I'll stick to a travel theme this week. This trip was epic.
After grad school, I got me a 30-day North American Rail Pass. I think now they're only in the States, but back then you had to (rules of the pass -- twist my arm) travel in both Canada and the U.S. I'd graduated from a school in British Columbia, so I had friends all over Canada and the U.S. that I could go see.
The Amtrak pass is not like the Eurorail pass, where you can hop on and off at will. You have to plan each stop. But that was fun.
I started in Washington state and (follow along in your brain) went back up to Vancouver, B.C. to say goodbyes. I went east all the way across Canada, down into New England (in the fall, gorgeous), west across the States, then down the west coast, east through the desert and Texas, and ended in Orlando. I flew home to Atlanta.
During the month I saw the Rockies in both countries, taking a cable car on the Canadian side with a friend who then took me to West Edmonton Mall (the largest in North America), where we saw a life sized mechanical fire-breathing dragon. Canadians!
Back on the train, I visited more friends, met their families, and met new people along the way.
Around San Antonio, I got the flu, and was sick until the end of the trip. But I didn't care. In Orlando, another friend took me to Universal Studios and that was awesome.
YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY DO THIS!
Use your far-flung family as an excuse. See America from an angle you can't get anywhere else. You are ON the Rockies, not looking at them from far away. The Cascades are also stunning. As is the rest of the trip. I woke up one morning as the train crossed a bridge that seemed a mile high over a gorge, above the fog.
Another morning took us through what I dubbed The Rainforest of West Virginia. The train was right up against a mountain with tiny waterfalls all through the rock, and steam and vegetation that was just gorgeous. You can drive down the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible, but it's nothing like the train version of California, where someone else is driving and all you see is Pacific Ocean.
Oh, and sleeping on a train is the best. Like being rocked to sleep as an adult.
The pass still exists and it's still reasonable. DOoooooo IiiiiiiiT!