northern Michigan…sending LOTS of healthy thoughts and prayers to blog Daddy…xoxo…

  28. Amylisa says:

    Susan, thank you for such a long and interesting post!! It is so great to be able to see the pictures of the sights you are enjoying. I have family in southern CA and have been thinking of taking the train to see them. My youngest son has autism and I would not attempt to fly with him…one of my kids had the great idea of maybe going by train. I think it may really be our answer for a long distance family trip. Your post inspires me to start planning! We’d be leaving from Boston too, so your post is helpful info. Prayers for safe and happy travels “there and back again!” 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      What a great way for your children to learn! Thank you Amylisa!

    • Donna says:

      I was wondering the same thing about my son, Amylisa….. He is now 30 and has Down Syndrome and autism. It has been years since I flew with him and it didn’t go so well the last couple of times. I’m thinking of trying out train travel for myself and hopefully it will be something he would enjoy also. My precious Patrick loves to ride in a car. A special “room with a view” might be just the thing to see our family in Texas!!!

  29. Yvonne says:

    Praying for your daddy~ 🙂

  30. Carol from PA says:

    Yet another HUGE thank you to you and Joe for including us all on the adventure of a lifetime! Aren’t we having fun!! I did manage to find myself and you on Twitter and can’t tell you how exciting it was to check-in with you numerous times during the days and nights you were traveling. And now this blog! It all has been a true blessing. Please know that I have been praying for your father each time I have been visiting with the full moon this week and will continue to do so. I feel like we should be offering you and Joe some compensation for taking us along on the ride!

  31. CATHERINE says:

    DEAR SUSAN
    MY PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY…. SEEING THE CRANBERRY SAUCE RECIPE AT THE VERY BOTTOM, I STARTING THINKING ABOUT THANKSGIVING. TO ME, THANKSGIVING IS THE HOLIDAY THAT WE SHOULD TREASURE THE MOST. THE BEST GIFTS WE RECEIVE ARE GOOD HEALTH, LOVE, AND HAPPINESS WITHIN OUR HEARTS….
    HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND ALL SUSAN’S FANS.
    CATHERINE

  32. lani nelson says:

    Susan, Thank you for sharing your train trip across our beautiful country. Due in part to your influence and my sweet husband’s yearning for a train trip, we did so during the last two weeks of September. Your photos reminding me of the joy we both felt on our journey. Ours started in Eugene Or. then to Seattle- Glacier where we stayed for 3 days- Chicago for 2 days (I just had to get to Wrigley Field-what a fun city!) and then down to Rocky Mountain National Park for 3 days before we headed back to Eugene. The high points on the train? The small neighborhoods, farmland, scenery, and the people we met. We too were met at the end of our trip by two excited and adorable children. Makes it all that much sweeter. Thank you Susan ! Fondly, Lani

  33. Joan Lesmeister says:

    We enjoyed your Butternut Squash Soup recipe last week, so yummy! Had to use yogurt & whole grain bread croutons – interesting replacements, but good! Brought Mom (just turned 99) over to view your twain twip & she loved it! Big smile when I played “your land is my land” as she watched! I hope your Mom gets to see your blogs too, my dear, they’re so heart warming, wonderful, beautiful & more! xoxoxo

  34. Melinda mom of 3 beauties says:

    It is true: smart phone is only as smart as the user. Being that I have no idea why my comment didn’t go thru Saturday morning, I can’t expect the phone to take the blame….maybe it is still soaring in the air at Apple Farm. So please allow me to press the STOP button, REWIND, then at Saturday morning about 5:45 am press PLAY…….

    The youngest of my 3 beauties is Emma, or my Lil’ Em. One of the things I love about her is the way she wakes up in the morning. In just a few seconds she goes from completely zonked out & embedded in her mattress, to a gentle smile & slowly opening her eyes. Then in a flash, her eyes and smile widen to maximum capicity and she announces the thing she is excited about for that day. This is everyday! This tendency is as beautiful as she is and I do what I can to learn from her and find excitement for each new day.

