I have some catching up to do. I arrived in Portland on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday morning, Mom and I were going to take her car to the garage to have some work done on it while she was gone. I got into the car I store at her place so that I could follow her, but nothing happened when I turned the key. We called AAA and the man started it and said it needed to run for an hour, so I followed her to her garage and then she did a couple of errands while I kept the car running. We stopped at a store near her home and I turned the car off and on again, but it was dead. We called AAA a second time, and this time the man sold us a new battery and installed it. Then the car ran reliably.
In the afternoon, Jamey took us to the train station to catch the 4:45 train to Green Bay. Mom had a suitcase with clothes, one with all her pills, and an insulated case in which she had packed a bunch of food for our trip. I had a backpack and my computer bag. I had envisioned modern trains having free WIFI and I was going to write on the trip, but they don’t so I didn’t.
We walked up to the counter in the train station, and the man at the counter looked at our tickets and said, “You have a bedroom. That makes you a VIP. We have a special waiting lounge for you.” In my entire life, I have thought there was only one waiting area with wooden benches for everyone at the Portland train station, but he directed us to a smaller room with cushioned seats, a refrigerator we could get drinks out of for free, and a television. We felt very honored!
When the conductor came to personally let us know our car on the train was ready, Mom and I started out with her three roller bags and my two small bags. I took two of Mom’s bags plus my backpack and computer bag and I asked if she could hold my purse. She tried to hold onto everything, but she lost her balance and almost fell over. I called out to her when I saw her stumble, and a man in a sort of golf cart came up to us and asked if we could use some help. We said yes, so he loaded our bags and us onto his cart and drove us right up to the door of our car!
The woman in charge of the sleeping car told us how to find our room. It was a small room. There was a couch with a folded up bed above it, a single seat facing the couch, a closet that was the bathroom (you could literally take your shower while sitting on the toilet), and a tiny sink and mirror outside the closet. We had a little trouble fitting all our bags into our bedroom, but we managed. Mom looked around the room and found a coat closet about the size of one of those cupboards that hold flat pans and cookie sheets in a kitchen. I found a wet washcloth in the toilet closet.
Once everyone was in our car, the woman in charge, Nancy, came around to each room to show the passengers how things in the room work. When she came to our room, she told us that because we had paid for a bedroom, all of our meals in the dining car would be free. Mom looked a little dismayed and said, “Why did I pack all this food then?” There was some food in Mom’s bag that wouldn’t keep for the whole trip, so she and I skipped a couple of the meals in the dining car. The first night, they weren’t going to add the dining car until we got to Spokane, Washington, but they did offer boxed dinners that were pretty good, I thought.
As the train slowly pulled out of the train station in Portland, Mom finally started to relax and enjoy getting on the way.
That first day, we didn’t know we had a door to our bedroom. We thought we only had a curtain, and we left that open at first. Our neighbors on either side of our room dropped by to chat for a bit and then Mom and I decided to walk down to the observation car.
We were riding along the Washington side of the Columbia River, a side we haven’t been on very many times in our lives, so we stayed in the observation car and enjoyed the view of the gorge across the river from us. We stayed in the observation car and had our boxed dinners and looked at the scenery until it was too dark to see. We went back to our room, and when we were ready for bed, Nancy came and made the couch into a bed and then put down the upper bunk and showed me how to strap myself in up there so I wouldn’t fall out.
Mom laid on the bed below, and for a while after we turned the lights out, I looked over my bunk and she and I talked about the day. I finally went to sleep, but throughout the night, I was aware of her movements and I’d check on her. Once in the middle of the night, I looked over the edge of my bunk and Mom was sitting bolt upright in her bed. I said, “What’s up, Mom?” and she said, “We haven’t moved in a long time. Do you think we’ve broken down?” I told her I doubted it, and shortly after that, the train started moving again, so I, at least, rolled back over and went to sleep.
The next morning, Mom and I woke up while it was still dark out. I had heard an announcement the night before that breakfast would be served at 6:30, so even though we weren’t going to have their breakfast, we decided to get up and walk to the observation car. Mom wanted her morning coffee, so she went downstairs to the snack car and bought a $2 cup of coffee. Later, we discovered that in our sleeper car, they had juice and coffee that you could pour for yourself for free any time you wanted. We were truly babes in the woods!
As the sun began to come up, we could see snow on the ground. The engineer announced that he was about to make a stop in Whitefish, Montana. I had brought my camera with me knowing that we would be traveling through Glacier National Park through the morning. I was excited to see it because Mark and I had intended to go through Glacier National Park on our honeymoon and the roads were closed. I took lots of pictures.
I didn’t take as many pictures on the plains. Mom and I were sitting in our bedroom on Thursday afternoon when our neighbor, Julie, popped her head in at our door and said, “I just have one question: Are we ever going to get out of Montana?” We spent the whole day going through Montana, but after Glacier National Park, the scenery was kind of monotonous and most of the houses and towns we saw looked poor. It was not very pretty.
That evening, Mom and I finally went to the dining car for dinner. They seat people community style. They assigned Mom and me to a table with another “couple”. At first, I thought they were married, but it turns out they are a retired brother and sister who never married, live in the same house, and enjoy traveling together. Both of them had been librarians before they retired, so it was fun to compare stories with them.
