Up at OMG o clock today for the first Journey South on this trip. So far I have headed east, north and now headed south (no West Travel yet). But this was not to be a tough one, this was to be a relaxing journey today. This was also the start of my journey with Brad really. We had been on contiki together but from this point on, it was just Me & Him.
With morning formalities out of the way and a quick trip to reception to get some credit card statement issues out of the way, we were in a cab heading for the station. Thats right, I said station. Heading south over the border today by Train. Rather than fly the 20 minute segment and spend hours in security at the airport, we had planned on the Cascades south to Seattle. The train was an easy choice, with AAA discount, a nice big comfy business class seat for $12 extra and free wifi, i mean seriously, why not!!
We had picked up tickets nice and early for cheap ($45 one way in business) so the costs were pretty good. With pre clearance of immigration at the station in Vancouver it meant that the turn around would be quicker rather than sitting at the border for a train load of people. Easy as!! We arrived at the station in the pre dawn twilight to see half the terminal either shut or under construction…. damn. Looks like a final breakfast of Tim Hortons. O well.
Walked into Pacific Station and saw that nothing was open other than MacDonalds so while Brad waited, I ducked over to Tim Hortons to grab a coffee and some breakfast/snack supplies for the train. When returned, still nothing so time to fill out the Customs forms and wait.
Amtrak Cascades – Train 513
Vancouver to Seattle
Business Class – Car 2 – Seat 5A
Arrived Border: 0800
Departed Border: 0830
Around 0525 a line formed around the customs area for documentation check. This looked about right so we kinda snuck over into the line a head of a few people (suckers) and headed to the check in area. Boarding began shortly after with Business Class line given preference into the documentation check and we were amongst the first group through immigration.
Was grilled at immigration about absolute random topics but meh, didn’t care and the security screening was non existant. No taking out of laptops, no shoes off, no belts off, fully intact dignity at all times! That wont last for sure. Once through “security check and baggage screening” you are funneled down a chainlinked area (since you are technically in the United States now and out of Canada towards the train.
Checked luggage was collected directly at the train itself (didn’t realise this earlier) and we headed for our seats, all the way at the other end of the train, meh what can you do! A little bit of walking never hurt anyone. As we approached our seats we dropped our gear, and i went for a little walk around to suss out the train, take a few snaps for the report and then came back and fired up the laptop thanks to the power port at the row and then logged into the wifi ready to do some work.
Managed to get a number of things done on this train journey, managed to organise some tours/attractions for the coming week or two, managed to work out other things and also enjoy the ride south in peace, quiet and gentle rocking motion. We ended up departing late but had been working for so long on the wifi, never really noticed apart from the few lurches as we crossed switcing points.
Pretty soon we were smashing our way south on the train at speed. The cascades went a fairly decent clip so that was great. Once ticket check was done we were free to “move about the cabin” so I jumped up and grabbed a coffee as we were warned that once we got to the border it was “sit in your seat and DONT MOVE” time and they would give a 30 minute warning. I was in the line to get coffee when the 30 minute warning was given, and the 20 and 10 minute warning… dear lord could this line move any slower. Thankfully i was just getting liquids and not trying to eat my breakfast at the border!!
Business class gives you a $3 discount on all drinks and food and they accept Canadian Note Currency at a 1:1 ratio of CAD:USD so that was a good way to get rid of some of the smaller notes. A coffee, water & juice with $3 discount came to $3.25. When asked to wait for change I said keep it and scurried back to my seat. With the border fast approaching it was time to hit the bathroom as well before it closed at the border crossing.
We arrived at the border with pretty stern warnings of not touching technology equipment (laptops, phones etc) or moving or really even breathing until customs had inspected the train fully. First customs officer into our carriage was carrying a massive backpack with arm scanner (probably looking for some form of explosives or something), 2nd one on was carrying a geiger counter by the looks of it and the 3rd was grilling people and collecting Customs forms. With our carriage done, laptops went back on, so I joined them and got back to reading stuff.
Within 30 minutes the train was done, a blast of the trains horns and we were rolling out of the border. Hello USA! Pretty soon we were at speed againt hurtling down the Washington coastline headed for seattle. The Cascades can get up to a fair clip and it makes it just nice and comfortable, with a coffee or drink and free wifi, I am in heaven. Even had a stash of Tim Hortons Tim Bits for a sneaky snack onboard.
Pretty soon we were approaching Everett (no sign of any 787s etc) and that meant we were getting close to seattle, so with the stop before seattle made we had picked up a bit of time since we were running about 20 mins late at that point but with some good signals and plenty of schedule padding, they were announcing a departure from Seattle on time.
We arrived around 1115 or so, and they were already starting to turn the train around for the further south journey and restocking once we barely even pulled up to the station. It was off and into another Station that looked like a construction site. Crazy. Bags took quite a while and then we were out, through the taxi touts, having to tell Brad to keep on walking through them, dont stop, out to the metered taxis. Soon enough we were hurtling along the elevated Waterfront I5 north to our hotel near the Seattle Centre.