On September 27, I flew to Nashville on Southwest to meet Suzanne, my daughter. We had dinner in the airport. Our 9:45p.m. flight to Chicago on Southwest was cancelled due to a thunderstorm over Midway. Southwest could not get us to Chicago in time to make our Amtrak connections to the Empire Builder the next day. The first Southwest associate was less than helpful but assured us that our bags would be taken off and would be waiting for us in baggage claim. Not true. The second associate was much more helpful. She said that against policy our bags had been put on an earlier flight that did make it to Chicago. Not true. She did schedule us on a flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul where we could meet the train Saturday night. Suzanne and I made it to a Residence Inn for the night. At 1:o’clock a.m. Southwest called Suzanne’s cell phone to say they had located our bags. Not true. When we arrived at the airport our bags were not there; however we did make our flight to Minneapolis. The Southwest attendant assured us that our bags would arrive with us. Not true. We did learn that Suzanne’s bag did make it to Chicago and mine was still in Nashville. The next flight from Chicago would be at 4:30. The next flight from Nashville would be at 6:30 p.m. All we could do was wait. When we returned to baggage claim at about 5:30, Suzanne’s bag was there. Mine came in on the 6:30 flight. We were without our luggage for about 22 hours.

We boarded the Empire Builder in St. Paul and the remainder of the trip was smooth traveling. We met wonderful companions at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a horrible mistake for Amtrak to discontinue the dining cars from the trains. Meeting new people is part of the attraction. We had booked a roomette. Suzanne climbed into the upper bunk and I was below. The scenery from the train is beautiful. The landscape keeps changing before your eyes. We went through 40 inches of snow in Montana. I’m glad we were inside. After about 36 hours, we arrived in Portland, Oregon. We had already arranged for a rental car. I hated to say goodbye to the train. It was a wonderful trip although I hardly got any sleep which didn’t matter. This train trip has been a goal forever.

We drove around Portland. On our way to Eugene, we had lunch at Buster’s Texas Style Barbecue. Although it was not what we expected in Oregon, it was excellent. Our next stop was off the beaten track to the Brigittine Monastery that advertised chocolates and fruit cakes made by the monks. The chocolate is excellent. The fruitcake is waiting. I am one of the few who admit to liking fruitcake. The monastery is surrounded by hazelnut trees. We finally made it to our hotel in Eugene with rooms overlooking the river and a park. We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, Sweetwater. We enjoyed a wonderful brunch the following morning at the Pump Restaurant. Not only was the service efficient and friendly, but I enjoyed the best home fries I have ever eaten. The restaurant is decorated with license plates from several states. It needs one from South Carolina. Our afternoon was taken up by either driving through or walking through seven restored covered bridges and of course a visit with the University of Oregon Duck. We were greeted warmly and had our pictures taken with the famous mascot. .

Tuesday night we enjoyed a marvelous dinner at the Kings Estate Winery Restaurant. The surroundings are beautiful and the service flawless. An-dee was friendly but not intrusive. She provided us with answers to our many questions. They grow their own vegetables and pride themselves on everything being organic. I think this is the largest winery in Oregon. Oregon is the 49th. state on my Bucket List.

Hold your breath for part three next week.

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