    Well, this morning when I woke up I stretched, looked around the room (plenty of eye candy in an Apple Farm room!) smiled and it was very easy to fing the daily excitement–It’s Susan Branch Day!! My eyes and smile widen to maximum capicity as I am on the Southern Coast of California on a very, very rare get-away, away from my 3 beauties. I miss them but I am SO excited to be here and for the chance to meet you today.

    As with all the lovely things you say & do and share to bring delight to the rest of us, thank you for traveling out here and sharing your time for us girlfriends to have a chance to meet you and enjoy a gathering-of happiness! I hope the gathering today will bring comfort to your heart; it isn’t easy when you’re so concerned with someone you love so much. Prayers of recovery to your Daddy.

    Cheers to traveling with Bridgewater mugs and cheers to a beautiful day!
    Love, melinda

    • sbranch says:

      It was lovely to meet you Melinda! Thank you for contributing to a truly magical day! I loved hearing about your girls. xoxo

  35. Lisa (the #1 volunteer) says:

    Dear Susan,
    That was just spectacular and generous. Thank you. I have sent healing thoughts West to Blog Daddy. Just yesterday, I had to show yet another friend the signed book from you via Peggy at book Expo in NYC. I often say I wish I had your life! But, your wonderful travelogue comes close!!! (thanks for thinking of us non-twitterers!!)

  36. I so enjoyed this journey with you Susan. I did follow a bit on Twitter, but I thoroughly enjoyed this recap with all the extra details even more! (Love the boys at the end! You lucky woman!) I was blessed to travel across Canada several times by train. I really enjoyed those trips. I did not have a sleeper car, but a berth. My MIL took the Flying Scotsman from London to Edinborough in a sleeper car and had a lovely time. Some day I am going to do that. We use commuter trains a lot here in the UK. I love train travel. It is sad that so many of the trains are being shut down. So much sacrifice and hard work went into building those systems and it’s a shame to see them go. I will be keeping Blog Daddy in my prayers. I hope you enjoy your stay with your family. And Happy Thanksgiving! We will be doing ours later this month with the girl missionaries. I am really looking forward to it! xxoo

  37. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Hello Susan! Your train traveling tea time is spectacular!!! Your photos and words carry us along the way with you, just as though we were sitting next to you and Joe on the train! Thank you for including us! Thank you (a thousand times) for the November page in your 2014 calendar……each day I smile, with a tear in my eye….a gift to treasure forever! Have lots of fun with your cute nephews and family Susan! Said a Hail Mary prayer for your father’s complete recovery, so he will be 100% healthy for the coming holiday season! Take care of yourself!!!!

  38. Carol Zwick says:

    I am a train fan and often take Amtrak from New York City. This is one of my dream trips and I so enjoyed your post. Will definitely contact my elected officials to keep Amtrak running.

  39. Mary Whiting says:

    Susan,
    It all looks so wonderful! Enjoy.
    Prayers each day and night for your dear, Dad. Promise.

    Mary

  40. Deb W says:

    Re-reading this post in anticipation of the next one……I spy… a duffle bag in William Morris print!! How fabulous! There may be other comments about it here, but I didn’t wade through the nearly 400 (!) to find out!

  41. Simone Dextraze says:

    Blog Daddy is in my prayers. I love your blogs. I remember a train trip I took from Denver, CO to Worcester, MA. I was alone, but the trip was thrilling, meeting new people and seeing our beautiful country, plus having all the time in the world to catch up on reading. I recommend it to anyone. We did make a stop in Chicago and I had time to go to the top of Sears Tower.

  42. Paula says:

    I will pray for BLOG Daddy. He has been a fun addition to your BLOG, and I do hope he is feeling much better by the time you visit him.

    You truly are a marketer, Susan! Your photos and comments and enthusiasm are very motivating! I am going to share this with my husband and see if he will consider a train trip along the West Coast sometime.

