Emeryville Amy

This blog will be a combination of my favorite places in the Bay Area and abroad, memoirs, recipes, restaurant reviews and travel experiences.

My Photo
Location: Emeryville, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Glass Half Full


I love to travel, to plan trips, to remember good times traveling... but as all travelers know, it can be a lot of work and sometimes involves discomfort, inconvenience, frustration, patience...not so much that I don't want to do any more, just enough to know that the experience can be made great or terrible depending on one's attitude.

My big 4 straight days on the train can be seen in different lights. Some passengers were having a great time and others complained quite a bit. I chose to be positive, but I could have gone over to the dark side.

Here's how I see it


1. Having a bed to sleep in with pillows 1. Sleeping in a tiny claustrophobic space.
and comforter.

2. Gentle rocking to sleep. 2. Vigorous shaking and sudden violent jerks waking you up.

3. Freedom to walk around. 3. Staggering like a drunk, crashing into walls when the ride gets rough.

4.Getting to meet new people at every meal. 4. Having to meet new people at every meal.

5. Bunking near the toilet for easy access. 5. Everybody stumbling by all of the time to use the toilet.

6.Fresh air stops every 24 hours or so. 6. Pouring rain on your only stop in 24 hours.

7.Having someone else cook and serve every 7. Having to eat someone else's cooking for 4 days.
meal for 4 days

8. Losing track of time. 8. Trying to remember a time when you weren't on the train...

9. Seeing amazing scenery. 9. Just missing taking one great photo after another.

10."Getting to"" sleep on the train for a 4th night. 10. Having to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get off the train.

11.Receiveing a free upgrade to 1st class on next ride. 11. Arriving 8 hours late.

So I guess it is all in how you see it. Have a great day!!


Canadian VIA RAIL

I was forewarned that Amtrak was often late, but I didn't know that Via Rail would be even worse. I arrived at the station at 4:30 p.m. to catch the 5:30 train from Vancouver to Toronto, a long 3 day/night trip. They told us at check in that the train probably wouldn't leave before 7:30 since it arrived in the station 4 hours late because a different train had derailed somewhere. Great. Up to that point I wasn't really thinking about the possibility of the train going off of the tracks, but now I had something new to ponder.

The good part was that there was a special waiting area for the Silver and Blue Class (sleeper car class, which I was part of on this leg) with chairs and tables set up inside the station and out on the platform. A talented guy was playing the keyboards, guitar, sax and singing some jazz tunes and there was free coffee and water. They kept pushing back the departure time but they did the first dinner sitting while the train was in the station. For the rest of us they started serving champagne and appetizers.

The ladies I was sitting with had about 4 glasses of champagne each and one of them was getting a little wild with her clapping to the music. Suddenly she couldn't sit anymore and she jumped up and started to dance. Think of Elaine on Seinfeld and her special dance only performed at a frantic pace by a senior citizen. Her friend was a little embarrassed but the passengers were ready for any sort of diversion by this point. They gave her a big round of applause when she finished and that was enough encouragement for another lady to get up and wildly shake her booty. What a start for this part of the trip!

Most of the passengers aboard would qualify for AARP. There is a splattering of younger folk, but not much. It turns out that I am not sharing my little sitting area with anybody. That means I get to sleep on the lower bunk- yeah, it is much easier not to have to climb down a little ladder in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. In my section there are three double seat areas that are open to each other. Across from me is a man from St Louis and a little old woman from Montreal. At first I thought she was put off by us talking, then I realized that she speaks French and only knows a little English. I have been trying to speak French with her and have served as her translator a few times. The other couple is from LA.

At night they fold down the beds and pull heavy curtains across our bunks. Little chocolates are on our pillows as well as bottled water and fresh towels. The space is bigger than the roomette I had on Amtrak. I feel like I am in the move, "Some Like It Hot" when they are in the sleeper car. My porter just came to find me in the lounge car to tell me that my alarm clock is going off in my bunk and that my seat mates are annoyed. Ooops. Luckily it isn't too loud of an alarm. I must have hit the alarm switch to on when I was moving my stuff around. Speaking of my porter, he reminds me of Michel from the Gilmore Girls TV show. His voice sounds just the same, but he doesn't drip in sarcasm quite as much.

The food is definitely better on Via Rail than on Amtrak. The dining cars, as well as the rest of the cars, are from the 1950's. The lounge and observation cars aren't as nice as Amtrak, but the dining car is pretty cool. I have eaten with quite a few nice people. Most of the time conversation flows smoothly, but sometimes I get tired of meeting new people at each meal. I think others do too. I didn't finish dinner until 10:45 p.m. the first night. That is a bit late for me. I slept fairly well even though I woke up at 6:00 am.

I got up at 6:15 because I was getting antsy just lying there awake. I dressed and made my way to the observation car to see the sunrise. Since we were running about 7 hours behind, we were able to see more of the scenic part of the route, instead of sleeping throughout some of the best parts. We didn't pull into Jasper until 6:00 p.m.. We were scheduled to be there at 11:00. They cut our time there from 1 1/2 hrs to only 45 minutes. It was great to get off and breathe in the fresh mountain air. I did that for a few minutes while dashing across the street in hopes of finding an internet shop. I found one and was able to hook up and download a couple of blogs but I didn't have time to check my email. I certainly didn't want to miss the train.

The scenery has been gorgeous so far. The mountaIns have frequently been capped with snow and the green forests are dotted with golden Aspen and Birch trees. Their heart shaped yellow leaves flutter in the air as the train goes by. Most of the time the tracks follow along one river or another and we frequently see lakes. Low lying clouds drift in front of the mountains and in and out of the valleys. Some people spotted bear and moose this morning but the most I have seen are elk, cows, horses and other farm animals. I have tried to take pictures but it is hard to get a good shot through the windows at just the right time. It doesn't stop me from trying though. I had to laugh at myself earlier when I was in the lounge car with three Japanese people. They were speaking in Japanese but playing Scrabble in English and barely looking out the window. I was the one running around taking tons of pictures. So I guess stereotypes don't always hold true.

I am becoming known as the young gal with the laptop. I haven't seen anyone else with a computer and since there aren't any outlets in my sleeping area, I have taken it with me at times to find a power source. I guess I am just a techie now.

Two Days Later:

It is now the third day on the train. I just finished playing BINGO. I can't remember the last time I played that. I did win one round and got a key chain with a loon on it. We are now running about 8 hours behind schedule. I hope we fall behind a bit more because then they will keep us overnight on the train. At this point they won't say what they are going to do and some passengers are frustrated. I was going to stay at a hostel and so it is not a big deal if I can't go and don't cancel in time. Others are staying at expensive hotels and might lose quite a bit if they can't get there.

The past two nights I have stayed up pretty late with this one guy watching videos. I wanted to be really sleepy before hitting the hay. We have gone through 3 time zones so it is hard to tell what time my body thinks it is. There are 3 sittings for lunch and dinner officially beginning at 5:00, 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. but depending where we are they might start a few hours late. So some people start dinner at close to 11:00 p.m. No wonder I have no idea what time it is. I had breakfast and lunch with British sisters, one who lives in Toronto, the other in London. The one in Toronto said I could come to her house if we get kicked off the train and I have no where to go at that hour. if it comes to that I certainly will. I am trying to just be flexible and know that things will work out someway and stressing about it won't help.

I have also had two meals with a Parisian woman living in New York but of Russian descent. She speaks 7 languages and has quite an interesting life. She is not enjoying this train trip though and is complaining quite a bit. She is traveling with a group and everyone else is part of a couple. She feels left out. She also had her passport and jewelry stolen on the train when we were waiting in Vancouver to depart. I guess the passport has been found and is supposed to be waiting for her in Toronto but she is very worried about it. It is an Argentinean passport because she lived there as an ambassador for several years. Even though she is complaining, I still like her; she has a lot of spunk.

