Hey p3bgirl, where have you been?
BEING FUCKING EPIC! What have you been doing?
Not having a real job for awhile and a fiancee in the credit cards point business sure pays off. Some smart sign ups and I was set with an Amtrak card and a 30,000 point bonus. This is how I spent it.
(If you want to take an epic trip too, check out Million Mile Secrets!)
The first part of my journey involved recruiting a friend, AKA my friend Brittney. You have to give her kudos, because not only was she putting up with my planning skills, but she knew that wherever we went, I would want to be physically active for most of the day. She flew into Portland OR without really knowing what to expect. Her first surprise? Being stuffed by a whirlwind tour of Portland’s finest vegan restaurants. These included, of course, Virtuous Pie and Petunia’s.
The next day we headed to the Amtrak station for our overnight roomette to Glacier National Park, and at a little place called the Izaak Walton Inn. Oh my gosh, enter one of the most magical experiences of my life!
We would have never discovered the Izaak Walton if not for Amtrak. Frankly I stumbled upon this place looking for a halfway point between Portland and Milwaukee. It’s a little nothing right by the railway: an old train depot, a few caboose/rail car cabins, and a restaurant. There is nothing else around for miles, the highway connecting Essex (where the Izaak Walton is located) to other “cities” being unreliable in the winter time. There was absolutely no phone service and unreliable internet. Hell, there was a much loved PAY PHONE. What there was, was mountains, and snow, and beauty. We rented skis and could wake up, make ourselves breakfast, then leave our caboose to hit the trails. Afterwards, we would knit, talk, drink cocoa/tea, read, and just look out the window. For an A type personality, I don’t think I have ever been quite so relaxed. It did help that our caboose came equipped with some nice railings that functioned perfectly as pull up bars! After dinner in the evening, we put on our swimsuits and soaked in the out door hot tub, marveling at the fact that the foam on the surface would freeze.
The end of our trip was changed dramatically, when a snowstorm blew in making Brittney’s morning commute to the Whitefish airport unreliable by train. That’s the one thing about being in the middle of nowhere train country. Be prepared to be adaptable! Luckily the roads were passable, and we booked a taxi to the neighboring town of Whitefish. Now the food at the Izaak Walton is okay, but we were certainly happy for a send of for Brittney with much better fare!
This left me with a cancelled Amtrak train and an extra day. I am so happy this happened. The skiing in Whitefish is probably the most epic downhill skiing of my entire life. There were different climates on the mountain because it was so tall! Snow storm to sunny day, all in the same run. There was so much powder, you actually needed snow pants. The powder and the snowstorm made for exhausting runs, with control being paramount. A king sized skittles, coffee, and a vegan burger powered me through 5 hours. I bought ski googles, made in the USA! Shout out to Giro, who allowed me to see so that most of the time I didn’t end up on double black diamonds.
I have to say, I am a Glacier Park lover now for life. Gosh I love snow, and cross country, and downhill skiing, and this is the real deal! Nothing in Wisconsin or Oregon ever prepared me for this. Can I be a snowbird in reverse? Whitefish is the one non big city I could see myself living in, at least in the winter!
After all that skiing, I was quite happy to settle down into my Amtrak ride to Milwaukee Wisconsin. For this 36 hour leg I did not have a roommette, but I was so tired I didn’t really care. How amazing to just knit, read, rest my tired legs, and let the world go by!
I needed the rest too. Wisconsin was full of wedding preparations. I can’t believe I can finally get married to the love of my life! It is a complete dream come true, and my family has been so helpful. Jesse’s family has been as well, especially his Aunt Beth and sister Heather, who is making a VEGAN GLUTEN FREE OREO wedding cake! (Check out her instagram here!) Our vegan caterer is fantastic, and our venue, the not for profit Northpoint Lighthouse is gorgeous. I don’t want to spoil the whole thing, but these were a few picks from the very, tippy top! Oh, and a highlight from the game Say Anything and Snow woman power as well!
Family time is wonderful, and after Wisconsin I was destined for more! A quick 24 hours in an amtrak roomette with free meals and I was feeling pretty good. Amtrak actually has good vegan food options now, minus the lack of vegan desserts. I even met the guitarist for the Jefferson Five at dinner. The scenery changed from Wisconsin snowy plains to something definitively more southwest…..
I was in Albuquerque new mexico! What a change. 30 degrees to a sunny 60-70, and my Aunt Anita and Uncle Tony where happy to show me around. We took an aerial tram up to where you could see three states, and when around historic old town. The artists were fantastic! And so was my company, Captain Jack, the one eyed dog. While in Albuquerque I discovered that I made it into the Urban Design Graduate Program at Portland State (YAY!) and found some amazingly relevant reading material at a used book store. My favorite Albuquerque restaurant? Annapurna’s. They have an amazing selection of vegan treats! I love the biscotti.
From Albuquerque it was a hop skip and a jump to Sante Fe to visit my Uncle Dick and Aunt Judy. We did awesome hiking, I did some altitude running, and we had THE BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE I have ever had. Oh my gawd. Most of their drinking chocolate is vegan because according to them, it tastes better that way. Jesse joined us, meeting Dick and Judy for the first time, and we all greatly enjoyed each other. After a night full of wine and family, Jesse and I finally got to strike out on our own….
And we ended up at the Miraval resort! Jesse being the points genius got us two free nights there. Upon looking it up, I was more excited about the all you can drink smoothie bar than the classes. Everything looked super “woo-woo” to me. However, it turns out that before marriage, sometimes a little woo-woo is what you need. Because of the no cell phone policy, we did not take too many pictures. But just suffice it to say that we laughed a lot, cried a lot, ate a lot of healthy food, learned how to make vegan pot de cremes, and talked about the future. I am truly blessed to have such an amazing man in my life. There are going to be a lot of changes happening (of which you will see soon) that came out of hours and hours of talking at this resort. They may be a bit scary, but Jesse and I are going to tackle them. Together.
The end of the trip concluded with a day spent in Phoenix with Jesse’s parents. Understandably, I was pictured out at this point. We played pickleball, I went running, and even got a bit of a tan! Southwest points saw me home, as the Amtrak does not go from Phoenix to Portland.
Once home I devoured every single vegan doughnut in the freezer, and I am not happily working on stuff that shall be revealed at a later date. Oh, and some cooking too! More on that next week.
I think the coolest thing about this though, is trips like this I used to believe only happen to other people. Never me. Yet, through some careful arranging and credit card points, and the affordability of Amtrak, I was able to do something inconceivable years earlier. It wasn’t just fun, through the experiences in glacier, with family, at home in Wisconsin, and at Miraval, this was a life changing trip. It’s true, the more you see of the world, the more you see of yourself. The more you see of your family, the more you realize how much support and how lucky you are. I see more trips to glacier, more Amtrak trips, and many more trips with my soon to be husband Jesse, in the future.