I seriously can’t believe it is already December. Then again I think back to what was supposed to be fall and realize that it flew by so quickly because we weren’t really here. Thinking back to the middle of September, my mom and dad came to visit and we traveled to Lancaster County. The following weekend we traveled to Indiana and Michigan for a wedding, then it was off to vacation.  Back from vacation for about four days and it was off to Washington DC for a going away party and then to Virginia for a wedding.
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The following weekend it was off to New Jersey for a cousin’s baby shower in which the little guy decided to make an early arrival and crashed his own shower. We stayed at the house and helped to entertain the 3 year old while mommy and daddy were at the hospital.

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Fast forward a couple more very quick weekends filled with all of the things we hadn’t done in the previous seven weeks of not being home, and we land at Thanksgiving in Virginia Beach with lots of family.
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Where did fall go again? Yes, it has been a little crazy but a very good time. What are we looking forward to most in the next couple of weeks? Decorating our home for the holidays, spending some time here at the house, just the two of us, celebrating a couple of birthdays and then it will be Christmas. The Christmas season is always one of our favorites especially since we get to see all my family and friends.

But let’s just enjoy the beginning of winter before we get to the holidays and enjoy being at the house, watching some basketball, and enjoying our nights by the fireplace.

I am going to start off this post by saying this is mostly going to be pictures but there is no way close that I am putting all of the 450 pictures that we took on this part of the trip in this post.

After spending a couple of days eating and drinking our way through Napa, it was time to take on the fourth and final part of this trip. We headed  back to Sacramento early in the morning to first not get stuck in rush hour traffic and secondly to get the rental car back.

Getting on the train in Sacramento was just the beginning of our almost 3 day adventure.
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We used our California Zephyr Route Guide that Amtrak provides in your sleeping car for you to know where you are going throughout the trip faithfully throughout this trip because it is really hard to tell where you are when you are not familiar with the route. It was incredibly helpful and provided some good info for us throughout the trip.
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Upon getting on the train we realized that we were at the very back of the train, which is pretty cool because you not only have your window to look out but you also have the back to see a different view. (Little did we know that we would have a fellow passenger that would spend hours standing back there taking pictures. So this is one of the only pictures I have out the back.)
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Well here we go on our cross country trip, starting with Colfax, California.
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We spent quite a bit of time after lunch that day and after we went through Colfax in the observation car. The statue is of President Ulysses S. Grant.

Along the way, we saw a lot of little places before getting to Donner Pass. One of the things that I missed along the way was some of the log flumes. Getting the logs up and down the mountain the old fashion way.

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Check out the glass pieces on these electric lines. You don’t see those on many modern lines. DSC_2691
We finally arrived about mid afternoon at Donner Pass. It was absolutely breath taking as it was a lot larger than expected and you sit way up on the Mountain looking down upon the whole area.
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Truckee, California was the next town to pass through on the trip. It was a very cute little town.
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This is also where we started to see part of the Truckee River. This was the first time that we started seeing rivers along the way and this one was absolutely beautiful and probably what kept me in the Observation car for a lot longer than what I thought I would be in there.
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We had a little more time before we got to Reno, Nevada.
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We saw Reno but it was night time and really hard to take pictures. Over night we missed a lot of Nevada but we did get to seeing everything after Helper, NV. We were a little off schedule to say the least. We went to breakfast and then came back and I did start taking some more pictures probably around Green River, NV. Everything was very different from the day before.
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This was right before we got to Ruby Canyon, where it felt like I couldn’t take enough pictures. It was absolutely gorgeous and the only way to get down there was by boat or train. DSC_2830DSC_2831DSC_2832DSC_2833DSC_2835DSC_2837DSC_2839DSC_2841DSC_2844DSC_2845DSC_2848DSC_2849DSC_2850DSC_2852DSC_2854DSC_2855DSC_2860DSC_2862
This place is the permanent home to the Country Music Jam Festival that draws thousands of country music fans each year.
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Field of sheep. Lots of them. Everywhere!
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Grand Junction, Colorado station was next. We were able to get out and walk around at this stop, which was much needed.
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From here it was following along the Colorado River. There were tons of fisherman, rafters, and campers along the way.
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This was all that was left of a post office .
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This was the hermits house in the wall of the mountain.
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And this was the amusement park right over from this on the same mountain.
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This was No Name, CO.
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DSC_2901DSC_2904DSC_2906DSC_2907DSC_2928DSC_2929DSC_3011DSC_3012This was Frasier Winter Park. It is a ski resort for the Winter Park area.
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This was right before we went through Moffat Tunnel.
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We hit Denver about 8:45 – 9:00 p.m. that night. We were supposed to be there about 7 so we had gone to dinner early so we could go out and walk around but it was super late getting in and it wasn’t really a big deal.
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The next morning we woke up in Omaha, I think. I was pretty groggy and confused on where we were stopping because I knew how far behind we were but I had no clue. This was all I saw.