I slept in until 8:45 when they usually do last call for breakfast. I was still pretty sleepy and since the attendant hadn't remade my sleeping berth yet I hopped back in for a post breakfast nap. It felt good to catch up on some sleep since we all seem to wake up frequently at night. It was raining and kind of dark outside so it was easy to sleep. My sleeper is right near the dining car and the bathroom so we get a parade of people going past our seats all of the time.

We have only had 3 places in 3 days to get off the train and each time it has been short stops. Yesterday in Winnipeg I got off and went out to get some fresh air and to call Lynn. She was home and we were able to have a quick conversation. It was really good to hear the voice of someone I know and love. She said that she saw on the news that a big earthquake had occurred in Peru. Mom and Dad are there now on vacation so she email the hotel they were at and found out that they were not near the epicenter, thankfully. I feel out of touch without my daily Chronicle. Sometimes I have had access to a Canadian paper but it isn't the same. If I had internet access I would read online but that seems even more scarce here.

My one chance today to get off the train was right before my lunch sitting. The town's name was Hornpayne and all I could see from the train stop was just gravel and puddles of water from the rain that was pouring down. Not to be deterred by some rain and driven by the need for some fresh air I got off the train and walked beside it for awhile. We only had 15 minutes and I think that I was the only one besides a few desperate smokers who braved the elements. I didn't last long though before I was soaked and decided to get back on the train.

There is a nice young stylish Japanese gal on the train. She flew to Vancouver from Tokyo and then has taken the train from there to Toronto where she will sight-see for two days and then fly back to Tokyo. She has worked for Disney in Florida at Eppcott Center and also lived in Vancouver for a year. She seems pretty adventurous. She would like to move to Vancouver permanently because she loves it there. There is a large Asian population residing in Vancouver. She said she likes the pace of the culture there and the way the mountains and ocean and city are intertwined. There are quite a few people on the train from Vancouver.

They made the decision that we could sleep on the train and get off when the train pulled in at 4:30 a.m. or sleep until 5:30, as long as we were off by 6:30. This seemed like a much better option than sitting up all night and then getting kicked off the train at 4:30. I had my worst night sleep though. The "gentle rocking"of the train was more often "violent shaking" and it sounded like my car was trying to unhinge itself all night. But I'm not going to complain.

I gathered my stuff and made my way off the train and into the main part of the station. At 6:00 a.m. they opened the ticket booth. A man from Customer service asked if there were any passengers that had just come off of the train from Vancouver. I said yes and followed him into an office where he changed the time of my departure for me from 3:10 p.m. to 6:55 a.am and upgraded me to first class which included a nice hot breakfast. I decided to skip Toronto because I didn't have anywhere to put my luggage. So, I am off to Montreal. They actually have wifi on this train so I am able to check my email and send this blog.

Apparently bog-spammers have found my site and are leaving some advertisements in the comments section. So, if you want to say hi, please send me an email at emeryvilleamy@gmail.com.

I miss everyone and wish you my love!


Monday, September 26, 2005


I have been on the train for almost 24 hours now and we finally arrived at Jasper over 7 hours late. I ran across the street to make this post. Hope eveyone is doing well.


The train crosses the border to Canada at the town of White Rock which hugs the coastline. I looked out the window and saw people playing along the edge of the water. As the train pulled into sight all of the school age kids (and a bunch of grown ups too) waved cheerfully at us. It felt very welcoming. We arrived in the station around noon and Krista came to pick me up.

We took the scenic route back to their apartment, going by Stanley Park. Stanley Park fills out the end of the crescent of Vancouver and boasts a big coastline, lots of wooded area, an aquarium, beautiful gardens, lots of trails for bikers, roller bladers , walkers and joggers and much more. On one side of the park there is an amazing view of North Vancouver and the Lions Bridge which is the main route for cars to go up to Whistler. There is concern about the traffic flow from Vancouver up to Whistler for the 2010 Olympics. A lot of road work and building is being done in preparation for hosting the Olympics Games.

Krista and I parked the car and took a nice walk along the path following the bay. They put logs out on the rocky beaches for people to sit on. It is a very natural look and people were out in droves enjoying the beautiful weather. Afterwards we drove home and Krista whipped up a yummy salad for us. I decided to explore the neighborhood because they live a couple of blocks off of a nice street, a la Piedmont Ave in Oakland. There were tons of coffee houses among the other shops and I stopped in one called Caffe Artigiano and read a book for awhile. I thought that I would be doing a lot of reading on this trip, but so far I have been with friends almost non stop and too busy sightseeing to read. Once I leave Vancouver I won't see anyone I know for 10 days or so and I will probably be whipping through the books then. I ended up bringing 8 books and I am ready to lighten my load a bit.

Peter was still out when I returned because he had a class at Regent that evening. I have been hearing a lot about Regent Seminary and decided I would go sit in on his class. Krista pointed me in the direction of the bus and I set off. She also made sure that I had some bus tix and a bus map which was very handy. I got to Regent relatively easy but the bus driver had no idea where Regent was and I might have missed the stop if a student behind me in the bus hadn't told me when to get off. Regent Seminary is only one building so it was easy to find Peter in the main atrium.

The 3 hour class ended up being less than inspiring. It was on pastoral ethics but the teacher didn't really get around to the material until over halfway through. Peter said it was one of the worst classes he has attended even though the same professor/pastor taught well last week. I guess you can't win them all. I felt like my brain was trying frantically to sift through all of the jargon to get at what he was really saying. We rode a very full bus home after the class at 9:30 p.m.. There isn't much parking on the UBC (University of British Columbia) campus of which Regent is a part. Registration fees include a bus pass for everyone because they want to encourage bus riding rather than driving.

The next morning we met up with Jill Boise who was up visiting in Vancouver. Peter had set up the coffee date for 8:00 am at the same coffee shop I went to the day before. I loved the decor of the place and the coffee was very good and they even were artistic with the espresso designs in the foam of the cappuccino. It was fun to talk with Jill. I can't believe how many First Pres people I have seen on the road so far.

Peter had homework and a job at a ropes course to do and Krista had prep for the 5 art classes she is teaching to work on so I took the bus passes and map and with a tentative plan of things to see and do in Vancouver, left for the day. I took the bus to downtown and beyond. I was told to get off at the end of the line, but the end of the line was practically out of the city so I decided to get off and go back the way I came. A kind student told me where to get off for the old part of town known as Gastown. The street-lamps and town clock were pretty cool to see but it was kind of a tourist trap in the way Fisherman's Wharf in SF is. There still is a lot of charm mixed in with the souvenir shops. I wound my way through and found a charming lunch spot called Brioche that was filled with locals.

After eating I kept walking and found myself in front of the building housing the Sea-bus which takes people over to North Vancouver. I rode it over to a big Public Market where the Seabus pulls in. I wandered through the shops which were like the Public Market in Emeryville mixed in with the food shops of Rockridge on the first floor and more boutique style shops on the upper level. There was an Italian deli, a fresh fish shop, a bakery... When I saw all I wanted I re-boarded the Seabus to go back to the main part of Vancouver.

I walked through the downtown area on Cordova St. Most of the buildings in Vancouver are made primarily of glass so it has a lighter feel than a lot of cities. The skyscrapers and the occasional old buildings were very lovely and the streets were remarkably clean. I deterred out of the downtown down Denman Street which is lined with more shops and cafes. I stopped for coffee in one called Delaney's. The interior was a warm wood and the place was full of what appeared to be neighborhood folks by the way they seemed to know each other.