    I love the way you travel–with everything– including the Bridgewater cups and your electric teapot.

    Thank you for sharing “Out Where the West Begins” link.

    I love the perfect quotes you paint and sprinkle throughout your BLOG entries. Do you keep a book of quotes?

    Have a blessed time in California. I eagerly await your return trip BLOG entry!

    Hugs and blessings, Paula

    • sbranch says:

      I have several books of quotes I’ve saved over the years, yes. Isn’t it true ~ such a girlfriend thing, don’t we all share the great things we “find” — be it diets, hand creams that really work, wonderful recipes, or train rides that are fun!

  43. Alice Churchill says:

    Thank you for sharing your trip with us on Facebook. 3years ago we went on the same train and board ed in Albany, NY. It brought back so many memories. First time we had ever been on a train. Very relaxing. Prayers for blog Daddy.

  44. L Willard says:

    Loved the post. Amtrak should pay you big time to write an Amtrak version of “A Fine Romance” based on this recap.

    • sbranch says:

      It’s a nice idea, would just have to do it while riding the train (except for the painting part!).

  45. Sonya says:

    Training is an adventure; you’ll talk about the trips for years! We ventured from Florida to Pennsylvania on the old Palmetto. At Strasbourg railway the conductor yelled as we left “next time you go TAKE THE TRAIN!”

  46. Sharon says:

    I take an Amtrak cross-country trip every year (sometimes twice!), including a Los Angeles to Boston round trip a few years ago. I love it! The journey IS the vacation. If you’re not in a hurry, it’s the best way to travel.

    Next time, try the Coast Starlight, or California Zephyr. They have the best views of all the routes, in my opinion.

    • sbranch says:

      I’ve taken them both, the Coast Starlight all the way to Seattle is the prettiest I think ~ I just love the parlor car they have on that train! And I love the Empire Builder that goes from Chicago through Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho to Seattle (and back). I wish they’d only go through the sierras during the day on the Zephyr, and park the train at night, I always feel like we miss too much when the sun goes down.

  47. Esther White says:

    Your view of train travel was excellent ! My first train trip was about 1984, we had driven to Florida/Disney World, my husband & another dad were complaining about the ride down to Florida. The other dad was from Boston (we are near Cleveland Ohio) he said they were probably going to take the train back to Boston with the Auto Train, where they take your vehicle and load it. This is done in Stanford Florida to Lorton Va, driving home after that is a piece of cake. We did it and many times after that. We did a few years a go with our kids and the grandkids. They loved it ! We have gone from San Franciso to Ohio, Dallas to & from, Cleveland to Minnepolis several times. It is not perfect (what is) our first trip to Minnesota last Thanksgiving took 22 hours from Cleveland to Minneapolis, many stops/delays. I also love to hit the streets/stores of Chicago as you layovers can be 6 hours or barely long enough to get the next train. We do coach from Cleveland to Chicago then a sleeper from Chicago to MN & going back vice versa. Last year coming back from MN, we were delayed 2 days, we eventually were put on a coach bus that was gorgeous to Chicago, from there we took the train to Cleveland. Train travel is an adventure, I do like it so much more than flying. I so appreciated your pictures and summary of Amtrak ! Blessings to you & your loved ones-We leave the 23rd of Nov. to go to Minneapolis by AMtrak…….