Throughout the day I didn’t really take many pictures. It was very much a boring ride compared to what we had been through previously.

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 This would be us crossing the Mississippi River. It was a lot bigger than I had imagined.
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And of course some pictures of Union Station.

We then went to hang out with one of Sean’s very good friends and his girlfriend. We went to a great restaurant in Chicago and then it was off to the hotel. We slept for a little while and then it was up and off to the airport to fly home.

Awesome vacation but we were both ready to head home after all of the traveling. So many new experiences and new places to see. Sean says we are now done with the train for a little while.

Getting to Sacramento was a very early morning arrival. I think we got in about 6:15 am but had to be up and moving about 5:30 that morning. Sacramento was beautiful though from the railroad tracks. Untitled

Once we arrived, we picked up our luggage and talked the lady into holding it for us for an hour so that we could run and get our car. We walked the 5 to 6 blocks to the car rental place to get our car. We did get a little bit of an upgrade too. Sean definitely enjoyed the upgrade 

After getting the car and loading it up with all of the luggage we headed to meet Sean’s brother for breakfast at a place called Bacon and Butter. Don’t worry we ordered a full pound of bacon for the table and it was amazing. Waayyyy too much food for that early though. I don’t think we even thought about having lunch that day.

 

Then it was off to Napa. We were on the road a little earlier then what we thought we were going to be and we arrived in Napa about 10:30 that morning. We both realized that we were completely exhausted so we tried checking into the hotel but the lady looked at us like we were crazy when we tried to check in that early. She really tried but it just wasn’t possible. 

So we drove around for a little bit, walked around downtown Napa and got some water before heading back to the parking lot and sleeping in the car for a while. About 2pm we were able to check in before we headed off to our first tour and tasting, Domaine Chandon. This was one of the places that I was really, really looking forward to visiting. This is one of my absolute favorites and it turns out the property is absolutely beautiful!

This is where the magic all starts in these large vats.

I never know how many different types of sparkling wine they made. The only way you can buy a lot of these is through their wine club. 

Let me tell you, the tasting wasn’t bad either. We had four types of sparkling wine that day. It was awesome!

Dinner that night was at a little place in Yountville that had really great happy hour pricing so we went and did that before heading back to the hotel. We were completely exhausted. Hitting the bed that night never felt so good.

The following day I hadn’t done a very good job of planning how we were going to make it from winery to winery, so Sean, being oh so good at finding amazing things on Google, found a tour company with awesome reviews. We ended up finding Platypus Tours. They drive, plan the trip and bring lunch along. What more could you want?!?!!?

 

About 10 am the bus pulled up to our hotel and we jumped aboard with another couple from Canada. We soon met another couple from New York and quickly began talking. We bonded very quickly and chatted away so much that our tour guide probably didn’t get to tell us everything she wanted because we were so chatty. It was such a fun way to spend the day.

Our first stop was Judd’s Hill. There were still a section that had grapes hanging so we went over and tasted a few of the grapes right off of the vine.

We ended up buying a couple bottles of the wine because they were soooo good. We got to talk with the wine maker and he explained to us the process that was going on behind him with the smashing of the grapes for the juice. It was really neat to see the whole process happening in real time and not just a demonstration of the equipment.

Next up was Grgich Hills. Here we learned a lot about the history of winemaking in Napa Valley. Mike Grgich was the one who took the Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena, where he was the winemaker, to France to what has become known as the Judgment of Paris. (If you ever watch the movie “Bottle Shock” it is loosely based upon the story. The only thing is Mike Grgich didn’t want to be in “Bottle Shock” so he is never mentioned in the movie.)

On from the short history lesson, we got to see more grapes in the process here. Not only were all of the grapes coming in huge bins but we also got to see the cycling of the red wine, where they take the bottom of the barrel and put it on the top by pump. That is what is happening below.

Another cool thing about this winery was the way they store their barrels. They actually think that this helped save their wine during the earthquake back in August. Typically the barrels are just stacked but they have a system that helps to rotate the barrels and keep them from falling. 

 

This was our awesome group on the tour. New York. Canada. And us. Such an awesome group and soooo much fun.