Having been rejuvenated by some more coffee I headed off to the beach area and walked quite a ways along the shore to the Barrard Bridge. There were fantastic views of the boats and the rest of Vancouver from there. I don't know if there is anywhere you can go In Vancouver without seeing the beautiful mountains surrounding the city. This time of the year they were bare, but during the winter and spring they are all snow covered peaks. I am sure they are even more spectacular then.

I somewhat successfully navigated the bus system back to the apartment. I say somewhat because I had to get on and off a few different ones before I made it all the way. But I consider the experience to be successful if I actually get to the final destination. Which I did. Peter, Krista and I headed out by car to the Richmond Night Market. This market is open during the summer and was described to me as a step into Hong Kong. It is a market which is part food booths and part flea market. We went for the food part of course. The most common item sold seemed to be fish balls. I couldn't quite get myself to buy any of those, but Krista bought some shrimp and scallop balls that were tasty even though the texture was a bit funky. Almost all the food seemed to be either in ball form or sold on a stick. Pork, beef and chicken skewers made in every Asian style were available. Many things such as the balls were made by pouring a batter into a muffin type of mold (only round) and cooked over a stove until done. The cook would manipulate them and turn them over using chop sticks and then they often were transfered into a sauce or soup or oil for deep frying. Bubble teas, pork buns, crepes, dipped strawberries and noodle dishes were also present.

We snacked our way through the crowded stalls, sharing our purchases and talking over the music coming from the loud speaker. It was the last weekend of the market and it was very busy. It was a bit of a challenge to not lose each other as we went along. We needed to figure out the arrangements for the following day and eventually decided how to proceed. Krista and Peter were going to Squamish (about half of the way to Whistler) and I planned to take the Greyhound Bus to Whistler.

They dropped me off at 8:30 am at the bus/train depot and I caught the 9:30 bus arriving at 12:00 in Whistler. It was an incredibly beautiful drive along the coast and up through the mountains. I have been so lucky with the weather- it has been clear and sunny almost the entire time with the only exception of a little drizzle in Portland.

I rode the gondola up the hill from the village. It stops 1/3 of the way up and lets off the dirt bike riders who can ride all over the bottom part of the mountain, down little trails and off moguls and over jumps. It was quite a set up for them; it looked like dirt bike heaven. There was a little chalkboard in the gondola hut that told when and where the last bear sightings had been. Two bears where spotted within the hour of when I was riding the chair. Not that I am afraid of a bear or two...

My only complaint about the day was about a group of 10 guys in their early twenties who were REALLY loud and like to use a lot of profanity and surfers-type lingo. They tried to drink as much beer as they could and they even lit up some pot at one point. It seemed as if everywhere I went they were right behind me: in the gondola lift line, in the cafe line, at a table near me at lunch, up the peak experience chair, all around on the peak, on the trail back to the gondola, in line for the gondola ride down and then back in the village. It is a big place and there were lots of people there so I couldn't believe that I kept seeing them. They were by far the loudest people in all of Whistler and they kept showing up right next to me. Just my luck. Those guys notwithstanding, I had a great time in Whistler. It was crystal clear and I went for the "Peak Experience" and took a chair from the top of the gondola to the very top of the mountain. It felt like being on top of the world. The ride in the chair lift back down was a little scary at first. They had big signs saying that this was not something for the easily frightened or with a fear of heights. It also said that if you refused to ride the chair back down you would have to hike and it would take at least 45 minutes. I think the hike would have scared me more with slippery footing...

The bus ride back to Vancouver was as impressive as the way up (no duh..) I tried to connect with Peter to see if he could pick me up at the train station but they weren't home yet. So more city buses for me to figure out. I beat them home and we all crashed out early.

The next morning we went to 10th Ave Alliance Church which has become their home church. The service was good even though there were lots of announcements and hard wood benches to sit on. I am used to nice padded pews...poor me. After church we drove over to the Queen Anne gardens and walked around them. The gardens were very nicely laid out and there still were a lot of flowers in bloom. There was also a man with a trained dog who could play an xylophone, basketball and an obstacle course. We only got to see the xylophone playing, but that was pretty impressive.

For lunch/brunch Peter and Krista made some tasty eggs benedict. With full stomachs, Peter and I set out on a wild goose chase to try to activate my cell phone service. See the separate posting if you want to know more about that. He dropped me off at the train station (which by now has become quite familiar to me). The train was running several hours late and that's where I will leave off for this post.

What I Think About Verizon


I held out a long time on getting a cell phone for many reasons, but I finally broke down and bought one so that I would be able to use it on the road. Verizon said they had excellent nationwide coverage and that they had a great North American plan which allowed you to have the same service in Canada for $20 more a month. I signed up for it for a month so that I would have it the whole time I was in Canada.

I spent quite a while on the phone with the representative to make sure that I knew everything I needed to know about my new service plan for the month. And then I left for my trip.

I had been told that the coverage would start a few days before I arrived in Canada (just to be on the safe side). The guy told me that AFTER I arrived I should dial *228 to update my phone and to make sure that I got the best reception possible. The part that he got wrong was that it was necessary to update it BEFORE I got into Canada. There is a big difference between the two. So now even though I can use my phone I will be charged 65 cents a minute.

I called Verizon and they said that I should have updated my phone before I left the country. Or I could come back to the USA and try from there. Boy that sounds convenient ! I called Tim in desperation and he pretty much said the same thing. He suggested that we drive down close to the border and try to get US reception from there. Crossing and recrossing the border can take hours and didn't sound like something I wanted to do but I thought that it might be my only solution. Why they can't just do it some other way baffles me. I mean, come on, they have all my info, can't they just update it themselves instead of saying the only way it can be done is if I leave the country? There has to b a better way than that.

So, Peter kindly drove me from Vancouver down to White Rock and we got close to the border crossing. I kept trying to get through on my cell but the phone repeatedly said,"Programming Unsuccessful!". We decided to pull over at the last Duty Free store before the border and try to walk over closer. We were stopped by a guard who wanted to know what we were doing. He said we probably shouldn't be doing that but that we could try. Peter and I dodged our way through enormous semi-trucks waiting to go through the border until we were stopped and interrogated by another guard who said that we were in a dead cell phone place for security reasons and that we should leave immediately.

It took a couple more walkie talkie messages between the guards to let us out of the parking lot. We drove to the bayside town of Crescent and I kept trying to get through on the cell to no avail. In order to have the trip not be a total loss we got out and walked along the beach and had an ice cream. The beach was full of people with their dogs enjoying the crisp but warm Autumn day. Maybe my life is just better without a cell phone. I am planning to have a few words with Verizon at a later point in time...

Riding the Bus


1. Fail to wait until people exit the bus (even though they are supposed to exit from the rear) and so the bus driver screams at you, "'NOT YET!!"

2.Try at least 5 different ways to shove your ticket into the machine while an increasingly impatient line of people grows behind you. In this instance the bus drivers keeps saying,"Not that way, the OTHER way." Which really isn't helpful at all. It is amazing how many ways I tried before succeeding. And this happened more than once.

3. Failing to get off the bus in the first, second or third try, and keep getting further and further away from the place you wanted to be. In Vancouver you are supposed to exit from the back, at least that is what the signs say. You need to yank on the cord hanging by the windows hard enough to trigger it, but not so much so that it rings it multiple times (when you do that the bus driver yells at you, "You only need to ring it ONCE!" The back door does not open automatically. It is necessary to step down one step or the doors stay shut. BUT, you are not supposed to step down until the bus has fully stopped or when it is in motion. Eventually if you try several times to get off unsuccessfully the rest of the people on the bus usually yell,"Step down NOW!" At that point I wonder if I should just try to go back home and forget traveling around the country on my own. I mean really, how stupid can I get? Don't answer that...

