I was quite unlucky with my journey on the Empire Builder. The train was already an hour behind schedule as it departed from Seattle. Then, 15 minutes outside of Seattle, the train crashed into a car! According to the news reports, the car was pushed over 100 meters until it finally came to a halt. Miraculously, the person in the car survived. Later on, we were delayed even further by heavy freight traffic. Amtrak doesn’t own the rails it runs on, so the freight cars always get the right of way. I ended up arriving in Minneapolis about five hours behind schedule.
I was greeted by my distant relatives upon exiting the train in Minneapolis. So distant in fact that I wasn’t entirely sure who they were. I’m glad I met them though because they are extremely friendly people!
They took me on a great driving tour of St. Paul and Minneapolis. We drove through many different neighborhoods, discussing the history and politics of the twin cities along the way. There are some similarities between the politics of Minnesota and the politics of Sweden, probably due in part to the number of Minnesotans with Scandinavian heritage. We saw the beautiful capitol building and passed by a staggering number of universities and colleges.
We then had lunch with their oldest son, who lives in Uptown. It was a beautiful day, so we decided to walk along the lakeside to the Tin Fish restaurant. Apparently a lot of other people had the same idea, because the queue in front of the restaurant stretched all the way down to the water. We continued on into the center of Uptown, and entered a restaurant thoughtfully named “Cafeteria”. The waitress led us up to our table on the roof, which was quite nice – until it started raining.
After lunch, we drove back to their house. I was able to wash all four of my shirts. I briefly met the younger daughter and son of the family before having dinner. I noticed that the Empire Builder which I was scheduled to take the next morning was delayed for five hours, now leaving at noon. I went to sleep.
The next day, I woke up to find that the train had fallend even further behind schedule, until 3 in the afternoon. This turned out quite well because it gave us time to go to IKEA and have lunch with Josephine, also a distant relative. After that we went to see the Mall of America. The train ended up beinig so late that we had time for dinner before I had to leave.
When the train finally arrived in Chicago at 3 in the morning, it was 11 hours, 25 minutes late.
Luckily I was able to take advantage of the situation. Amtrak was trying to appease the passengers who had missed their connecting trains by providing them with free accomodations and food. I got 30 bucks just by talking to one of the people working for Amtrak. Then I was able to enter the sleeping car lounge, where I slept for free. Then, the next morning, they served free cinnamon rolls and coffee to everyone in the lounge. Yet another great place to stay!
I still had a few hours before the California Zephyr was scheduled to depart, so I took the “L” into The Loop and paid a visit to the used bookstore I visited last time. I made some great purchases which should keep me occupied on the Transsiberian Railroad later this month.