Friday, December 30, 2016

Crossing America

We have seen some beautiful country over this last couple of weeks. We are still discovering new places and wildlife. Sometimes we get the photo, sometimes we miss the shot.

The memory of these moments will always make us smile with or without photographs. As we traveled across country by train the timing is done so you are awake when you pass through some beautiful parts of America. 

Christmas Day we were going through the Rocky Mountains. There were times when the snow made it hard to see much. Then there were moments that took your breathe away. As we sat down to lunch we were on the side of the train that over looked a gorge. A bald eagle flies along at eye level with us and lands. I got a quick photo more of a reference but I have the memory of that instant. We saw a few more eagles but none that close.

December 26th our last day on the train. NV to CA the Sierras to Donner Lake. Snow, freshly fallen, clear blue skies and snug inside a train car. The only down side is taking photos through a train window. 

Here are a few photos of our sights seen from a moving train. I will put an album on FB with more photos.

Leaving Chicago

The sun has set on our first day December 24th

December 25th heading into the Rockies

The wind blows

December 25th Rocky Mountains

Into the Rocky Mountains

Cattle in the mid-west

December 26th NV to CA

Nevada wild horses

Donner Lake CA

Train coming around the bend 
The eagle has landed

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Getting on the train with heavy luggage can be a challenge. With the help of the men and women in red caps it is so much easier.

The sleeper rooms might be located on the second level. The staircase to get there is a bit snug. Space is limited in your room but your car attendant can store and bring your bags to you as you need them.

Each car has an attendant to keep things going smoothly. There are conductors that come by and check/scan your ticket. There are dining cars and cafe cars. Observation cars with comfy seats to view out the mostly glass covered space. 

In the sleeper cars you have two large windows with seats on either side. You can watch coming, going and straight out. Your entrance door lines up with outside corridor window to view from the other side of the train. There were times I was kneeling outside our door watching and taking pictures.

Our room was at the end of the car, right next to the fresh coffee our attendant made each morning at 6:00 a.m.I call this a bonus. There was ice, water, juice and snacks there too. Just one car down from us was the dining car. Which require reservations for dinner but breakfast and lunch are open. You must wait at the entrance of the dining car for someone to seat you. They do not waiver on the seating, serving arrangements. You go, wait to be seated, there are tables of 4 and each table must be full before moving to the next table in line. The menu is limited but for the most part not too bad. Rick enjoyed a nicely cooked steak a couple of days. The vegetarian options are a bit limited, can't say the rice noodles with veggies was a hit, but the black bean burger, pretty yummy. Your meals are included if you do a sleeper car, all but alcoholic drinks. You can bring things on a train that you can't do on a plane, example: bottle of wine. We would enjoy a lovely glass of red after dinner.

Once the sun goes down there is not much you can see outside. I brought my computer and we watched movies in the evening. They like you to use earplugs so not to disturb others. Now onto sleeping arrangements. It is buck bed style, but, the lower buck is larger than a twin bed so two can sleep together, snugly. Your car attendant will come in to set your beds up and put them away each day. The upper bunk stores an extra mattress that goes on the lower buck. Along with the sheets and blankets, They give you four nice sized pillows. Better then some I have had in hotels.

Sleeping: I had talked to people about the gentle rolling and repetitive sound of the train. That may work for many people but I am a light sleeper and was not all that relaxed with the motion of the train. But, I was happy that we had the sleeper to lay down and not try to sleep sitting up.I also liked that in our sleeper car we had our own private bathroom.

Bathroom: The sink, mirror are right as you enter your room, just around that is the toilet/shower. It is small and includes a hand-held shower, that drains through the floor. If you were to drop your soap, you could not bend down to pick it up. As a little side adventure, sometimes the pipes freeze and your water runs out - surprise!

Room Service: On our last day the train was going to be completely full. I thought this might be a good day to ear in our room. There is a little pull up table right by the windows. Your car attendant will take your order and bring any or all meals to your room. He will even bring you the fixings to Bloody Mary's if you so desire. It was a good choice, the dining car was full and the views from our room, perfect, as we went over Donner Pass & Lake.

Bringing it to a close: After lunch, we got our bags organized ready for departure. Again, your car attendant is there to help get things down the stairs or off the train. He even gets the shuttle carts to take you to the main station..

Overall: We have had people already ask us would we do it again? Maybe, now that we have done it once we have a better idea of how it works. Packing less, traveling light and dressing comfortable, think slippers, are good to know. I would bring more foods I could eat. All in all, it had many wonderful parts, the views, which I will write more on another day were something everyone should see at least once in their life. You can make the food work. No wi-fi but as you pull into train stations you can pick up a signal to keep friends and family updated on your adventure. Most people did not talk on their phones, so nice and peaceful, Sleeping, so-so, if you are a good sleeper you will not have a problem. It was something to check off the bucket list for Rick. Maybe one day will will do it again, going up and over into Canada. But, then again, maybe we will rent an RV and try it that way.

hall way on train - big enough for one

dining car where you share your meals with new friends

just around the corner, bathroom, to left bed/seat, to the right chair for viewing

train station along the way

view through window across from our room

another train station

evening stop

Christmas morning

more train stations

these cars were used to provide protection against the elements

Rick enjoying the view - let it snow, let it snow, outside the train

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Back Tracking

We are in CA, this is not the end of our trip but the next step. I would like to take a few blogs to back track on our travels. Going back to Chicago, because the snows were kind to us and the weather all around was gentle we walked around the town just before Christmas. The Bean, also known as Cloud Gate in Millennium Park is a fun attraction. Chicago, is a city known for so many things, art, architecture, food and more.