4. Follow the directions of someone who THINKS they know when you should get off the bus. If they say the end of the line and you have left the city you should probably get off and go back the other direction.

5. Not holding on when the bus lurches forward, sending you sprawling...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bellingham Bunnells


The train rolled into the Bellingham station almost a half an hour early. Doug arrived a few minutes later and gave me the scenic tour back to his house. It was great to see Doug, Laurie and Zoe again. We didn't stay home very long because it was the first "Inn" of the school year at his church. The Inn is a vibrant 600 person college group. The church was packed with excited students reuniting after their summer break. The evening began with a very funny video introducing the staff followed by a puppet show done with faces painted on grocery bags. Some enthusiastic singing came next and then a talk by a naturally gifted speaker who obviously knew how to relate to college students. It seemed like it would be a wonderful group to be a part of.

I was a little anxious about my cat allergies because the Bunnells have two cats. With the aid of some allergy drugs and being careful to not touch my eyes, I did okay. I have had experiences before when my eyes have swollen shut and I couldn't stop sneezing. Luckily not this time! In the morning Laurie stopped for lattes for us after she dropped Zoe off for school. I took one sip of it and then managed to knock it over, spilling the entire thing all over me and the counter. Fortunately, it missed my computer for the most part. There's nothing like making a big mess in someone else's house. Laurie was very gracious and we got it cleaned up AND she even shared her latte with me. That's just the kind of person she is.

We spent the morning hanging around, doing laundry and I caught up on my blog. It was nice to just have some "down time". Bellingham used to be 4 different towns and the part of the city that the train station is in is the old town of Fairhaven. It has a very cute downtown area with lovely brick buildings and great shops. Laurie and I had lunch at a cafe that is part of a book store, cooking shop and candy store. Out through the back was a courtyard area where they show outdoor movies during the summer and they were setting up a farmers market when we went by.

Laurie drove me all over town, past the university and out to a nearby lake. We drove back in the direction of their house and stopped at Whatcom park. There is a waterfall and some nice hiking trails in the park and so we went on a loop walk through the trees and along the stream. I am a total sucker for streams lined by trees and big boulders with the sunlight filtering softly through the leaves. If I am ever told to picture my "happy place" where I feel peaceful and calm, it would look just like what we saw on our walk.

Doug arrived home on the early side because he had started the day with a 6:30 am meeting. He picked up fresh salmon which he grilled and some fresh corn. I have had many delicious home cooked meals which is an unexpected blessing when you are on the road. I know once I leave Vancouver I won't have anything home cooked for quite awhile. While Doug put Zoe down for bed Laurie and I watched the recap of last season's show "Lost" and then Doug joined us for the season premiere of the show. It wasn't a show that I had seen before but it drew me in quickly. I probably won't have the chance to get hooked on it since I don't really have access to TV on this trip. It felt nice and cozy to sit around and watch TV with them. They really made me feel welcomed and cared for and part of their family for a couple of days. It is nice to be able to picture the church that Doug is the pastor at and their home. Doug said that when Anita came through she said that his church looks so much like the old sanctuary at Berkeley. I had only seen pictures of it before, but now I have a visual image.

I had a good nights sleep in their wonderful guest bed with fabulous feather pillows that Zachary had really loved using. Doug whipped up some eggs and French press coffee and then we headed off to the train station, dropping Zoe off for school on the way. So far the train ride has been gorgeous. The tracks run right along the water (as they did all the way up from Seattle as well). As we passed over the Canadian border and drew up alongside the town of White Rock, school kids playing along the shore greeted us with big waves and grins on their faces. I think trains passing by just makes people, especially kids, happy. There has been incredible bird watching for the past half an hour. Flocks of shore birds lifted into flight as the train drew near. Herons and egrets waited motionless for fish along the shore. And now we are getting close to Vancouver so I am going to stop writing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sleepless In Seattle

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (definitely overused, but what the heck...)

I read in an article recently that coffee and caffeine are good for you. I love to hear that things I like (or am somewhat addicted to) are actually healthy. This piece went on to say that the Renaissance in Europe didn't happen until coffee was introduced there. With the introduction of coffee, culture and the arts flourished and an entire new age began.

Seattle is very into coffee and this might or might not be the reason it is such a vibrant creative city. One example of this is a massive "Troll" statue under one of the bridges. It is just the head and shoulders of the troll and he has a VW Bug under one hand. He is made so that people can climb on him and he has become a very popular stop for locals and travelers in-the-know.

In many places there are whimsical iron works and statues and banners for the public to enjoy. I was staying in a part of Seattle called Ballard. It was formed by Scandinavians which is readily apparent by the Swedish and Norwegian flags and statues of Leif Erickson all over the place. Its main industry has been fishing but it also home to many artists. The downtown area on Market Street and Ballard Street is charming and full of life. On Sunday there was a gathering for "SUSTAINABLE BALLARD" encouraging the use of environmentally sound products and practices. A weekly farmers market was in full swing with gorgeous flowers, especially sunflowers this time of year, and mouthwatering produce. Street musicians were playing music and adding to the festive atmosphere.

I arrived around 10:00 on Saturday night and Ben and Rachel came to pick me up in their little Honda Civic with a kayak strapped on top. It is reported that one in four people in Seattle owns a boat. That figure seems staggering to me and it was only fitting that Ben had one of his "boats" with him. I don't know what they are actually counting when they say that figure, but it is obvious that this is a society which enjoys the water that surrounds them. We zigzagged through crazy traffic downtown which was hopping that time on a Saturday evening. Lots of young people were hanging out, going to brew pubs and cafes and clubs.

On Sunday morning Rachel made a really delicious puff pancake using some of the pears that I had bought on my drive down from Mt Hood. We ate in the bright morning sun on their deck looking out over the shipping locks. When the conditions are right you can see Mt Rainier in the distance. The locks which connect the fresh water lake and the salt water of the Puget Sound are just a couple of blocks away from their apartment. We strolled down there to see them in action. The salmon are migrating this time of the year and were jumping out of the water like crazy. If I had more time I would have loved to have gone on a guided tour of them. Next to the locks is a botanical garden and beautiful green park which is used for outdoor concerts during the summer.

Kim, Kurt and Suzy Kleeh came by to pick me up for church. We went to University Presbyterian Church where Earl is the senior pastor. He preaches at all 5 services on Sundays. It felt so familiar to hear his voice and to see him in the pulpit. It took me back to my early years at Berkeley. Kim took me on a quick tour of their church campus and I peaked into their kitchen and saw their fellowship hall.

We took a scenic route back to Ballard stopping at the troll and various look out spots. We had lunch in Ballard at a renovated brick firehouse now used as a restaurant. The menu was funny and creative and the food very tasty. After lunch we strolled through the farmers market and around the neighborhood. We then got back in the car and they drove me to Sunset Point and to Golden Gardens down on Elliot Bay. I took off my shoes and walked along the water edge, watching the boats go by on the Sound and catching up with Kim.

In the evening I was able to hook up with an old college friend named Dave Chiu. It has been several years since we have seen each other and it was wonderful to hear how his life was going. We shared a fabulous dessert at a restaurant called Ray's down by the water. It was an orange-chocolate souffle made with Scharfenberger and Valrohna chocolate and topped with vanilla ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce. That is what dessert is all about... I didn't get home until almost 11:30 and since I had been out since 10:00 am it made for a long day. But what can you do when there are so many people to see and things to do!