  48. Margot in Virginia Beach says:

    Prayers for Blog Daddy Jack!!!
    I always look at the pics before I read the blog. I saw the tea cups and thought: How civilized!!! Then I saw what you wrote. LOL I don’t like foam or paper cups. So, heading up the highway in CA you could listen to Ventura Highway~America. CA has so many temperate zones! I enjoyed the SoCal beaches, but I loved seeing Gold Rush Country with my cousin Lisa. Since I love architecture and structural engineering the Golden Gate Bridge was a marvel! The city there was not so exciting for me. I am more of a small town girl. Yes, I finally will admit that.
    Thank you for the pics of the Heartland from the train!!!
    To Mr. St. Clair of NH: Scott Walker is NOT trying to shut down Amtrak, his does not want to spend the money to upgrade to high speed trains, with a federal handout. We don’t like federal handouts in WI (i.e. graduation exams for example), because when a state does accept the money they have to run things the federal way instead of the state way. People in NH should keep there mouth shut about Wisconsin! I speak from expirience, as I have lived in both. My sons were not treated very well in the schools when we had to move to NH from WI, and I have been to many town meetings in NH. They like to compare themselves to the Mid-West. I wondered why??? Who really “Lives Free”?
    My family LOVES trains. My maternal grandfather came from Switzerland and took me to the tracks to watch the trains. My dad is from NW PA and he took us to see his favorite train bridge every time we went to see grandpa. My dad said the highways wouldn’t be so ripped up from trucks, if they would use the trains more often to haul goods. My mom traveled by train as a young adult in the 50s.
    Safe trip home for you, we have made it back and have battened down the hatches.

  49. Sharon in So. Calif. says:

    Hi Susan, not sure if you will get this, but just had to tell you that last night my sister and I had a pinterest party. Just the 2 of us and she made your corn chowder and mashed potatoes. WOW and double WOW, why did I never make this before. I seriously wanted to lick the bowl!!! My sister who does not even do the computer and knows next to nothing about blogging said, “are you going to blog Susan and tell her)!! I really did lol and told her I would so here I am. We finished off the night with a cuppa of your private blend tea, she was soooo impressed. Now she wants everything SUSAN!! Well just had to send you this for her, hope you and Joe are having a marvelous time. Lots of love and safe travels. xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      How fun Sharon! I’m so glad you liked it! Interestingly, I joined Pinterest a couple of days ago. I haven’t had a minute to start really doing anything with it, but I wish I’d been at your party! Hello to your sis from me xoxo

  50. MimBeeMe says:

    What a wonderful trip! Thank you so much for posting the photos, I felt like I had a mini vacation! It’s been sooo long since I’ve gotten to have a sit and read day (three Grandbabies in six weeks is just over the top!!) but I finally have one today and this was a great way to start it off! I’ve always wanted to travel by train, civilized like you, of course, with tea in real cups…very ‘Orient Express’ style!

  51. Lisavi from Flower Mound, TX says:

    Have you ever read the book, The Christmas Train, by David Baldacci? I just finished reading it for my book club. Lots of great details about train travel especially Amtrak and the characters talk a lot about keeping Amtrak going. Hope your Daddy is doing well. Thanks for another great post!

  52. Betty Marie says:

    I am really just one who skims the sight as I was spending to much time on here reading every message. I missed that Blog Daddy isn’t well. “God Bless him with renewed health.”

  53. Darlene says:

    Thanks Susan for taking us along and sharing all the beauty! Sending good thoughts and prayers for your Dad. xoxo

  54. Janice Nelson in Park City, Utah from Boston says:

    Prayers to your dad. I hope he feels better.
    You need to write and illustrate a book on your train adventures. Bring the trains to life for people! It will help prevent their extinction.
    I am looking forward to my annual Thanksgiving stuffing from your Heart of the Home book. My favorite tradition. My mom died in 1997 and never wrote down her stuffing recipe. But yours is just like hers and I have been making it ever since. My mom lives a little through this and I am ever so grateful.
    The page is worn has has food stains all over it. The book is dog-eared and much loved. I have written things in it for years and have pages from magazines stuffed in it as well. I buy up every extra copy I find and give them out as gifts.
    A treasure.

    • sbranch says:

      You are a sweetheart to tell me. Traditions, in this wild and wooly world, mean more than ever. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Janice.

      • Mary in Phoenix says:

        So, I can’t remember … Was a “Thanksgiving Book” on your (our) list of what you still plan (need) to write? If not, it should (must) be!!! xo

  55. Marianne says:

    Your blog and the replies have been fun and interesting reading, while the pictures have been something to come back to look at again and again, all of them, but especially this train travel has brought some wonderful stories! Hope that Jack, aka Blog Daddy, is feeling a lot better.

