The train that leaves King Street Station in Seattle at 8:00 am on weekend mornings to take it's passengers to the little Bavarian village of Leavenworth is affectionately known as The Snow Train. It should be called something else...something more descriptive, like The Train ride from Hell! But now that I've told you the ending to my story - let me go back to the beginning...on a freezing cold day in Seattle, the mister and I boarded the train to Leavenworth - we paid extra $$$ for the dome car which included uncomfortable seats that were not next to each other, like you would expect on a train, but rather they were all turned in different directions so we faced strangers plus the dome car was not a dome car - the roof was not clear - the windows just went up a bit higher than the regular car...I know my domes.
We could not have had a better day, once the sun came up because the sun came up! The train tracks run up the coast so we had beautiful views of the Sound, the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and interesting things to see on our way to the Edmonds Station to pick up more passengers. We waited a bit at the station but it wasn't too long before we were on our way - to our next stop, the Everett Station to pick up more passengers...and then we waited a bit more. But we didn't mind as we were served a frozen mini-cinnamon roll (from Costco) with water poured out of a plastic gallon container into little paper cups...I had envisioned our train trip to be more like a European train...white linens on the tables, silver tea service...
We were also served a frozen ham and cheese croissant sandwich with a bag of apple slices and juice...so I really can't complain...can I? Once we were moving again we were informed by our "stewardess" that our little snow train was not the only train on the tracks...in fact the tracks we were on are heavily used by freight trains which have priority so we were forced to side for long periods during our trip over and back. Long periods. Long.
The scenery was beyond compare, especially once we hit the Cascade Mountains - and if the scenery wasn't enough entertainment, we had special entertainment on board...and I do mean special.
See? That was great...even if Santa was not paying attention...he was not part of the act, he was just another passenger. We had all kinds of entertainment on board, including a spoons player, violinists, Von-Trapp wannabees, a banjo and a magician...it was the only thing about our journey that was non-stop and it kept us amused while we waited for the freight trains to fly by. There were also two, not one, but two National Parks Guides on board, in case we wanted to know anything about what we were seeing...and the mister couldn't wait to ask a few questions...like how long is the tunnel? Oh glad you asked...it's the longest tunnel in the country, 6.2 miles and after the train goes through the doors are closed on one end so the exhaust fumes can be blown out so the next train's passengers don't die from breathing them. Good to know!
Did I mention it was 15 degrees when we left Seattle? The temperatures on the other side of the Cascades are much colder than what we have on the coast...when we arrived Leavenworth had already hit it's high for the day - 18 degrees.
There has been a lot of snow in the mountains and it snowed the night before we arrived Leavenworth making everything sparkly and so pretty.
After FIVE hours on the train we arrived at in Leavenworth (to drive to Leavenworth takes about 2 1/2 hours)...we exited the train, along with the other 600 or so passengers and climbed onto school buses...it was coooooold...it was so cold squirrels were throwing themselves at electric fences! It as so cold Starbucks was serving coffee on a stick! It was so cold hitch-hikers were holding up pictures of thumbs! Neither of us had on 18-degree proof coats, hats, boots or gloves...we had more like 32-degree stuff...idiots! But we figured we'd dash into a toasty-warm restaurant for lunch and then buzz in and out of the cute little shops to stay warm...wrong!
The streets of Leavenworth were jammed with people just like us - looking for a place to keep warm! The restaurants had hour and a half wait lists and the shops were so crowded we couldn't get inside! And Frosty, well, he and I were stuck together like a tongue on cold metal! The mister had to pull us apart because Frosty was not Frosty at all but rather WARM!
We finally found a place to eat and thaw our frozen bits...after walking around for an hour, we needed some thawing. We stayed in the restaurant until 4:00 pm and then braved the cold once more in search of a few gifts - it was crazy crowded - like thousands of people in the square!
The town of Leavenworth was an old logging town - and on the verge of bankruptcy when the city council put their heads together and decided to turn it into a Christmasy Bavarian village - all of the store fronts were converted into gingerbread and the town was reborn into a tourist trap. It is very festive and fun - and we did our best to take it all in while we waited on the street for the nightly lighting ceremony. Children's choirs sang, the Mayor spoke, Miss Ornament/Tinsel/Candy Cane made an appearance and finally, at 4:45 they did the countdown...ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one...and nothing happened! There was a huge boo from the crowd - people yelled things like, "You should have paid the electric bill!" and "Put in some new batteries!" and "Didn't use a surge protector?" and my favorite, "Feed the hamsters!" Big disappointment all the way around...but we had strict instructions from the train people as soon as the lighting ceremony was over we had to make our way back to the busses and be on the train by 5:00 pm...we started to walk away when the lights came on!
The entire town lit up and the crowd cheered!! We heaved our frozen legs along the ice-coated streets toward the busses...the first half of our trip now completed!
Our train ride back to Seattle was long...long and dark...long and dark and cold...and it took SEVEN hours for us to get back! SEVEN! Godfrey! I stared at the mister, he stared at me, we stared at strangers, they stared at us...seven hours worth!
We saw nothing as it was dark outside...we were served a boxed salad for dinner...we were entertained once again with carolers and wannabe carolers and the accordian player but when the tuba player arrived in our car I took out the Advil and told the mister was I done. Done. Done. Done!
King Street Station, which is beautiful, had one lone man inside when we arrived...it was a huge contrast to when we left when everyone was giddy with excitement (including me) and antsy to get on the train. As we straggled into the station hardly anyone spoke - we were all spoked out! We got home at 1:00, crawled into bed at 1:30 and we had almost thawed out by 2:00.
Here's the upshot...we had a good time going, we had an okay time there, we had a miserable time on the way back - mainly because we sided for long periods of time and it seemed to take forever. We are glad we went, we can tick it off our bucket list but we would never go again. Never. Ever. Ever to infinity and beyond.