Back to My Happy Place

Car 33, Room A, aboard the Southwest Chief, boarding at Chicago Union Station. Welcome to my favorite vacation spot.

You can have your beaches. You can have your spas. My idea of total relaxation and rejuvenation is a weekend – or a week – in a private sleeper aboard a long-distance train across America.

Amtrak is my happy place.

Train Dinner

The first time I had dinner on Amtrak, I asked Dan, the car attendant, to bring dinner to my room. I am not normally so precious, but I was traveling alone, feeling a bit like Shreck, and was not yet comfortable with the idea of dining with three strangers (note: I was over it by breakfast.)

I wolfed it, no pun intended. Train travel is hungry work, especially when you go REAL SLOW through the picturesque beach and farm towns filled with tempting diners and taquerias. But, as I have said here before, the food on long-distance Amtrak trains compares favorably to the best airline business- and first-class fare, and even when I wasn’t terribly hungry, I could not resist the temptation at mealtimes.

Note to self: always bring plenty of (healthy, protein-laden) foods on the train to supplement the meals. I did okay this time, but it never hurts to have a little extra boost, even on a trip as short as four hours.

Sunday Breather

It had been six weeks since I had had a quiet day, and it was the only one I would get for the rest of the work week. Ensconced comfortably for the day in the lobby bar of my Shanghai hotel, you bet I go for a pot of the really good stuff.

It is, after all, the little things.

Cali-Twisted B-on-T

I don’t eat beans-on-toast anymore, but I thought I would try this California version: low-sodium black beans on a whole grain bagel flat. Still around 500 calories, but more filling, no sugar, and a bunch more fiber. It’s a cheat, but a small and satisfying one.

Pay no attention to the party wings on the left…

Bonding, Zhejiang Style

Dinner with the folks from Longjing winery, Winter 2019. It’s the infamous and dreaded ganbei with full pitchers of the local pour.

Yes, my face is red.  I am told I managed to quaff about a liter of huangjiu between dinner and the unofficial meetings afterward. The next morning I was about as hungover as I have been in decades, but it was not as bad as it would have been if I had been drinking different or lower-quality spirits.

It is a bummer that really good huangjiu is hard to find in the US. It is very easy to develop a taste for the stuff, and at about 15% ABV it fills a niche between wine or strong IPA beers on one end and spirits on the other. This is much more like a richer version of sake than grain-based paint-thinners like Maotai or Wuliangye and is a superb substitute for brandy or port.

If you get a chance, give it a try. It will surprise you.

Hydration regimen starting with a half-gallon of ice water mixed with 2-3 scoops of XTEND BCAA powder. It’s like Kool-Aid for adults.

Son can Kick

One field goal. 70,000 spectators. $1,000. He has now made more money playing sports in front of more people than anyone else in our family.

Thank you, #UCLAAthletics, #Allstate, and the Palmisano family!

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