Rick and I have always believe in being fair, honest, and giving. We believe in kindness and paying it forward, Over the years, life has had challenges. Rick worked 30 years in the hospitality industry and his second career took him to VA Tech to teach in the hospitality dept. His contacts, friends, associates have been kind to us this year. We have stayed at some beautiful  places New York's Marriott Marque earlier this summer. The room at Chicago's Hyatt was no exception, in fact, one could say, over the top. A quick thank you to all those friends that have extended their kindness to us this year.

When we left Chicago to begin the train trip, we had one of the larger rooms available on the train. In comparison to the room at the Hyatt, it was a bit smaller - it was the size of the bathroom at the hotel. When you go to plan your train trip that is going to take you a few days and nights think comfort, small, and what do you really need. You need to think ahead, the sleeper cars are limited in number, make reservations way ahead, months ahead.

We were on the California Zephyr leaving downtown Chicago arriving in Sacramento, CA. Our departure was right on time Saturday afternoon at 2. Arrival was delayed a bit, with rail issues, freight trains, going to fast, then too slow but all in all, we arrived an hour late.

Here are a few last pictures from Chicago and as we got on the train. The next post will go into more details on the train and of course many more pictures.

Reflections in the Bean - can you find us?
A few goodies delivered to us at the hotel

The front room at the Hyatt....need I say more?

Our train entrance doorway, behind Rick, the sink towels, bathroom storage, trash can and behind that the toilet/shower.

Looking from entrance door to the left, our seating and bed. It comes down to a slightly later than twin.

Looking to the right, chair, mirror, door to toilet/shower

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Coast to coast holidays. We started celebrating in VA, drove to MD to see family and friends. Flew to Chicago in order to catch a train to continue our adventures from east to west.

Our usual traditions will be continued next year. This year is all about change. Changing states we will live in, change in work status for Rick.

Today's change taking a sleeper car train across the country. We understand this is a wonderful way to travel. More on that in a few days.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Art Adventures

While in Chicago you have to have an Art Adventures. Yesterday we went to the Chicago Art Institute. There was an exhibit of Master Drawings. Which was right next to their collection of prints. In other rooms, paintings from the drawings seen earlier.

We broke the day up with lunch because you just can't see it all, even in a day. Here are a few favorites and standards seen at the Art Institute. 

Kathe Kollwitz 1867-1945 "Sharpening the Scythe" 1905 charcoal

And Monet

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Art On Hold

Kind of, sort of, art will be on hold for awhile. Before we move all of our household stuff, which includes, art on the walls, art supplies, clothing, furniture, etc...We are going on a little adventure. Part of the idea came as a birthday celebration for Rick. Then it rolled into doing this for Christmas and bringing in the New Year. All before we move to AZ. So, here we go....

We fly into Chicago on Wednesday for a couple of days, on Christmas Eve we board a sleeper car train. We will be rolling through the Rocky Mountains on Christmas Day to arrive in CA on the 26th. We will be meeting up with friends Eric and Lori from MD. We will be staying in wine country for a few days together. I am sure there will be lots of pictures of places we explore. Rick and I will bring in the New Year in CA. January 2nd we fly to AZ to start our new year, next stage of our life in the south west.

I am hopeful that I will get some art done during all of this but mostly small quick sketches. January I will not be doing the 30-30 challenge as I am having cataract surgery. So, art will be on hold. I do have works done and ready to frame for art shows coming up in 2017. I do have lots of new ideas for pastels and oil paintings. I am getting things organized for workshops, talks and demonstrations in 2017. So, even if I am not painting, I am still creating and doing the business part of art.

I will try to write blogs, post to social media during this transition until then here are a few pictures from VA & MD over the past couple of weeks!

Happy Holidays and Safe New Year!!

Blacksburg Party Time
Bringing toys to little ones in need

Frederick, MD checking out the new distillery

A little pre-birthday celebration

Middletown, MD morning

Getting together with MD friends and family

A little winter weather as a Maryland remembrance.

Blacksburg morning sky

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Local Art

Tomorrow Anne Gibson Snyder opens her home business with "Handmade For The Holidays". Located at 7701 Hollow Road, Middletown MD from noon till 5:00.

There are works from many local and a few who use to be local artists. The works are geared for the holidays, small works and most are priced under $50.00 a great deal for those last minute gifts.

Come on by support your local businesses and artists. 

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