After morning coffee with Rachel, I set out by bus to go back to University Pres to meet with Earl. The buses are very convenient in Seattle. I had no problem getting to church. Earl and I walked over to the neighborhood Tully's cafe which seemed to almost exclusively be serving members of their staff or church. Kind of like going to Raleighs on Telegraph during lunch time in Berkeley. Earl and I had a great chat and he filled me in on his family and the church life and I shared about the changes and adventures in my life. He had some interesting thoughts on future jobs for me based my skills and gifts that I wouldn't have thought of myself. Definitely food for thought.

Rachel came by and we drove over to Pike's Public Market. Scenes from Sleepless in Seattle flashed in my head as we walked through and looked at the gorgeous flowers and produce and local handicrafts. Just after I told Rachel that I wasn't going to actually buy anything because I didn't want to try to shove it in my suitcase, I stopped and purchased a honey based lotion bar that seemed like it would work really well. At least it was small. And it smelled good.

Halfway through the market we stopped for lunch at Bechman's handmade cheese shop. They make the cheese right there and you can see the process it goes through. The final product is a very flavorful "jack" like cheese. We ordered grilled cheese sandwiches from the counter and then sat on old fashioned shaped metal milk jugs. A good grilled cheese sandwich is hard to beat and these were exceptional. We kept meandering through the market, stopping to look at the famous fish stall where they throw the fish to one another and then we were drawn by the smell to the booth that was making tiny cinnamon donuts right before our eyes. We thought it only right to sample a couple. I don't usually eat donuts but because they were still hot and covered in cinnamon and sugar they were completely worth it. Besides, they were tiny so I am sure they weren't too bad for us...

I wanted to go up in the Space Needle so Rachel dropped me off there and I went up to the top. It was a gorgeous sunny day, perfect for seeing Seattle from the observation deck 600 feet above the street level. I hung out there for about an hour just soaking in the panoramic views and listening to the docents talk about the city. A question I kept hearing tourists ask was "Where is the houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle?" The docent would point out the direction where it was located even though it was around a bend and not quite visible from there. It was breathtaking to look out over the Puget Sound and see the ferries cruising around and out to the different lakes and to the Cascade Mountain Range. The city has many unique buildings as well. After returning to ground level, I rode the monorail built for the World Fair in 1960 to the Westlake Center and then took the bus back to Ballard where Rachel was busy cooking up Tortilla Soup and stuffed pasilla peppers for a dinner party that night with Dan and Alicia who have recently moved back to Seattle too. Dinner was delicious since both Rachel and Ben are good cooks, and it was nice to catch up with Dan and Alicia.

I was itching to go out on the water so the next morning I got up and took the bus back to the pier where the ferries dock. I purchased a round trip ticket to Bremerton which takes a little over 2 hours total. I loved feeling the sea breeze on my face as we went across the water past Bainbridge Island over to Bremerton. I can see why people love this area. It is amazing to look out over the water at all the islands and see the homes of the people who live there. Looking back at the city I was able to figure out the relationships of all of the buildings and sights I had seen and felt like I had finally "got it". I thought that I would see more people out on their boats, but maybe because it was the middle of the week they were at work. I'm sure there are certain areas that are more popular for people to "boat" in.

I walked along the waterfront after my boat trip and went into the aquarium. It was pretty good, but doesn't compare to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I trudged back up the hill to 4th Street where I could catch the bus. It ended up being about 20 minutes late and then we got stuck in traffic near the Ballard drawbridge and I arrived home about 45 minutes later than I expected. I started to worry about whether I would make it to my train on time since I had planned to take the bus back to the train station, all the way back across the city. Luckily for me, Rachel was worried that I might miss my train and kindly arranged with Ben to get the car so she could drive me. I made it on time and the train pulled out of the station on time. So much for Amtrak always being late. In fact, the train arrived almost a half an hour early in Bellingham.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mt Hood


Kathryn's husband's family is from the Portland area and they have a cabin up in Government Camp on Mt Hood. We headed up there (72 miles exactly) after dinner. Because it was dark, I didn't really get to see too much until the next day. Government Camp was used as a home base for the men who worked to build something up the hill- it is hard to remember everything I have seen/heard in the past few days- could have been the Timberland Lodge or the roads... Anyhow, it isn't a very pretty name for what is such a beautiful area.

We ate a hearty breakfast at the Huckleberry Inn Restaurant which is a local hangout. The food was really good and the portions were big enough for a lumberjack. After eating we drove to the Timberline Lodge up the hill at the point where the timber/trees stop.( You probably figured that out for yourself! ) Kathryn is used to seeing the mountain covered in snow but at this time of year there was just some at the summit. Usually the lodge is blanketed in about 20 feet of snow and they can ski all the way down to their cabin because the land behind their place is wilderness territory.

The Timberline Lodge has a massive stone fireplace in the middle and well worn wood and timber all around. Apparently at Christmas, Santa and his sleigh pull up outside the lodge and then Santa goes down the chimney and out the fireplace. I am sure that is quite dramatic for the kiddies. Hopefully they coordinate it so that the fire isn't lit when he descends. Santa in flames could produce damaging scars for those kids...

We went to a lake near Government Camp called Trillium Lake. It was an easy and beautiful 2 mile hike around the lake. Unfortunately we forgot to put the stroller in for Kullen, but he walked quite a bit and Kathryn got extra exercise carrying him the rest of the way. After a short nap for Kullen back at the cabin we loaded up for the drive back to the Portland train station. Kathryn took a different route home so that she could show me the gorges lining the Columbia river between Washington and Oregon. We wound down through the forest and then past apple and pear orchards, stopping at a roadside stand for produce. I bought some Jonagold apples that were delicious and some small red Starkrinsom pears and Huckleberry jam.

The drive through the gorges was spectacular. I had never even heard of this place but it was breathtaking. At the point where we first entered the gorge area there were tons of wind surfers and kite boarders on the river. We passed an amazing waterfall as we followed the road along the river.

Once back in Portland we quickly got take out food at a wonderful deli (think Whole Foods) and got some things for dinner. We raced back to the train station where I had to wait in a long line to get a seat assignment. The train was on time (maybe this will be the one and only time) and I had no time to spare. Kathryn, Kullen and Kylie walked me out to my train car and stood there waving to me as the train pulled out. Kathryn said that that was the best thing ever for Kullen. He apparently has been saying, "Amy go bye-bye on the train!" all day long.

It was sunset as the train pulled out of the station. The sky was filled with striated clouds and the sun kept peeking between them as it sank. Very lovely, but then it was too dark to see the rest of the way. I am bummed that I missed out on the beautiful scenery between Portland and Seattle. The consolation prize was the movie "The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants" which played on TV monitors. Think what you will of that.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Portland with Kathryn


I was impressed with Portland from the moment I arrived. The train station is a lovely brick building with a pale stone interior. Wrought iron and colorful hanging baskets line the circular front of the station. My friend Kathryn, who I have known since I was three, lives near there with her husband and 3 children. She picked me up and we drove back to her home in Newburg, about an hour's drive from the train.

We drove through downtown Portland and down the I-5 and eventually arrived in her town. Along the way we passed countless drive- thru coffee/espresso huts/barns/stalls...with all sorts of creative names like "Coyote Joes" . It seems like Portland is way more intense about their coffee than the Bay Area. I knew Seattle was that way, but I didn't realize Oregon was as well. Not only are there tons of independent coffee places, but many of them are drive-thru. I guess that when they need their coffee they need it NOW. The next morning we stopped at the Coffee Barn which, as you might figure, was shaped like a tiny barn. House coffee came in the sizes of 16 oz, 20 oz and 32 oz. I was going to order a large until I realized that it was the size of a Big Gulp. And I thought Starbucks supersized everything...

