We thought it would have been wonderful to drive to GT-28, ahh... the Pacific Northwest. But as luck would have it, we again did not have the time available to take a leisurely 3000 mile, round trip, drive to the coast. It wouldn't have been a difficult journey — leave the house, turn left and follow US-12 across the top part of the U.S. Then follow US-20 back.
We thought about flying out: been there, done that. We've always wondered what it would be like to travel in the U.S. by train, since we found the experience quite pleasant in Europe. We got flexible, moved outside "the box" and split the difference. We resolved to take "MGAmtrak" out and fly "MGAmerican" back.
Amtrak Stop at LaHavre, ND
Mike Ash wrote of his and Jennifer's experience traveling to The Resort at Welches on Amtrak in MGA!, but they are experienced at traveling by train in the U.S. I think they told us they've done it twice. Well, unbeknownst to us, we were two days behind them on the train going out, embarking Amtrak in Chicago.
Like Mike and Jennifer, we also had the First Class accommodations, but with a standard cabin. That means the bathroom is down the hall. We swear there's more room in the MGA. The brochure says room for two small carry-ons with a small closet. But when Amtrak wrote the brochure, they accidentally left out the adjective "very": it means enough room for a nightgown, a cosmetic bag, and a shaving kit, but the hanger had better not be curved!
The standard cabin was quite spacious, until you went to bed. The lower, two, first-class, seats combined to form a lower berth. The top berth dropped down from the ceiling. Now you have exactly six inches between the door and the edge of the berths. You'd better be dressed for bed before the conversion!
We thoroughly enjoyed the train trip west. We brought our own wine and were in a cabin near the Dining Car. Looking out of the great picture window, with the sounds of the train, was like watching Hi-Definition TV with Surround Sound twenty-four hours a day. One of the interesting aspects of cross-country train travel is dining. We were surprised. We'd heard several unkind comments about Amtrak meals. We admit that the dining is not five-star. The trans-continental meal service is different than that day trip from Chicago to Grand Rapids. At each meal, there were at least five entrées on the menu. The food was well prepared, and the wait-staff was attentive. The other interesting aspect is that since the dining area is small and there are a lot of people that need to get fed, all seats at all tables are filled at every meal, first come, first served, which means you get to meet quite a few interesting people. We talked with students, professors, and retirees alike. Just start talking. Eventually you find a topic that everyone can participate in.
The Cabin Attendant can make or break the mood of the car: our guy, Stan, was top notch. He was well read, knew the route well, and had a way with kids and disgruntled passengers alike. Amtrak is to be commended: it's not the Orient Express, but this isn't Europe. Traveling by train in the U.S. takes some time and a little patience, but the only way to see the country better is by driving your MGA on the blue lines.
On The Back
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After several enjoyable days, we arrived in Seattle and rented the requisite Detroit Iron. The trip on Sunday from Seattle to Welches saw the only inclement weather of the entire trip in the form of rain. Otherwise, the Columbia Gorge MGA Club must have done the (lack of) rain dance for a whole year as they planned another fun-filled GT, even without PRNCZ. When we arrived Sunday afternoon, we were greeted by the "Welcome" sign in the drive and a quick cocktail in the lounge with Denny Torgeson, our host.
Hughs' Spruce Goose
Monday we traveled to McMinnville to visit the Evergreen Aviation Museum, the home of Howard Hughes' "Spruce Goose." What an incredible aviation machine. The Museum is a very interesting venue, as it was especially constructed to display the Hughes' plane and other equally interesting one-of-a-kind flying things and aviation history, including a Lithuanian [Diane's Nationality] propaganda poster. After this museum we headed to the Oregon (that's ôr`î-gen to anyone east of the Mississippi) Gardens, via the Wheatland Ferry, to add another Frank Lloyd Wright sighting to Diane's list: the Gordon House. This structure was headed for destruction, when at the last minute it was saved and moved from the Portland area to the Oregon Gardens. It is a very nice example of Frank's Usonian style and is his only structure in Oregon. It is still under restoration, but the lot and the house's sighting are very close to its original location.
We returned to The Resort Monday evening in time to attend the First Timers' Reception. We were amazed to learn that there were 203 first timers registered for this GT. We also had the pleasure of tasting Oregon Pinot Gris wine: now Diane's favorite pinot wine (at $9.75 a glass in Chicago if you can even get it by the glass).
GT-28 Car Show
The car show on Tuesday took advantage of the wonderful scenery. Since Hal Roeth, the editor of MGA!, was unable to attend the GT, he gave both Steve and Diane photography assignments: pictures of the England/Netherlands/New Jersey/Michigan crew who traveled cross-country to Oregon. Be sure to read Pete Alberda's reminiscences in MGA! Also, we were able to get some great pictures of the extended Spears family with Mac's car. Then we enjoyed the bagpiper and the two Scotties, Mikey and Frances (Mickey is a real photo-hound, but the photos of Frances show her backside — I guess she is camera-shy!). There were so many gorgeous cars (including the cutest Metro) that voting was impossible. Diane enjoyed watching lawn bowling while Steve did his duty as photo-giraffe. After the car show we drove to the Timberline Lodge with Mark & Cindy Michalak for lunch and to watch kids actually snow-boarding on Mt. Hood in July.
The Michigan/Netherlands Group
Wednesday we attended the Transmission Tech Session that Mike Ash describes in his MGA! article. It was amazing to actually see the parts being described in the cutaway tranny. Then we were ready for the Wine Tour. Lane Rollins even had coffee for us while he explained the day (do these folks think of everything? — a resounding YES). Steve and Diane agreed to be the sag wagon and transporter of any purchased cases of wine - for a nominal sip of course. We were happy to help Judy & Mike Walker when their beautiful Triumph decided it needed attention. Many of the same roads we traversed on Monday were on this Tour, so we were comfortable just enjoying the scenery again. We loved The Tempest Winery because Simon and Garfunkle were singing when we walked in, and the dessert wine was definitely a keeper. Of course, Steven was going to have to 'splain to the car rental company why he marred the bumper of their car on that not so decorative boulder along side the driveway. We missed the last winery because we wanted to get back to The Resort for the dinner and the auction - what a stash of stuff these folks had to bid on. The umbrella we won actually fit in the suitcase; it wouldn't have fit in PRNCZ.
On Thursday we drove to Mt. St. Helen's with Mark & Cindy. That's when we really wished we had PRNCZ with us. The picture shows us about twelve miles from the crater. You can just make out the side where it blew out. Yet we're still standing in the initial blast zone. Folks, I think it's time to move on. Those were gorgeous touring roads and scenery. The Columbia Gorge is a breathtaking piece of geography. It seems like it took forever to get to Mt. St. Helen's; and what an incredible story they have to tell there.
Billie Ann Spears with family
That evening was the Awards Banquet which everyone really looks forward to. We actually dress up a bit and enjoy a special evening with special friends. Diane even conned Steven into taking a photo of the "First Ladies" who were present: Billie Spears, Chari Smith, Sue Coyne and Diane. We enjoyed chatting with Rebecca and Cecelia of Scarborough Fair and are looking forward to seeing them next year, almost in their backyard.
Mazureks at Mt. St. Helens
Friday morning we had that last cup of coffee and took the final pictures of the winning cars and were off towards Seattle. On the way we stopped at Multnomah Falls (see postcard) and the Vista House which are both "must sees" in the Columbia Gorge. We stopped to visit family near SeaTac and were soon asleep on the red-eye for home.
A great big thank you to the Columbia Gorge MGA Club - we are already planning our drive to CT next year with Bruce Nichols, our MGA travel buddy. See you there!