Saturday, January 16, 2016

Of Trains and Rainbows

It's been a week of rainbows, which means a week of rain.   Rain is good.  In the next 36 hours though we are expected to get a river of rain; 8 to 10 inches.  This might not be good.  

After our recent adventure back east with storm Goliath greeting us in Chicago, we think a good rain here is just a sprinkle. It put our rain in another perspective as they really know how to open up the fire hose in the Midwest. 

We were out walking on Michigan Avenue in a light rain. We had not checked the weather forcast but we had our umbrellas and rain gear on. It seemed like all of a sudden the wind started blowing, gusting this way and that way, my umbrella went inside out and the rain  seemed to be coming from every direction. I'm not exaggerating.  It was intense. We laughed at first and walked a half of a block more while others were dashing inside.  Then we decided we better get a cab as my rain gear was failing.  In the amount of time it took us to hail a cab I got completely wet.   Mark's rain gear did a bit better. 

Before the heaven's let loose.

A bit on our time in Chicago:

After an overnight 18 hour train journey from New York City we were dropped off in downtown Chicago a little before 10 am (our train was early!).   Out west, the downtowns are usually run down areas and not a safe place to be.  It seemed to be different in the cities we visited back east.  We just got off the train and walked a few blocks to our hotel, which here was about 8 blocks from the famous Michigan Avenue. We were in the heart of tourist country and right before Christmas.  I became a bit overwhelmed by the amount of panhandlers on the street.  It was intense.  They stand and shake large plastic cups or try to sell you stuff like papers and candy bars.  Then we got wet and the winds howled so we went back to our hotel dried off and went to the movies.    This was our first day in Chicago.  

The second day was Christmas Eve and we donned silly hats and wished all the "sidewalk greeters" a very Merry Christmas before they asked for a hand out.  It seemed to improve everyone's attitude.  Especially mine.  
Christmas Eve in Chicago

The second day it did not rain and we walked about 8.5 miles along the Riverwalk and Lakeshore trail.  


Lakeshore Trail

Interesting cultural observation:  I got a few unfriendly stares early in the day because it was cold and I had my black infinity scarf looped over my head and after about the third stare we realized it looked like a hijab.  

We also busted open the wallet this day and went up the Hancock Building for a great view of the city and Lake.  

Hancock Building

View from the top of John Hancock Building

We did not go up what was formerly called the Sears tower (Willis now), because of the cost and the super long lines.  We don't do lines well. Especially when we didn't have much time to explore Chicago.  Just two days and one night. 

We did find the time though to eat a Chicago style deep dish pizza and a hot dog at Portillo's.  We've got our priorities straight and we now have the extra pounds to show it. 
Chicago is a beautiful city and it was very clean in the loop/tourist area  we were in.  It did have the most panhandlers of any city we visited on our train journey across America.
In case you are wondering...
Our trip:
Flew to Washington DC from Sacramento, 4 days exploring DC
3 hour train ride to New York City, 2 days exploring NYC 
18 hour train ride (overnight) to Chicago,  2 days exploring the windy city
7.5 hour train ride (evening) to Kansas City, 3 days with family
23 hour train and bus ride to Denver, via New Mexico, one night spent in Denver
15 hour train ride to Salt Lake City (daytime) 3 days spent in SLC.
I will be posting more about our trip as time allows.  Stay tuned. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy New Year

Is it another year already?   It is such a cliche, but it does seem like time goes by faster as you age.  2015 was a good year, a tad dry, but it sure ended wet enough.  2016 dawned wet as well.   El NiƱo seems to be delivering.  We haven't had any of the flooding or mudslide problems of SoCal, just a few leaks in our roof.

Right before Christmas we had some of our hogs butchered and they are really tasty.   This is great news as these hogs were the first ones from our breeding program.   A Tamworth/ Red Wattle hog raised free to roam in the woods and supplemented with organic grain is apparently a winning combination.  

Right after the butchering Mark and I flew to Washington DC on some airline miles and then proceeded to make our way west on Amtrak.  It was an amazing train tour of our nation with stops in iconic cities along the way as well as surprising our daughter on Christmas at her inlaws in the Midwest.  Thanks again Don and Shawna for making our Christmas special.  

I'm planning to blog about our trip sometime soon, but I will say now that there are nice people everywhere ( even New Yorkers!) and we live in a great nation that doesn't seem to be as divided as the news makes it out to be.  There is also a lot of open land still out there where your cell phones don't work.  

We hope that 2016 is a good year and we are trying to map out some goals to help make it so, but one never really knows what the future brings.  

Happy New Year!