Kathryn and her youngest boy , two year old Kullen, and I went back to downtown Portland the next day. There is wonderful public transit all over the city that is free in the middle of town. All day Kullen kept saying "Train! Bus! Car!" (He is very into transportation at the moment. ) Parking is only 95 cents an hour if you choose that option. The city blocks are half the size of normal city blocks and it is easy to walk around. The streets are lined with bricks and the buildings were interesting and beautiful. It drizzled a bit but not enough for an umbrella. In the heart of the city is an open brick plaza that has an ampitheater feel at one end. They refer to it as "Portland's Living Room" and it is used for all kinds of public gatherings, theater, dance productions... Along one side and in various parking lots around there were food stands selling crepes, burritos, Ben and Jerry's, smoothies and much more, and of course COFFEE.

A favorite dining experience for the locals seems to be the brew pub scene. There are lots of them around and so we went to one called the Rock Bottom Brewery for lunch. It was typical pub-grub. Afterwards we strolled down to the river. Kathryn pointed out the world's smallest park which was about a foot square. There was a cactus in it and it was located in the middle of the street on a divider. I took a picture of it and the plaque telling its history.

Another happening spot in Portland is 23rd Street. It is lined with cute shops and cafes and restaurants and there are great neighborhoods nearby. A chocolate cafe caught my eye and I went in and ordered an amazing hot chocolate drink which was just as good as the hot chocolate in Paris. Farther down the road was an incredibly creative "Soap" shop. They had soaps and jellies and bath bombs and facial scrubs in every flavor and scent you can imagine. I took a photo of some soaps that looked like chocolate cake and others that looked and felt like grape jello but then was told that no photography was allowed. I'm sure they are worried about people stealing their ideas.

About 2;30 we headed back to Newburg so that Kathryn could pick up her vivacious 8 year old daughter Kylie from her singing group and put Kullen down for a nap. Kathryn whipped up some garlicky spinach pasta and a platter of her home grown tomatoes and basil for dinner. There's nothing like home grown produce. We then packed up the car and headed up to their cabin at Government Camp on Mt Hood. I need to go to bed now so I will write about that tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Portland Bound


I survived my first night on Amtrak! Amazingly, the train was only a few minutes late coming into the station at Emeryville. My friend George and I had dinner at the Townhouse and then drove the two blocks to the station and pretty quickly boarded the train. The windows don't open so George did charades to communicate with me until the train departed. We had to wait about 30 minutes because a car was stuck on the tracks somewhere up ahead. I guess that kind of thing happens more frequently than you would think.

My roomette is truly as small as the dimensions online said it would be. George thought it looked like two phone booths put together. It felt more like just one. It was set up in the sleeper position when I arrived. There is only about 6" of floor space in that configuration, so changing clothes, standing... is challenging. Good thing that I am not super tall because when I stretched out I could definitely reach both ends. I also had the compartment to myself so I didn't have the upper berth open. That might have been too claustrophobic for me.

I sat on the bed and watched 4th Street in Berkeley go by. I had often sipped coffee at Peets and listened to the whistle blow loudly as the train went through town. It felt very different chugging past it in the dark. I watched as we went past the refineries and then the cliffs in San Pablo. My friend Sandi lives on the bluffs there and said she always wanted to hang a banner out her window and wave as a friend passed by on the train. If I had been going by at a decent hour I bet I she would have been there waving me on.

I feel asleep fairly quickly but awoke every time the train stopped. At one point went I woke up and looked out the window the Big Dipper was hanging low in the sky right next to me. It was very dark out so the sky seemed to glitter with stars.

People seemed to get up early on the train. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the cramped quarters... I got up a little before 7:00 and lurched my way to the tiny restroom without falling down. I don't have the best balance on trains, buses, metros, really anything that is moving, so I count it a success to only have a few bruises on my arms from bumping the walls rather than skinned knees or black eyes.

I stumbled up the stairs and through two cars to the "parlor car" where I sat in a very comfortable swivel arm chair and sipped hot coffee while we wound our way around Mt Shasta. It is in view for over an hour and the route takes us around it so there are many different perspectives in which to see it. I thought about all of my friends, especially Earl Palmer, who have hiked it. The early morning light is so golden. We passed through a valley where there was a thin blanket of fog floating along the valley floor. I tried taking some pictures but I know they won't capture the beauty of it.

Everyone I have met is so friendly. At breakfast I was seated with a nice couple from Seattle and a minister named MJ in the Pentecostal Church. He told me later that he has been a minister for 65 years and had been the Superintendent of the Pentecostal church. The couple from Seattle gave me some good travel tips for things to do in their home town. The food was not much more passible but the service has been very warm and competent.

After breakfast I made my way back to my roomette and gathered my toiletries and courage to take a shower. Despite the instructions in the shower which were not even close to being right, I managed to get clean without killing myself. No small feat.

The view in the parlor car is much better than from my room so I headed back up there. I brought along my laptop so I could write this. We recently stopped at Klamath Falls. As soon as we slowed, huge mosquitos swarmed the windows. That helped me decide to NOT get off the train for fresh air. Pulling out of town we passed by the local high school "Home of the Pelicans" and saw the marching band out on their field practicing their formations.

Upper Klamath Lake is big and beautiful. I overheard the "Birders" excitedly call out the names of the wildlife. Snowy egrets, pelicans, ducks, Canadian geese, shore birds and even a bald eagle were visible. The wetlands were filled with life this morning for our viewing pleasure. When the lake was out of sight a river followed along the tracks for awhile. Fisherman were out in their little rowboats looking quite picturesque.

In the dining car they always seat a full table of four if at all possible. They send you in by groups and you sit with whomever they assign to your table. I kind of like that because I will always be meeting new people at the meals. Conversation is pretty easy, at least initially, because you can always ask people where they are from and where they are headed to. This usually opens the door to various tangents and points of connection. There is an Amish group on the train and I kind of hope that I would be seated with them, but no luck this time. Maybe if I was wearing the white bonnet...

The majority of the riders on this train are on the older side. I can't believe some of them can make it from one car to the next since it is like going through a carnival "fun house" between the rail cars. There is often about a foot high level change and a sideways scissoring motion which you have to navigate while reaching ahead and pushing the "Press" button firmly enough for the doors to slide open.

We keep stopping to let other trains go by. No wonder Amtrak has such a bad record for being late. We are at least 2-3 hours behind schedule at this point. A freight train with tons of lumber has the right of way now and we are just sitting here watching it go by. I understand where all the lumber is from; for the past few hours we have been passing nothing but pine trees. The train is traveling along a mountain ridge and keeps popping in and out of tunnels. It is very scenic to say the least.

Other things that have caught my eye, some more scenic than others are: a fun tree house, a high school football team practicing, red barns, vineyards and orchards, cows, sheep, goats, horses, xmas tree farms, chemical processing plants, lumber yards, used car dumps, trailer parks, blackberry bushes and corn fields... all of the ordinary things of life but not necessarily the things I usually take note of or am exposed to.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Two Years Ago in Paris

I find that my thoughts are frequently taking me back to my Paris sabbatical that I took 2 years ago. I left in the beginning of September and was gone for 3 months, much like I am about to do now. Here is an exerpt from my journal about one of my early days there. I had been on my own for two weeks at this point and was very glad to have my friend Martha join up with me.