This was also where we stopped to have lunch. The spread that Platypus puts together for their tours was awesome. They were even sensitive to my newly found gluten sensitivity and worked with me on that one. I really appreciated it and the food was awesome!

Next up was David Fulton. This was an interesting experience. The guy serving our wine was absolutely hilarious and we were having a great time until this other group walked in and dominated conversation from there. That was the key for us to go. 

Last stop was a chocolate pairing at Rutherford Ranch. It was really interesting tasting chocolate with the different wines. We actually got to taste one extra wine there that they don’t typically serve and it was awesome. I am typically a white drinker but I have found some red wines that I now really enjoy. California wines are a little bit different then the widely distributed reds available in liquor stores. Predator was an awesome Old Vine Zinfandel.

Below is Sean with a cork tree. They had a bunch of these trees around. It is a very different looking tree but very neat and very old.   Don’t worry we and our eight bottles of wine made it back to the hotel just in time for happy hour at the hotel. Each night they had a wine tasting for a couple of hours with a couple of different wines from the area. The couple that we were with all day joined us and we ended up inviting them out with us to our dinner at Bouchon. This was the first restaurant of world famous chef, Thomas Keller, that we got to visit on our trip and the food really was a masterpiece.

We were able to get them in on our reservation that night and it was sooo much fun. We had already had a great day and dinner that night was amazing. We got a couple bottles of wine and had a fantastic dinner. Hopefully someday we can meet up with them on the East Coast and have dinner again.

The next day we weren’t exactly sure what all we wanted to do but decided to go on a drive, visit Oxbow Public Market for lunch, and then visit Castello di Amorosa before heading to Ad Hoc for dinner.

We drove the main road through Napa and then the Silverado Trail on the way back into Napa. It is about a 30 mile trip one way so we saw a ton of wineries and ones that we recognized a lot of the names along the way.
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Let’s also talk about the smell of the Valley during our visit. Everywhere we drove it smelled like grapes and wine. It made me want to stay and just smell. It smelled so good.
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We then headed to city of Napa for some food. We knew that we wanted to try out some of the food at the Public Market and boy we were not disappointed. 

First stop was Hog Island Oyster Co. Sean was super excited about visiting because they had lots of different oysters he hadn’t had before. I went for the grilled oysters and a glass of Curvee.

Next stop was the PicaPica Bar. This place is famous for being on the show “Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins”. They were featured for their arepas that they make and it was worth every bite. It was sooooo good. 

Our last stop for the day was Castello di Amorosa. This was a much different winery experience then we had the day before. It was much larger and a lot less personalized. Very neat castle but not as much fun tasting.


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That night is was off to Ad Hoc. This was the 2nd Thomas Keller restaurant we visited on our trip. This was a 4 course pre fixed menu restaurant and it was Ah-MA-ZING. I loved every bit of the experience. The food was sooo simple but so yummy. 


The next morning it was back to the train station for the last part of our trip. I was a little sad that it was coming to a close but I was oh so excited that we were going to get to see parts of the United States that I had never seen before.

After having a couple of awesome days in Seattle, it was off to the second part of our trip.  We headed down fairly early to the train station to get ready for part two of our trip. We climbed aboard the Coast Starlight to start our 19 hour trip south to Sacramento.

Starting off this large set of pictures is the inside of Seattle Union Station. It is absolutely gorgeous.

 

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Once we got on the train, someone was in his happy place and sat and starred out the window a lot. DSC_2527

 

This was not far from Seattle. It was just one of the Boeing plants that we saw at the beginning of the trip.UntitledDSC_2530DSC_2535DSC_2537DSC_2539

This was our seats that turned into our sleeping arrangements (well at least my bed, you can’t see Sean’s).DSC_2540DSC_2542

As we went through Washington, you can see how foggy it was. Everywhere we looked fog was hanging around, it was especially thick when we got close to the water.DSC_2543DSC_2544DSC_2546DSC_2547DSC_2549DSC_2550DSC_2551DSC_2552DSC_2555DSC_2557DSC_2558DSC_2560

One of the neat things about the Coast Starlight is that the Sleeping Car passengers have their own dining car available. The food was different than what was available in the dining car and you had your own table. The food was better then what we thought it was going to be and I am glad that we ate here because we had to eat in the dining car on the California Zephyr. DSC_2562After going to have lunch, the fog cleared up and we were able to see Mt. St. Helens. We got really lucky and we were able to see Mt. St. Helens very clearly that day. It was neat to see in the distance but the camera really got some awesome images.
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One of the special things that they do on the Coast Starlight is a wine tasting in the afternoon. Sean and I decided to try it out and get us ready for part number three of our trip. Untitled

This is more than likely the Columbia River but we passed over several rivers before arriving in Portland.

