Summer of Trains—Day 1—Delayed

No miraculous price drops occurred for downtown Seattle hotels, so we spent our pre-train night at the Sleep Inn near SeaTac. I call Sleep Inn the Ibis of America, because the rooms (like Ibis’) are small and have pre-fab style bathrooms, but they provide reliable cleanliness and breakfast. This one also had an airport shuttle.

We watched a little World Cup football, worked out (in the also super-small fitness room), then grabbed breakfast and watched some more football before heading downtown. Our plan was to drop our bags at the train station and then head out to lunch (and more football). We took the hotel shuttle to the nearby Angle Lake light rail station and paid $3 each to ride to International District station.

It was an easy walk (with two elevators and a bridge across the main road) to King Street Station. Immediately upon arriving, we saw my sister-in-law and niece, who had just arrived on the train from Vancouver (along with my brother and nephew). We visited with them and stored our bags ($10/bag—captive-audience pricing), then headed out for lunch.

We had a tasty lunch and watched a disappointing performance by Argentina at Quality Athletics. Maureen had Sammy’s Rice Bowl with beef and I had Chicken and Waffles—both quite good—and we tried a Blood Orange cider (not very orangey) and a Rainier Radler (quite refreshing). We decided to get coffee on the way back and selected Elm Coffee Roasters. The service was great, but the macchiato and cappuccino we ordered were not quite to our tastes.

Upon our return, we learned that our train was delayed. The extent of delay was not immediately made clear, but we were hearing that the chance of making our connection in Chicago was essentially nil. So, time to punt. I found a car (thanks Costco Travel) big enough for all of us in Chicago, but only if it could be returned to Chicago. Apparently, out-of-state rental car drops are essentially a thing of the past. Every car rental agency showed as “sold out” of cars until I changed the setting to say I would return it to the place of pickup. We were able to cancel our train legs between Chicago and Cincinnati—for a refund—so we booked the car and settled in for more waiting.

The train we were to board is scheduled to arrive in Seattle each morning at 10:25 a.m. This day it arrived about 4 p.m! Once the incoming passengers were disgorged, service was still needed, since Seattle is the end of the line. Cars needed cleaning and larders needed stocking. The train left the station for this, much to our dismay. It was challenging to get information in the main waiting room, however the agents at the ticket counter were forthcoming and helpful. They let us know that the inbound train had been delayed by a disabled freight train and that we would hopefully be leaving around 8:30 p.m. There would be dinner service, but it would be late. None of us could wait that long, but at least we then knew there was enough time to get some carry out, since the beautiful (really) King Street Station has no food options beyond vending machines.

By this time, everyone was getting tired, including the 3 1/2-year old. But not tired enough, as the adults still needed to follow her all around the station. Eventually, the train pulled back into the station and we got to board. Pro tip: if there are luggage storage spots where you board, leave your big stuff there. I mistakenly thought there would be spaces closer to our roomette, and ended up schlepping the big suitcase up the steps, across to our car and then back— against traffic.

The roomette seemed smaller than I remembered. We stowed our stuff and headed to the dining car for dessert as soon as “dinner” service was announced. Our sleeping car attendant had provided ice, so we indulged in a well-earned nightcap before asking said attendant to set up the bunks. The ensuing nausea when we laid down in the now fast-moving train was happily cured by the addition of a second pillow each (thanks again, George).

We were finally on our way, not much worse for the wear.

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