  56. Jan says:

    Susan,
    So enjoyed the news and views of your train trip. Would really like to take a train trip one of these days. Hope you are enjoying your time with family and that your Daddy is feeling much better. Prayers said for him. Our church ladies had our annual tea get together at a tea room yesterday. Lots of good food, tea, desserts, and conversation. A fun day! Cold and snow flurries here in my part of Michigan. Must get busy cleaning and organizing in preparation for Thanksgiving. Have a safe trip home and enjoy the rest of your time away.
    Jan

  57. Julia says:

    This is a PS: I just have to tell you that every time you go
    someplace and I see a photo of your luggage, I get a big
    smile on my face !

  58. Marty from NYC says:

    Hi Susan:

    Just took a look at your Twitter comments and your change of plans and thought that all your blog followers should know that you are staying on with your much loved family so they do not fret that there is no new message. Your pictures of your trip across this incredible country are certainly worth many re-reads.

    Have a wonderful time at Jack’s tea party–and let him know that he remains in the thoughts, prayers and mindful hearts of all who have the pleasure of meeting him through your books and blog. A big hug to him and to Jeanne.

    Your mom must be thrilled that she will have you with her for Thanksgiving this year. I hope that this will be a joyful holiday for all.

    Fond good wishes-Marty.

    • sbranch says:

      Our tea party is today, off to the grocery store the moment it opens ~ 6am . . . thank you Marty for this update, because you’re right, it’s been a busy time.

      • mary spring says:

        …so good to hear from you and that you arrived safely at B.D.’s…like Marty, I have been checking Twitter updates !…so busy, you all are !..enjoy your time with your loved ones, as time has a way of flying by !..have a wonderful tea party and give B.D. a hug from all of us…with love as always…

      • Mary in Phoenix says:

        Bet it was freezing (literally) at 6 a.m. We’re having a bit of a cold spell here in AZ right now! Enjoy your tea party ♥♥♥ Sipping a cuppa with your dad … it doesn’t get any better than that 🙂 Curious what’s on the menu?

        • sbranch says:

          Egg salad sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, angel food cake and fresh strawberries, lemon cake, lots of cookies . . . two kinds of tea. Was yummy and fun.

    • Terrie from Atlanta, GA says:

      Thank you, Marty, for keeping us “non-Twitters” in the loop! We are all praying for Blog Daddy Jack’s recovery, so it’s wonderful news to hear the family will be together for Thanksgiving. Good change of plan, Sue and Joe . . . Hope the tea party was grand! XoXo

  59. Kim Fahrni says:

    Wow…you have chronicled your travels in such a beautiful way that I am going to look into train travel. Thank you!

  60. deborah.t.norling says:

    Oh Susan…you have n o o idea how much I’ve needed your vacation… ! Thank you for sharing all of the glorious sights and taking us along with you.

  61. Faun says:

    Susan, do you get people’s permission before posting their pictures on the internet? (i.e. the strangers on the train)?

    I’d be super upset if I found my picture on a blog without my permission.

  62. Lucia says:

    Susan, sending my thoughts and prayers for your Dad’s well being. What beautiful photos of your trip across America! Thank you for taking the time to share them with all of us.
    Lucy in California

