Writing this entry from the train. Just passed through Olympia, will be getting off in Tacoma here shortly. Visiting family, and going to a Halloween party tomorrow night. First big party we've gone to in, well, years, really. With the exception of Burning Man a couple years ago, I suppose. :)
I love taking Amtrak. If you haven't, I highly recommend it. It's cheap ($30 PDX-SEA), it takes about the same amount of time as driving since the train gets to bypass traffic, and all you have to do is sit there, eat some dinner, drink your Jack & Coke, watch a movie, and write blog entries. They even have power for your laptop now, go figure.
The other reason I love the train is the scenery. The water is nice, and the forest is cool. You get to see a lot more countryside that isn't sliced up by roads, and you have much more time to look out the window than you do when you're driving. But what I love is that, from the perspective of the tracks, you get to see the dirty underbelly of civilization. From the road, everyone presents a nice image - glass-front buildings, or houses with manicured lawns, clean driveways and shiny cars... from the tracks, you get to see all the backs of those buildings and houses, with the junk in the backyard, the rotting cars, colorful graffiti that nobody bothers to paint over.. all the things that people have forgotten, or just don't care about.
And there's also the industrial districts, with giant tanks of who-knows-what deadly chemicals and flame-topped smokestacks, or acres of logs as far as you can see. Or farmland with old dilapidated farmhouses and rusty tractors. I mean, nobody builds their huge mansion, or their shiny new condo building next to the tracks if they can help it. We're such a car-centric culture that it's interesting to see what's behind the scenes, either the stuff that's fallen by the wayside, or the normally invisible industrial structure that makes our society work, but that nobody wants to live near. It's a little glimpse behind the facades of everyday life. And if you're attentive, you can spot evidence of times past, when the train was the quickest way to get from coast to coast, and we all weren't in such a rush to drive from one place to another.
So hop on the train and come visit. I'll pick you up at the station...
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Gotta post a follow-up to the Cheetah run... it wasn't easy, and felt good to cross that finish line. Of course, the first serious rain we'd had in two months had to start that morning, so it was cold and wet, and the course was pretty steep - first downhill, then back up. So we walked a bit on the uphill part, but I'm happy with how we did. It wasn't a very serious run (all the "professional" runners seemed to be on the 8k run), but we seemed to do better than people that looked to be in better shape than us. It wasn't a race per-se, but we came in pretty solidly in the middle (140/141 of 293).
It was fun to get out and see other crazy Portlanders (are we Portlanders yet?) running in the cold and rain. There was a lot of info on Cheetahs, and the woman (Dr. Laurie Marker) who runs the Cheetah Conservation Fund was there. A couple of interesting things I've learned about Cheetahs lately: a) Cheetahs are all basically clones of each other. At some point in the past, the Cheetah population got so small there were only a few breeding pairs left, so they lost almost all genetic diversity when the populaton expanded again. b) There's only about 12,000 of them left. They get around so fast though that it appears there are many more of them than there actually are, so the local farmers trap them and kill them to protect their livestock without giving it much thought. There are efforts underway to get the farmers to raise and bond herding dogs to the livestock herds for protection, which is apparently amazingly effective at deterring cheetahs, making the herds not such a source of easy kills. The same technique is used by Rocky Mountain farmers in the US to protect against wolves.
So all in all, it was a good first run. I think we're going to need to do small runs like this fairly frequently to keep motivation up. There's another one coming up at the Zoo in November, we'll have to try and arrange child care for that.
We're running a 5k run at the Portland Zoo tomorrow. Wish us luck. :)
I think it should be fun, really. I never thought I'd consider myself a "runner". I still don't, really, not like the obsessive type. But for two or three months now we've been alternatively running or doing our "aerobic kickboxing" class at least every other day.
I should add that this is the first time in my life, since the weight training class I took in high school, that I've done any regular exercise. The first week I thought I was going to die every time I went running. Came back pouring sweat, out of breath, was all I could do not to just collapse on the couch. I ran a few times on a treadmill, generally around a mile, mile and a half. Then we mapped out a route around our block, which is about 1.7 miles. Took me a few weeks to be able to do that without having to stop every so often and catch my breath. We eventually started going slightly longer routes around the neighborhood, up to 2 1/4 or so miles now, I think. Now I can do three miles on the treadmill. Haven't run that distance on foot yet though, guess I'll find out how I do tommorrow.