After dinner, I tried to turn the faucet on in our bedroom, but the water ran out. I found Nancy and told her about it as she was standing outside the open car door at a station. She told me we were there to refill the train with water. When I told Mom about it, we figured out that when she’d been worried about the train standing still for so long in the middle of the night the night before, the train was probably taking on water. That relieved Mom’s mind.
The next morning, Mom and I knew we had gone through North Dakota during the night, but we didn’t know how close we were to Minneapolis where we were to get off. We went to the dining car for breakfast and were just getting acquainted with another couple at our table when we heard the announcement that we were ten minutes out from our stop. We had to leave some of our breakfast behind and rush to our room to grab our bags. Mom thinks she may have somehow left her phone charging cord on the bed in our room.
We disembarked at a train/bus station in downtown Minneapolis. The building was huge, but we could hardly find any employees there to ask questions of. Someone did finally tell us where we needed to wait for the bus that was going to take us to Green Bay. We had a layover of a couple of hours there with nothing to do. Passengers came and went and I went to a vending machine and got us a couple of bottles of water. Finally, it came time for us to go down to wait for our bus outside. We thought we were looking for bus number 8041. I saw someone go up to a bus driver and the driver told him he didn’t have the right ticket, so I got to wondering if the paper in my hand was the actual ticket. I walked up to the driver and said, “I know you aren’t going to Green Bay, but can you tell me if this is the right kind of ticket?” He said, “I am headed toward Green Bay and I don’t know of any other buses heading that way at this time.” I showed him what I thought was a bus number on my ticket and he said that that was an Amtrak number. It had nothing to do with the bus number. How would we have known if I hadn’t asked? God must have been watching over us!
Mom and I had the driver put most of our bags in the compartment under the bus, but we took our food bag and a few small items with us. We were sitting in a seat with very little room for our food bag until someone in the very back seat got off the bus. That had three seats to it, so we had a seat for the food bag.
It was interesting to go through towns in Wisconsin that I’ve heard of but never been to before. Menomonie was our favorite. Not only was it a cute old-fashioned town, but it had a University of Wisconsin campus with an interesting name:
Mom’s married name is Stout, so that piqued her interest. Could there be a possible relationship?
The bus trip was less comfortable than the train trip because the seats were so close together and we couldn’t just get up and walk around. As we realized we were finally approaching Green Bay, Mom took off her fanny pack and went into the restroom. Shortly thereafter, she and I were picking everything around us up and heading out the door to get our luggage. Mark was standing there waiting for us and we were sure happy to see him. He took most of the luggage and led us to the car (Merih’s car) and put the luggage in the trunk. Mom and I got into the car, and she suddenly said, “What did I do with my fanny pack?” She looked through everything we had had with us inside the bus. It wasn’t there. It had her wallet with her bank card and a few other cards in it as well as $250 cash. Her cell phone was also inside. I know I had checked the seats we were in. The only thing we can figure is that maybe it fell on the floor and we didn’t see it. Fortunately, when Mom got hold of her bank the next morning, nothing had been charged on her bank card yet, and her banker put a freeze on it. But she had a hard time sleeping during her first night at our house. She felt better after talking to her banker.
On Saturday, I took Mom to see the local sights. We went to Wagon Trail Campground where Mark and I first worked in Door County. I took her to Seaquist where I worked a couple of years ago. We went to the Piggly Wiggly. I remember her taking me to the Piggly Wiggly when I was very young, and that was the last time she had been in one. When we went in she said, “This isn’t my mother’s Piggly Wiggly!” Then I took her to Tea Thyme in Door County where I worked for my neighbor, Lynn, one summer. She and Lynn had a very good chat and we bought some tea that Lynn recommended. I was able to take Mom into the tiny Visitor Center where I’ve been working the last couple of summers, and then I took her to the tip of the peninsula to see the winding road.
On Sunday, I took Mom to my church where she got to meet my pastor. My pastor, Nancy, had her first chemo infusion a couple of weeks ago and last Sunday she was sick. She is finally beginning to feel human again and she will have this week off before having to go for her next chemo infusion. She will have four treatments in all and hopefully be done by Christmas. Please pray that God will teach her what she needs to learn through this process.
After church, I took Mom to the Noble House and gave her a personal tour. I also showed her a surprise that I haven’t talked about in my previous blogs for this reason.
I have a little piece of Sherill in Wisconsin with me, and every time I work at the Noble House, I stop and tell her whatever I would say to her if she was here and I make sure no weeds are growing near her brick. Mom was pleased to see the brick.
After that, I took Mom to Julie’s Cafe for lunch. I’d been given a gift card there for my work at the Noble House, and it will expire in February. We walked in the front door and the owner said, “We’re just closing up, but we can get you a sandwich or some soup.” Mom and I asked for chili, and Mom loved it. She said it was the best chili she’s ever had. I was very grateful to the owner for letting us eat there and to the waitress who served us.
Yesterday, I started getting into gear to help us get on the road, but it became apparent that we weren’t going to be able to leave yesterday as planned. Mark has been working like a dog while I’ve been showing Mom around, but today we all pitched in and got the RV packed, the house winterized, and headed out. We had a couple of trial runs first as I kept remembering things that I needed and hadn’t brought with me, but we finally got on the road and arrived in Wausau, Wisconsin by 7:30 this evening. Because of the one day delay, those of you who are expecting us on Saturday, it now looks like it will be Sunday before we get there.