Portland Spirit Luncheon Cruise

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Before we left Portland, we were treated to a luncheon cruise on the Portland Spirit. Unfortunately, we parked in the wrong area and ended up walking over a mile to the launch area. This was not good for abuelo, so finally a pedal powered transport was located and abuelo loaded on for a ride the rest of the way to the boat. The crew was most cheerful and accommodating. They procured a wheelchair to board the abuelo and seated us with easy access to the restrooms.
I am very much a landlubber, though I am open minded about the water. I was wondering if I could tolerate even a short cruise without getting sick. As I sat at our table, pre launch, I began to feel queasy. I turned my head from the window and decided to take some pics of our party. The moving around helped. It helped settle my stomach when my peppermint tea arrived. I think I was a bit hungry and tired from the long, hot walk from the car.
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The menu offered 4 choices: vegetarian yellow thai curry, parmesan crusted chicken breast, fresh pacific cod fillet and beef bourguignon. I was not in a vegetarian mood, so I chose the beef, as it included mashed potatoes and my stomach was just not in the mood for the rice pilaf, included with the other choices. Appetizers and alcoholic drinks were also available for an extra fee. The food was excellent and I felt much better afterward. A grand piano was situated in the center of the room and we were entertained with music and singing by the cruise director (who was also our server). She even sang a special Father’s Day request for the dads in our party.
As we proceeded down the Willamette River, we decided to explore the ship. The second level contained a lounge and minimal outdoor seating at the bow. The top tier had quite a bit of seating, as well as the bridge. The captain was quite pleased to let the boy take the helm and even teased that he would be going to lunch, since the boat was in capable hands. Thank God he was teasing! The boy enjoyed learning about the computerized sonar and steering the boat. We all jumped about 2 feet when the captain told him to “push that button”, which caused a loud blast of the ship’s horn. I don’t think anyone dropped their phone/cameras in the water.
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We spent some time enjoying the view up top, and relaxing in the deck chairs. Then it was already nearly time to disembark. We proceeded back down to our table, collected the abuelo and awaited docking. Satisfied that I could endure a short cruise, I determined that we must try a longer one very soon.
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Meals by Train

We decided to take the Amtrak to Colorado for Christmas. I just didn’t relish the thought of another 1000 mile drive, mostly through ice and snow, and not having adequate heat in the trailer. Also, the cost of tickets was more affordable than the gas this time around because I was able to tweak our dates around the heavy holiday travel times.
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The commuter train station is a short drive from my dad’s, so he dropped us off. We took the commuter train, transferred to an express bus and got to LA Union Station with a couple hours to spare. Sure beats LA traffic. At the station we relaxed in ancient but comfortable chairs and read (I read, the boy played video games) a rare treat these days. I thought about food. The train ride from Los Angeles to Colorado is over 22 hours. That’s dinner, breakfast and lunch. We were packing light, not only because Amtrak has a strict 2 carry on limit, but also because we were schlepping all our luggage everywhere with us. So instead of packing food from home, I just filled some water bottles, grabbed my coffee cup and had the bottomless pit (boy) pack some snacks.
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Breakfast was easy, the station convenience store offered our usual of bananas, yogurt and OJ for a somewhat reasonable price. They also had steamed buns filled with bbq pork, a favorite I had not had for years. I threw a couple of those in for an immediate snack. I thought about dinner. I have eaten in the dining car before and although it is okay, it is not spectacular and certainly not worth the splurge of $20-$30 per person. I got a salad and the boy chose flatizza (pizza) from Subway to eat on the train for dinner. Onboard, we checked out the cafe car and I decided we would go ahead and splurge on lunch in the dining car. By this time we were ready for a change of scene, anyway.
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Amtrak is great for long trips. It’s nice to stretch one’s legs while the train keeps moving; sleep while the train keeps moving; eat, use the bathroom, write, do schoolwork, check schoolwork, all while the train keeps moving. No traffic. The observation car is nice, but our seats were so roomy and comfortable and had plug-ins for our computers, that we really didn’t feel like hanging out there this time. Fortunately, the rowdier passengers chose that option, so the coach seats were quiet. The dining car is a somewhat formal affair. White linen tablecloths provide the surface for cloth napkins, stainless ware and – desk blotters? Stacks of large table size paper covered the tables. Good for making notes, doodling and quickly changing the “tablecloth”. Amtrak also likes to fill up the tables, so you may find yourself dining with a friend you hadn’t met yet. In the several times I’ve eaten in the dining car, I have had enjoyable companions. This time was no different. Our luncheon companion was a retired computer engineer who is now a book publisher. There was no lag in the conversation as we discussed writing, video gaming, building video games and travel. The food was rather less than exciting. Now I remember that train salads are not so fresh. Should have had the hamburger.
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So, conclusions about train food: avoid buying on the train, if possible. If you do the dining car, do it for the company, not the quality of the food. Bring your food on, if possible. Some ideas are – fresh fruit and veggies, bread, cheese, cold roast chicken or beef, cold steamed veggies. If you have a lunch box and thermal bentos or soup thermoses, you could pack a few hot foods. That will add to your stuff, though. Stops will not be long enough to run to the store or the restaurant. Your trip will probably only be a day or two, so it is entirely possible to pack enough to get you through without having to buy much on board. For the return trip, we packed: water bottles, coffee cup, tea bags, crackers, bread, cheese, fruit, steamed and fresh brocolli and carrots. We got to our stop 1-1/2 hours early and the train was an additional 40 min. Late. You read it right, it’s a stop, not a station. So we went across the street to Habanero’s Mexican Grill for breakfast. Boy had taquitos and his dad and I had stuffed sopapillas with green chile. All fresh, all homemade, all yummy. We took the leftovers on the train for dinner. So we really had plenty to eat this time, all in a small reusable shopping bag. I don’t know if they technically consider “lunch” a carry on, but they let us get away with it.
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The Pilgrim Virgin of Guadalupe

A couple of months ago I was priviledged to participate in the pilgrimage of Our Lady of Guadalupe within our Mexican community.  Once a year, a couple from Prescott brings a life-size portrait of the Virgin to our small town and She visits a number of homes where we gather for a nightly rosary, singing and a snack or meal afterwards.  The food is always wonderful, the fellowship is comforting and the prayer time is liberating.  More than one person has remarked on the relief experienced after laying his or her troubles at the feet of Our Lady.

This last visit lasted two months.  Though it was often difficult to drag myself out of the house in the evening, when all I wanted was to eat a simple meal in front of the TV or read a good book, once I got there the power of shared prayer and devotions worked its healing magic on my weary body and mind.

Now that the Pilgrim Virgin has moved on, I struggle to say my daily rosary.  The day gets so busy that when evening finally comes I am so tired that I fall into bed, reach over for my beads and maybe make it past the opening prayers before sleep overtakes me.  On days when we have somewhere to go, we manage to say the rosary in the car.  Living 50 miles from anywhere does have its perks.  Sometimes my best time to say the rosary is in the evenings when I am topping off water troughs for the animals.  The rhythm of the prayers, the cool of the mountain evening and the glory of the Arizona sunset just seem to lend themselves to meditation.  Even then, frequently the boy is pestering me to play cowboy squirt guns or throw the baseball with him.  Well, we keep trying.  And we are truly blessed!

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