  63. Barb from Ohio says:

    I saw on Twitter that you were traveling to see Blog Daddy a few days ago and I imagine you are there and visiting with him right now. Hope he is feeling better! I haven’t been feeling too good myself. Been getting chemo since mid-October for breast cancer to shrink it before they do surgery early next year. Your blog is so lighthearted and uplifting I didn’t want to say anything on here about it before. Just want to remind all the girlfriends out there to go get that mammogram if they haven’t, just don’t hesitate. October was breast cancer awareness month, but we girls need to be mindful of it every month of the year and do those self exams and get those mammograms.
    On a lighter note, I ordered your 2015 wall calender and pocket calender the other day and see it’s being shipped. I love your calenders and look so forward every year to the new one. Hope you have sunshine out there, we had about five inches of snow the other day and may get more before a warm up this weekend. Poor Buffalo got blasted with six feet! Just seems way too early for this kind of cold and snow, I still have corn stocks and pumpkins out till Thanksgiving, and they’re covered in snow. Love to take the holidays one at a time. Enjoying the pictures of what you are doing and the places you visit, you have the knack for telling the story of your trip and travels and making it so interesting I feel like I’m there with you. Enjoy your visit with your Mom and Dad and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and safe trip back in December.

    • sbranch says:

      Excellent advice Barb, and especially from you. Wishing good outcomes for your continuing health and many many blessings xoxoxo. And best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.

  64. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Risin’ & shinin’ & 6am grocery store trek, you’re amazing GF! Thinking of you and your family with love and prayers!

  65. Mary Brehm says:

    Hi Sweet Susan. I have been thinking of you and Blogdaddy. Hope all is well. It’s freezing cold here in upstate ny. The birds and squirrels are going crazy at the feeders. I even have a few bunnies still hanging around. I just brought out a big bunch of old arugula and put it under the feeders. We have to take care of our little friends when it gets cold. hugs from me : )

  66. Carol in KS says:

    Thank you for the wonderful travel post! I love to travel by train, too, and then come home to the Midwest. Many, many prayers for your dad. Safe and happy travels and visits for you and Joe.

  67. Carol in KS says:

    P.S. I LOVE your ideas for adding extra cars to trains! This is basically what cruise ships have done — something for everyone. And, when one looks out the window on a train, there is so much more to see than water! I know, there’s something to be said for water, too! Anyway, you are onto something!!

  68. Your post makes me want to get right on a train and see the country! Beautiful photos!

  69. Adriann says:

    I’m a little late to the conversation, but I whole heartedly agree that Amtrak deserves support. Living in Ct with family down south, I always take Amtrak to avoid the headache of driving through busy cities with young kids. Plus, the kids view it as a treat. Over the last several years, I’ve started taking business class, since it seemed almost impossible to get multiple seats together and to avoid some of the inappropriate videos some individuals stream on their devices.
    Much “home improvement” is needed in several areas within the country indeed.

  70. Paula Arndt says:

    I loved reading your AMTRAK train adventure story! I am a huge fan of train travel, myself. I have taken The Empire Builder from Seattle to my native state of Wisconsin ( getting off in Columbia, a mere ten miles from my home town of Manchester, where Dad comes drom to pick me up), about a dozen times since moving out to the west coast 25 years ago.
    Its relaxing, fun to be up early and first in the dining car for breakfast and the scenery is divine, especially the Rocky Mtns and then my green, forested and wild, native Wisconsin!
    I ride in the main cars in coach because its cheap, but have always wanted to get my own room.
    I also loved reading about your stove…mine is the heart of my home, too, and also the first place I head to aftergetting up….starting my day before I head to work with an Alaskan shrimp omelet with feta and green onion! ( every day…I am a creature of habit).
    But my stove is not beautiful like yours! If mine were, I’d photograph it all the time!

  71. Toni from Sylvania, OH says:

    Hi Susan…a happy and prayerful December, as we await Jesus’ birth. Not that we are going anyplace, but you have made train travel sound sooo appealing and fun. Sounds like more than just a get-away….a BRAND ,NEW adventure!! Think the only train trip we’ll be on any time soon is YOURS..THANKS SO MUCH…
    love and hope during these Advent days:-)))
    Toni from Sylvania OH

  72. Sandy Y. says:

    Dear Susan,
    Loved this blog. I grew up with trains because my Dad worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. My husband can say the same. I have taken many rides to NYC from Harrisburg, PA to visit my grandchild there. My husband and I took Amtrak to Seattle on the Empire Builder and I have many photos, too. So it was like nostalgia to enjoy this post. We love to take the Auto train to Florida so we have transportation when we get there and can enjoy traveling at our own pace.
    I had the privilege of meeting you at the FOGT reunion last June and have thoroughly enjoyed your A Fine Romance book which reminded me of my trip to London in 2004. Traveling is so exciting no matter how you go but trains are in my blood and really the best way for us.
    Keep up the wonderful and fun work you do. You really inspire us all.