September 14, 2003

Martha arrived today! Yeah! I cleaned the apartment and made room for her things. Then I mostly sat around and read Le Marriage and looked out the window for her. I was afraid that I might miss her if I went to church so I skipped it today. She arrived at 12:15. I was leaning out the window when she rounded the corner, huge suitcase in tow. I waved and called out that I would be right down.

She had to walk through the farmer’s market from the metro to get to my place. She apparently ran over a few toes as she tried to maneuver her way along the crowded sidewalks and make- shift stands for the produce and the hot rotisseries in front of the boucheries. She was laughing and already full of stories about her adventure so far. I helped her lug her suitcase and bag up the four flights of stairs.

Martha got settled a bit and told me about her experience in the metro and then we went out to get produce and lunch at the farmers market below. We strolled through the bustling sidewalk market and bought a melon, peaches, grapes, pastries and gyros sandwichs. We walked over to my lovely neighborhood park and sat on a bench for our pique-nique. It was an absolutely gorgeous fall day; blue skies, warm sun and cool breeze. The sunlight filtered down through the branches of the elm trees and little leaves fluttered down lightly carpeting the raked dirt and green benches of the park.

Afterwards, we walked back to the apartment to drop off the rest of the groceries. Martha went to hang up her jacket in my flimsy IKEA armoire and I yelled out to her to be careful because it wasn’t very stable. A second later I heard a big crash as the top shelf loaded with a lot of my things came crashing down. Martha claimed that she didn’t even touch it. She was horrified and tried to fix it and managed to knock down the bar with all of my hanging clothes on it. Now everything was on the floor and the armoire was listing to one side and Martha was doubled over with laughter, protesting that she had barely even got close to it. Laughing as well, I said that I would fix it. (I had already had some experiences with it myself). I got it back together but Martha never tried to use it again. As I was putting it together I heard a crash in the kitchen and ran over to see her picking up a glass that she had either squeezed to hard or that just slipped out of her hand. I began to wonder what my apartment would look like by the time she left. Luckily I was amused by it all.

We walked up to the Montmartrobus stop and rode it through Montmartre up to Sacre Coeur where we got out and looked around and then took it down to Pigalle. This is my favorite bus ride in Paris because it winds its way quickly up and down the tiny village streets; it is important to hold on so that you don’t go flying out of your seat. We got off (at Pigalle at the end of the route) and walked through the red-light district with its seedy sex shops over to the Moulin Rouge. Martha and I had both very much enjoyed the recent movie Moulin Rouge, but were disappointed in the exterior of the windmill itself. It looked a bit run-down and was kind of depressing. I won’t need to do this part of town again.

We wandered our way back up to the Abbesses metro and down Rue Lepic to the Cemetiere Montmartre then down Rue Coulaincourt to Mont-Cenis and followed that back to the apartment. We passed lots of wonderful traiteurs and boulangeries so we picked up some snacks and items for dinner.

Martha decided to take a nap so we tried to pull out the futon couch to lay it flat. It got stuck in a v shape and since it was covered in a yellow slip cover it resembled a huge hot dog bun. We laughed until we almost wet our pants and finally got it folded out flat. Much laughing today. Martha is so tired that everything seems funny and it is great for me to have someone to laugh with. Now I am sitting at my desk, writing and eating some of the delicious grapes (though I am spitting out the seeds and skins) and feeling the lovely breeze and looking at the beautiful sycamore trees outside my window. One of those “Life is good “ times.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lessons From the I-5

I just returned from a whirlwind LA roadtrip. I wanted to see my family and LA friends before I take off on my big train adventure. The drive to LA is very familiar to me because I have been driving it for the past 20 years to visit home. Here are a few things I have learned over the years driving THE I-5.

(All of us from So Cal use the word "the" before naming the freeway or highway. It is a dead giveaway of your origins because nobody from Northern California ever says it like that. I guess in some ways I will always have a little LA in me.)


1. Going 80mph is for old ladies and truck drivers. All of the SUV's and sporty cars drive between 90-100mph. I know this because I was only going up to 80 and cars were flying past me.

2.It only takes a little rock to leave a BIG hole in your windshield when it bounces up from the road and smacks the windshield right in front of your face.

3. When a truck carrying a sign that says "WIDE LOAD" is in front of you, you better take it seriously. There is nothing like seeing an entire house cruising by on a flatbed.

4. The tomatoes piled to overflowing in the trucks cruising down the highway are probably NOT going to go flying onto your windshield even though there are 1000's of tomatoes lining the sides of the road. I have yet to be bombarded by them... knock on wood.

5.Ten thousand or so cows in less than a square mile tends to smell pretty bad. It is only advisable to hold your breath going through Coalinga if you are a passenger, not the DRIVER. It is never a good idea to hold your breath when you are driving (even if they don't say anything about that in the drivers ed manual...).

6.The radio is pretty much pointless between Livermore and LA.

7. It is possible to go almost 300 miles without making the slightest turn along the 5.

8. You really can get sunburned through car windows, even if "they" say that you can't. I advise a high SPF suncscreen and a light towel or sarong to drape over any exposed skin because it can be awfully hard to get rid of those bizarre unwanted tan lines...

9.If there has been repaving of only one lane of traffic you can get the "crossing the wake when waterskiing" feeling just by changing lanes.

10. If someone is going to rear end you when you are in bumper to bumper traffic (especially in the LA region) it is helpful if they own a car wash/ detailing business and offer to detail your car after the incident. My car hasn't looked so good in years...

11. It is good to make sure that your cup holder really is big enough to hold that 32 oz diet coke before you make a big turn back onto the highway and it jumps out onto the passenger side floor, out of reach. And of course, if this happens to you, see #10 and plan accordingly.

12.Some signs may make you wonder, especially if they say, "Pleasant Valley State Prison." What could possibly make a prison "pleasant"? Do they think that the inmates are going to feel better because it has a nice sounding name?

Just a few helpful hints and info that I discovered/relived on this trip. I hope all of you will have happy travels. Remember to always buckle up! Food for thought: Why don't school buses have seat belts? Have you ever sat in one and tried not to fall out of your seat? What is up with that?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Watch Out- New "SMART" Parking Meters!

A few weeks ago I received a "parking violation" notice in the mail. I never saw a ticket on my car and was not expecting the notice at all. I don't even remember being on the street the day of the violation, but I was running a lot of errands that day and the notice was for parking too long in an 24 minute zone. Since it was only $29 I decided to pay it rather than fight it, but I wasn't too happy about doing so.

I don't know about you, but recieving parking tickets makes me mad. I usually try REALLY hard to park legally and will spend a lot of time trying to do so. Sometimes the meters keep eating your quarters without registering any time. I have had to repark 4 times just trying to find a meter that works. I know that you are supposed to get the length of time free if the meter is broken, but usually they will still ticket you.

A high school student a couple of years ago did an experiment on parking meters and found that the vast majority did not give you the full time for the money you deposited. Well, the news only gets worse. There are now more ways that those meter maids can figure out how long you have been in a spot. Chalking tires with a white line is passe in some places.

There was a very informative article in the Chronicle this morning. Apparently in Pacific Grove everytime a car pulls away from a spot the meter resets to zero, so no one can use the leftovers from someone else's meter time. The "parking officials" now have GPS enabled cameras that scan your license plate and know how long your car has occupied the given spot. In some places there is an wire grid under the pavement that triggers a sensor whenever a car pulls in. The information is sent wirelessly to "traffic enforcers" so they know when time runs out and they can rush over and give you a ticket. No need for chalking, just lots of tickets issued. They also beef up their parking enforcement on Saturdays because they can catch a lot of people on that day.

