Thursday, June 5, 2014

Port Angeles WA to Pine Grove PA

This will be hopefully a somewhat accurate report on our 33 hour travel day from Port Angeles Washington to Pine Grove Pennsylvania.  This is not our intended plan for travel back to the east from the northwest – but it is what it is.
Sunrise from Red Lion Hotel

We left the Red Lion Hotel at 5:30 AM to check out, walk about 1 1/2 blocks to the bus stop for the Dungeness Coach Line.

Dungeness Coach Bus

This company runs a twice a day run between Port Angles and several other towns on the Olympic Peninsula, several downtown Seattle Locations (including the AMTRAK Station) and SEATAC Airport that is located about midway between Seattle and Tacoma. Bus was there on time and we left with about 10 other individuals on a small maybe 20 passenger bus.  We traveled through numerous small towns, across the Hood Canal in a long bridge, took a 25 minute ferry ride across Puget Sound, and down I-5 into downtown Seattle.  Puget Sound was really a continuation of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca that we had crossed when we came back into the US from Victoria..  Seattle is a huge city – we saw the Space Needle, lots of Starbucks and Seattle Coffee shops, and it looked like it would be fun to explore.  The AMTRAK station is right downtown.

Puget Sound from Ferry

Upon arrive about 9 AM at AMTRAK we got a phone call about another change in our travel on the Empire Builder.  We talked to the ticket agents and it seemed the mudslide of last week was not completely resolved. We would have a detour in North Dakota that would make us 5-6 hours late getting into Chicago.  Since there is already an issue of perhaps being late due to lots of oil transport in the North Dakota area.  We would most certainly miss the connection with the Chicago to Syracuse train meaning finding a hotel in Chicago and waiting another day until 9 PM at night to leave Chicago for Syracuse.  All in all it was not worth the effort and trouble so we did what we had considered when AMTRAK first called – we canceled the train and made reservations on a plane.

Ben working on Plane Reservations at AMTRAK Station Seattle

Waiting Room at AMTRAK - beautiful but few services - no food at all

I really wanted to see what the AMTRAK travel was like – to compare with the excellent service on VIA Rail in Canada.  Well I hate to judge all of AMTRAK on this experience but they sure did not measure up too well in our limited experience. Ben used the internet on his new Kindle to work out air travel home.  Most flights east leave early morning or are what is known as “red eye” flights – leaving in the late evening…so that is what we ended up with since it was now about 11:30 and we had missed the morning flights.  While this sounds crazy – the best available  connection was through ATLANTA!

If we had known this a bit earlier we could have just continued on our Dungeness Coach on to SEATAC airport!  About a block from the AMTRAK station was a Seattle Light Rail station. We found we were near Chinatown!  I suppose some might have taken the opportunity to explore downtown Seattle but we had our luggage and to be honest were a bit frustrated with the situation. We hopped on the Light Rail and before we knew it we were further south along Puget Sound and arrived at the huge SEATAC Airport. We got tickets for light rail from a kiosk; since we did not have the correct change we used a $20 bill and got 14 $1 coins for change! We must have walked at least a mile finding Delta, getting our tickets from a computer, finding a place to eat lunch, and then a place to read, charge up kindles and phones, and people watch.

We spent the afternoon near an arrival area and it was interesting watching people. One group of about 20 people was welcoming their family member home after his retirement from the Army – he had served 20 years.  They had quite a celebration.

About 5 we checked 2 of our bags and made our way through security, took a train to our gate, and spent the evening reading and people watching from inside the security area near our gate.  We had dinner and enjoyed the down time – but it was a lot of sitting, walking, and watching!

At 10:45 we boarded our 4 hour and 10 minute flight to Atlanta.  Instead of gaining 1 hour each day on our way west – we lost the 3 on this one flight – arriving in Atlanta about 6:20 AM. I realized too late that the small TV screen at my seat could have shown me where we were. It was very clear and since I did not sleep well I saw lots of cities – only one I identified for sure was Houston. Also saw a nice sunrise.
Having flown seldom in recent years – by choice – things were different than we remembered.  Mobile phones, tablets, etc and all kinds of technology were integrated into the travel. The airport food was better than I expected – not great but certainly good. Both this flight and the one from Atlanta to Syracuse were 100% full.  The Delta staff were very helpful and pleasant.

Sunrise from plane near Atlanta

In Atlanta we were lucky – came in to Gate 25 and left from Gate 20 – or the other way around! So we did not have to hurry from one part of the airport to another. We had 2 1/2 hours between flights – just enough time to drink some coffee, eat a muffin, and sit a bit more.

Our flight to Syracuse left Atlanta on time at 9:15 and were in Syracuse  by 11:15. The Syracuse airport is not huge like Atlanta and SEATAC – we picked up our checked baggage, got the van out of long term storage lot  and were on I-81 headed South in 45 minutes!
Leaving Syracuse Airport
 We were both tired – Ben slept more than Jane.  We were going to drive until Ben felt too tired to drive and then we would stop.  We ate lunch in a small town in rural New York.   Our book on CD that we had listened to on the way to Syracuse still had 2 CD’s so we listened to them. We stopped about 4 in a very small town just north of Harrisburg PA.  We laid down for a nap and woke up 2 hours later to eat dinner at a recommended Pennsylvania Dutch Restaurant – The Red Lion !  (name of our hotel in Port Angeles).  This small town had 4 chain motels, a few fast food restaurants, a mobile home factory, a school, some churches, grocery, and a few shops.  Lots of homes that appear much as they must have when the town of Pleasant Grove was founded in 1832. Then a few miles on the other side of the town was the Red Lion.  It was good food but way too much of everything.

Made final arrangements to visit friends in Lexington VA – they have been so flexible with our ever-changing schedule.

Not a very exciting day or two days – but we sure used lots of types of transportation - small bus, ferry, Seattle light rail, light rail at SEATAC airport, 2 airplanes, and finally our Sprinter.  We sure covered a lot of miles. Not how we planned to end our trip but we are nearly home and have had a fantastic time.  Even this travel did not end up being as difficult as I had thought.  Tired though - going back to sleep!

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