  73. Phyllis Skalko says:

    Susan it is January 16,2015 and I am re reading this post and I would like to somehow send this on to an AMTRAK rep who is working with me and The Dunsmuir Railroad Depot Historical Society to bring the AMTRAK Exhibit Train to our little Railroad Town of Dunsmuir for our Annual Railroad Days event in June of 2015. We talked about what AMTRAK is promoting this year – They want to hi lite small towns and Train Stations along the AMTRAK route…that is how Dunsmuir is be considered for a stop by the EXHIBIT Train.
    I told him about this post and said that if anyone read this post it would be impossible for them NOT TO BOOK A TRIP! I hope this was okay to let him know since you are One Great Fan of AMTRAK, I gave him your web address but would it be possible to send this post directly via email to him???

    Yours in Train Love and in everything SB Phyllis Skalko

  74. Phyllis Skalko says:

    Thanks so much. INFO is on the way to the AMTRAK Rep His name is Steve Ostrowski in case he contacts you directly. I do so hope you get time to write that book on Train Travel. That is only way I travel my self. My last trip was from Dunsmuir on the Coast Starlight to Sacramento, the California Zepher (sp) to Chicago, the Capitol to Washington DC and then a 4 hr wait in the VIP lounge then Back on the Capitol to Chicago then on the Empire Builder to Portland and finally the Coast Starlight home to Dunsmuir. My friends thought I was Crazy … “You mean you aren’t getting off and visiting Chicago or DC?” “Why are you doing this?” They just don’t get it!!! Its the TRAIN ! I am going so I can spend time on the TRAIN!!!! So I can be rocked to sleep on the TRAIN.!!!! So keep the book on your TO DO LIST…..People need to experience this…..will let you know how this Exhibit Train turns out……Take care xxxooo Phyllis

    • sbranch says:

      I wonder if we’ve ever passed in the halls, or even shared a meal Phyllis!? Praying for the future of the train! Thank you!

  75. Phyllis Skalko says:

    Oh Susan If we had passed in the hallway or shared a meal…..you would have remembered one happy excited woman….I would have met you in person and I would have gushed all over about how wonderful your art is, how delicious your mind works, how you see and capture beauty for us all to see, how you remind us to be present and really live today WOW… I can just imagine it as if it really happened! Anyway you really make my day each time I take the time to visit your blog. We all wish we were your neighbors in reality but meeting you here in your blog is the closest and the bestest we can do.

    Yes, we should all pray to save our TRAINS….I just got a call today from our Yardmaster for UP and it is looking pretty good for the Exhibit Train to come for our Railroad days. Yippee!
    Take care….

  76. Jodi says:

    We’re taking our first trip on Amtrak to Erie, PA. The train arrives at 2 AM. Amtrak’s website states that the Erie station hours are 12:01 AM to 2:30 AM. Erie’s taxi service does not have a good reputation… If our taxi doesn’t come to get us by 2:30 AM, will Amtrak make us wait outside?

    • sbranch says:

      I would definitely call and ask them. I haven’t been to that station so I’m not sure, but they will know. Dial the Amtrak number and say the word “agent” to get a human, and tell them your situation.

  77. Laura S. says:

    I do love riding on trains and it’s how I visited my Uncle & Great Grandmother when I was young, boarding in Ct and riding to NJ. Not a long trip. I see the cost of what Amtrak costs now and am floored. As much as I do like riding on trains and wish we still had the smaller passenger train services, it is not a priority on my list of issues when voting.

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