On the plus side, technology has made it possible in some places for people to pay by cell phone. That would be a helpful break for those who never seem to have enough quarters in their cars. All-in-all, this is a "heads-up" warning for those of you who ever need to park in public. Which is most of us all of the time. This fabulous new technology will probably be coming to your city soon- and probably without any warning to you! Happy Parking To You! Good luck in this brave new world...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Jerk-O-Meter Part 2

The article that I have received the most comments about is the one titled, Jerk-O-Meter. My brother Thomas and I can get going about some subject and carry it forward to ridiculous (but funny to us) places. He had a few additional comments about that story. With his permission I am reprinting it here for you all to read. If you don't like his point of view that is okay. I can always send his email along to you and you can tell him yourself. He is in China for another year so I am sure he'd love the mail. He can't access my blog there because the government blocks all blogs. Of course there are always ways around that...

Hey Amy,

I just read your blog. It was fun, good, easy reading. I even laughed a
few times.

I personally think something as wonderful as a "Jerk-O-Meter" should do more
than identilfy if someone is paying attention on the telephone. If I had a
jerk-o-meter, I would install it in every new car. It would be manditory in
California. The meter would be connected to a hammer or wooden mallot and
would smash the driver on the head(not hard enough to cause unconciousness)
for a number of things. There would also be a setting for sleepy drivers.
But, I am not quite sure how that would work or if it would work. Honestly,
what can can keep a sleepy person awake - cold water on the head, fresh air,
turning up the radio, singing along to "Y. M. C. A." . . . doing the arm motions with
one hand - do you really think this would get you from Pittsburg to San

I remember trying to stay awake for the mid-night services at St. Mark's. A
sharp elbow into the ribs worked great for waking me up, but how long did
that last? What about staying awake?

As far as the Jerk-O-Meter goes, I am sure there are many more applications
that we could think of. How about installing one in the White House?
Everytime a Senator, Representative, or the President suggested, supported,
or voted for something that was against the general welfare of the
environment, people in our country or people in another country, a big red
light would go off on their desk. After a certain number of times, that
person would be replaced by a well trained monkey. Sure, our government
would be in for some big changes, but at least they would be well trained.
Payroll would be cheaper. Plus, a well trained monkey is a delight.

If using monkeys in the government raised some concerns from animal rights
activists, we could use profession body builders. Oh, I forgot we have
already tried that in California. It didn't work out so great.

Other uses for the Jerk-O-Meter would be to soundly and repeatly beat people
responsible for making too much noise. Operators of beeping trucks, leaf
blowers, motorized scooters, sub-woofer car stereo's, and all idiots who
clang pipes together or own a yapping dog would be taught a lessong the old
fashion way. Out of nowhere, an old man with white mustache and a cane
would appear with superhuman powers. He would quickly and quietly remove
the offender from their vehicle or noisy apparatus and then deliver ten to
twenty memorable blows - "little reminders" is what I would call them. If
the "little reminders" did not achieve the desired goal, maybe some "big
reminders" would be used. After a few weeks, we would all live in quite,
peaceful neighborhoods where unknowing and incensitive jerks were either
punished or sent to desolate places to live and play such as freeway
shoulders along I-5 where their individual noise swallowed by the mad
collective scream of passing trucks and cars.

Of course, the greatest use of the Jerk-O-Meter would be domestic. Husbands
and wives would no longer have to argue over who was being a jerk or even
put up with a jerk as the beloved and indestructable Jerk-O-Meter would
immediately grab the jerk by the ankle, raise him up into the air, and shake
him silly.

Have a nice day.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Revised Amtrak Itinerary 9/02

Hello Everyone! Hurricane Katrina caused me to change my plans a bit. I have my new iterary here for you to follow along with me.


Wed Sept 14 train from Emeryville to Portland
Sept 15-17 PORTLAND
Sat Sept 17 train from Portland to Seattle
Sept 17-20 SEATTLE
Tues Sept 20 train from Seattle to Bellingham
Thur Sept 22 train from Bellingham to Vancouver
Sept 22-25 VANCOUVER
Sun Sept 25-28 train from Vancouver to Toronto
Sept 28-29 TORONTO
Thur Sept 29 train from Toronto to Montreal
Sept 29-1 MONTREAL
Sat Oct 1 train from Montreal to Quebec
Oct 1-3 QUEBEC
Mon Oct 3 train from Quebec to Montreal
Tues Oct 4 bus from Montreal to St Albans, VT
Sat Oct 8 train from St Albans to Boston
Oct 8-11 BOSTON
Tues Oct 11 train from Boston to New York
Oct 11-15 NEW YORK
Sat Oct 15 train from NY to DC
Tues Oct 18 train from DC to Durham (Chapel Hill)
Sat Oct 22 train from Durham to Charleston
Mon Oct 24 train from Charleston to Savannah
Oct 24-27 SAVANNAH
Thur Oct 27 train from Savannah to Durham
Wed Nov 2-3 train from Raleigh to Chicago via DC
Mon Nov 7-8 train from Chicago to Austin
Nov 8-11 AUSTIN
Fri Nov 11-12 train from Austin to El Paso
Sun Nov13 bus from El Paso to Albequerque
Mon Nov 14 train from Albequerque to Colorado Springs
Thur Nov 17 bus from Colorado Springs to Denver
Nov 17-18 DENVER
Fri Nov 18 bus from Denver to Boulder
Nov 18-20 BOULDER
Sun Nov 20 bus from Boulder to Denver
Nov 20-21 DENVER
Mon Nov 21-22 train from Denver to EMERYVILLE!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Finishing Up


This is my first day unemployed in over 8 1/2 years. It felt very sad and strange to walk out of work yesterday after turning in my keys and parking pass. I simply left a goodbye message on voicemail, locked up my computer, turned out the lights, walked down the hall to turn in my keys, hugged a friend with tears filling my eyes and then walked out into the warm late afternoon sunshine and into my future.

It's not as if I expected trumpets to play as I walked to my car, yet it felt like it was too quiet of a moment to be marking the end of a chapter of my life. I loved my job and the people it had brought into my life but knew that it was time to move on. A week ago, they threw me fabulous and affirming farewell parties and I had been with the staff at a retreat the day before. I had been told how much I was loved and cherished and appreciated and would be missed. It just hadn't quite felt real until that moment of walking out the door.

I remembered feeling a bit the same way in college whenever finals were finished. So much energy and concentration had been focused on studying for and taking the exams that it was a shock to the system to have them done. My last set of finals were especially brutal because I had all four of them back to back- morning, afternoon, evening and morning. I was exhausted by the time I turned in my last Psychology final (which I aced, by the way) and I felt like it would have been appropriate for a party to spontaneously erupt in my honor. I had finished college- hooray! But like everyone else I just walked home and waited for a roommate to come home so we could go out to lunch together.

My family and friends went out to dinner with me after the graduation ceremonies later in the week and we had a great time celebrating. But there was something about the loneliness of the quiet moment when the real change was occurring that took me by surprise. It was as if that moment felt more real than other times. I felt deep down that something very significant was taking place and that I needed embrace it quietly on my own whether I wanted to or not.

So, now once again, I find myself in the place of transition and I am excited and exhausted and sad and ecstatic. I feel overwhelmed with the prospect of figuring out all of the remaining details for my 2 month train trip in less than two weeks. And then I think about the million or so people in the New Orleans area whose lives have so abruptly changed forever. The changes in my life are tiny compared to theirs. I have chosen for things to be different and the changes are positive. They have had their lives torn apart. I feel incredibly grateful for all the blessings in my life and know that I need to be mindful of others who have so much less.