Friday, November 22, 2013


This blog has been online off and on (mostly off lately) for eight years now, and it's admittedly running out of steam. So, for that matter, is blogging in general.

The phenomenon has been largely shoved aside by social media such as Facebook and Twitter, where people can post their opinions and relay those of others far more easily and succinctly than in blog format. I've been doing the same (on Facebook) rather than sitting and laboriously composing what I hope are shapely mini-essays.

All the same, now and then the urge to write something more substantial, useful and readable overcomes me, and so I will keep this blog going in the fits-and-starts form it has reflected in the last year or two.

But it won't be in service of my books, except in an oblique way. It'll be mostly a catchall of things I have to say, or want to say, or think are worth saying.

Don't be surprised if it's heavy on travel subjects. Of late that has occupied much of my time—not actual traveling, but planning.

In December the Lady Friend and I are riding Amtrak's Capitol Limited between Chicago and Washington, D.C., where we'll spend Christmas with our elder son and his crew.

In January we're taking the railroad's Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, thence a coastal train to San Diego, where we'll embark on Holland-America's Statendam for a cruise through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale.

Late in the summer we plan to board Amtrak's flagship Empire Builder for a trip to Seattle, thence head up the coast by bus to Bellingham and the Alaska Ferry to Ketchikan, Alaska. From Ketchikan we'll take a southbound ferry to Prince Rupert, B.C. After a day or two there, we'll take the VIA Rail train once called the Skeena inland to Prince George, B.C., and Jasper, Alta. After a car trip to Banff and Lake Louise, we'll return to Jasper and ride VIA's storied Canadian to Vancouver. Finally, we'll ride an Amtrak Cascades train from Vancouver to Seattle and the Empire Builder home.

Expect detailed reports of the trips, as well as photographs of them.

Notice a sameness about these plans? None involve flying, except for the relatively short hop from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago. I've got a bad back and can't sit in an airline seat for more than two, maybe three, hours without deplaning in agony. Therefore in recent years I've limited my travel to surface journeys that allow me to get up frequently and move about in ways one can't in an airliner aisle.

Yes, this cramps one's traveling style. We haven't been to Europe in many years.

But there's a solution: to take ship aboard Cunard's Queen Mary II, which plies the North Atlantic between New York and Southampton regularly.

Expensive? Not as much as you'd think, only a little more than flying. If you take the last winter crossing in January, for instance, you could book an interior stateroom for as little as $799 per person—a steal for seven days at sea.

Of course winter weather in the North Atlantic might be no bargain.

Maybe sometime in the spring of 2015 . . .


  1. Don't let social media kill this blog. Your thoughts are always a pleasure to read - be they about research for a coming book, your travels, observations on life , or whatever. I do not have a Facebook account or participate in any other "social" media; I guess that makes me an official old fogy. Keep on keeping on!

  2. Interesting thoughts about blogging. I've just passed the 1000-post milestone and have started to wonder how much longer I want to do this … and if it's worth the effort. As you say, Henry, there's something to be said for using the blog to help us stay sharp for as long as possible, eh?

  3. Two months late on this, but let's hear it for rail travel! My father was a C&NW engineer (steam fireman, later a diesel engineer), so trains are in the blood. Have taken a couple of the journeys you mention - and that VIA Rail trip in particular was very, very enjoyable. Also the Coast Starlight along the CA coast, though I don't know if the first-class service on that has held up. Hope the Empire Builder is in my future....