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This is Portland, Oregon. It was really pretty and this is when it started to get a little darker and much harder to take pictures out the windows. DSC_2573DSC_2575DSC_2576DSC_2578

This was by far the creepiest picture I took on the trip. I really honestly didn’t mean to get this picture.DSC_2579DSC_2580DSC_2582DSC_2587

Sheep were everywhere along the trip. There were fields of them, almost like cows in the midwest.DSC_2590

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By far, one of the most beautiful pictures I was able to capture before the sun went all the way down for the night. DSC_2595

 

Eugene, Oregon was the last place I was able to take pictures. It got very dark after that and then we had to get up very early to get off of the train the next morning. DSC_2597DSC_2599

 

Coast Starlight Route Guide from Amtrak’s website. This tells you all of the places that we went through on the train and more of what we saw.

After a weekend with my mom and dad and then a quick trip to the midwest for a wedding, it was off for vacation. Vacation 2014 could not come soon enough for Sean and me this year. We waited until October this year because we thought that one of my major projects at work would be done by then and we could relax after a very hectic year. Well we were a little wrong in our estimation and ended up going when it was just crazy. It was amazing though to get away and spend so much time together doing something we love, traveling.

Like last year, we decided to go on a multi part trip, starting in Seattle, finding our way to Napa, and finishing the trip in Chicago. We accomplished it all in one trip and it was awesome.

We started off by flying to Seattle through Chicago (which was still nutty from the week before but a little better). We landed in Seattle about noon their time. We found our luggage and went to find the train to ride to downtown and get to our hotel.
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It was off and running from there. We went to the Space Needle first. It was very clear when we were visiting and we had a great view of the whole city! We really enjoyed seeing the city from the sky and the diversity of the landscape. Mountains on one side and water all around.
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We went on a little adventure down to the waterfront looking for a restaurant that we had read had awesome oysters, unfortunately it was closed because they are working on the area where it is located. We found another oyster bar a little closer to the hotel and it turned out to be extremely awesome! We sat in these big leather chairs at a bar where we could watch the cooks do all of the food prep. It was really impressive. We both really enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere.
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We were pretty tuckered out after that considering how much traveling we had done for the day and the large amount of food that we ate at dinner.

Sunday morning was an early morning. I really wanted to get down to Pike Place Market early in the morning to enjoy the sites before there were tons of people around. We walked around, talked to one of the fish mongers, and then headed to Starbucks (the original). The fish monger also told us to take a particular set of stairs down under the market to see something. We were not 100% sure what we were going to see but there were walls covered in bubble gum. It was awesome! The smell of the alley was bubblegum of all kinds. Pretty cool thing to see.
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Mount Rainier in the distance. Apparently you can’t see this very often but it was pretty clear when we were there. It wasn’t as overcast as it usually is in Seattle. DSC_2262

From there we walked down to the waterfront and jumped on the ferry over to Bainbridge Island. We wanted to take the ferry over to see the skyline from the water and this was a relatively cheap way of doing it. We didn’t stay in Bainbridge though, we went straight back over to the city.DSC_2333DSC_2359DSC_2379DSC_2384Untitled

Walking back up the hill, we went back to Pike Place and walked through the full market. I got a Washington Apple that was huge and very yummy. The fish monger we had talked to that morning had told us about a place called Taylor’s Shellfish. We had more oysters and a dungeness crab. The dungeness crabs are local to the area and very different than our blue crabs from the east coast.
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On our way to Taylor’s Shellfish, we walked past the original Nordstroms. We didn’t walk in but it was a very big store. 

We decided that we wanted to do one more thing. We went out on the Ducks of Seattle. We had the opportunity to see the city one more time as well as see the skyline from Lake Union. Lake Union is the home to the house from “Sleepless in Seattle” and the famous house boats of Seattle.
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This was the tower that was featured in “Fifity Shades of Gray”.

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The house that was in “Sleepless in Seattle”. The house was sold a few years back for over $3 million to a family that lives in Seattle and uses it as their guest house now. CRAZY!DSC_2459DSC_2505DSC_2507DSC_2509

We ended the night with dinner at “The Pink Door”, which was recommended by a friend from work, and it was an amazing way to end our day and a half in Seattle. Yummy food and a very different atmosphere that was a fun experience.
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Monday morning it was off to the train station fairly early to head south. Look for more soon about our train ride through Washington, Oregon, and California.

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