In This Issue:

FEATURED TRIP: Fall Colors in Quebec & Vermont
CRUISE OF THE MONTH: In the Path of Lewis & Clark
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: The Great Canadian Train Ride
BEHIND THE SCENES: Un-Cruise Adventures
THE WAY IT WAS: The Chicago Hilton
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: King Kamehameha
VIDEO OF THE MONTH: Yellowstone’s Winter Caretaker
DID YOU KNOW? Flying High at the Multnomah
HISTORIC SNAPSHOT: Crossing Canada by Train
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Hawaiian Pizza
SHIP OF THE MONTH: Saint Laurent
TRAIN OF THE MONTH: Virginia & Truckee Railroad
TRAVEL TIPS: Packing for Leaf Peeping
NATIONAL PARK TRIVIA: The Footprints of Hawai’i
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Guests Speak Up



FREE EXTRA LUXURY HOTEL NIGHT in Vancouver on our 13-day Great Canadian Train Ride train tour departing June 18 and October 8. Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires Friday, March 30, 2015.

Featured Trip

Fall Colors in Quebec & Vermont

Fall in Quebec and Vermont is magical and while there are many ordinary programs entirely by bus, no one offers a deluxe program by rail, least of all one featuring a classic private train ride on a glorious Streamliner from the golden age of Train travel. With a special train as our centerpiece, we have developed a leisurely and elegant holiday with fine hotels, great dining, personalized attention and much more. Beginning on a grand note, we depart New York and other Eastern points aboard our very own Montreal Limited, a splendid and roomy comfortable Club Car with big windows, spacious seats, attentive staff, fresh flowers and open bar with all meals, wines and spirits included. With a beautiful restored Lounge Car, built originally for the Santa Fe Railroad and their El Capitan Streamliner, this vintage train makes travel fun again. You’ll love our journey over the stunningly beautiful Canadian Pacific Railway from New York to Montreal, a day trip via the Hudson River Valley, through the Adirondacks and past Lake Champlain. This journey was recently acclaimed to be one of the Top Ten train rides in North America by the BBC and we quite agree. The only thing that can make this visual feast even nicer is an Afternoon Tea with scones, cream cakes and Earl Grey tea as we roll north, and we have included this too!

Spectacular colors await you at every turn.

• Fully hosted by professional tour manager from start to finish with all the details taken care of, along with large amounts of free time.
• Travel from New York City to Montreal aboard our own vintage train, the Montreal Limited, a day trip of epic beauty with meals, wines & spirits.
• Three nights at the superb Le Westin Montreal Hotel along with welcome dinner in Montreal. We have intentionally left plenty of free time in this wonderful city, the largest French speaking city outside of Paris for you to enjoy its 'joie de vivre', great dining and cosmopolitan charm.
• Montreal city sightseeing tour.
• Scenic day trip from Montreal to Quebec City by train aboard Via Rail, Canada’s excellent train service, with an overnight stay in this magical city at Loews le Concorde Hotel in the choicest location along the elegant Grand Allee. Guests have all afternoon and evening to enjoy Quebec City and we have included a sightseeing tour that features Montmorency Falls, the old town and the Citadel.
• Three-night stay in Burlington, VT at the Doubletree Burlington which we use as our base, unpacking once with visits to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory and much, much more!
• A special Farewell Dinner hosted by Uncommon Journeys.
• Many meals including breakfast daily.
• Passage from Vermont to New York City, Washington DC or any other Northeastern point aboard the Vermonter train.

The private Montreal Limited train is a step back in time.

Beginning at just $2,995 per person, this 8-day Fall Colors in Quebec & Vermont trip departs on October 5. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


 In the Path of Lewis & Clark

Join us on one of these very special voyages of discovery that combines a journey aboard our own private vintage Streamliner train, the Great Western Limited from California to lovely Portland, where an overnight luxury hotel stay awaits you along with plenty of free time. With comfortable Pullman sleeping car accommodations, fine dining with our own chef (all meals, wines & spirits on this special train are included) and magnificent scenery, there is no finer way to travel to the City of Roses. Little touches abound from welcome gifts and fresh flowers to Afternoon Tea. Our guests enjoy not only Vista-Dome travel and Portland but travel aboard Legacy on an epic journey in the path of Lewis & Clark, traveling by river all the way into Idaho.

The period décor of the Legacy’s Klondike Dining Room. Photo courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventures.

The little 88-passenger beauty called the Legacy was originally built as the Spirit of ’98 for a different small ship company and has been pleasing passengers ever since. Why is that? I believe it has much to do not just with the concept of river cruising by small ship, but the Legacy herself. She is a gem that embodies all the best attributes of sailing on a small ship. With a wonderful throwback Victorian design, she is reminiscent of the grand style of small steamers of the 19th century but with every possible modern amenity. If you’re not aware, there’s a website called Cruise Critic which has become a go-to impartial source of information about cruising. In fact, I would encourage you to visit their site before ever booking a cruise. I think you’ll find their reviews invaluable and the comments by actual passengers insightful and informative. In the case of the Legacy, they capture her essence perfectly.

“On Legacy, you're essentially trading all the entertainment options of a bigger ship for a smaller, more intimate experience, says Associate Editor Gina Kramer. “Legacy looks and feels more like an old Victorian vessel than what one might envision from a standard expedition ship. During its extensive makeover, the ship was given a new life while preserving details like the original layout of the dining room. There's a quaint, old-timey feel throughout; you'll see it in details such as the Western decor of the Pesky Barnacle Saloon. Crewmembers frequently dress in historic clothing, encouraging passengers to play dress up, too.”

With the no more than 88 guests, the cuisine is not a ballroom banquet affair like a larger ship. “The Klondike Dining Room is the Legacy's only dining venue, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at fixed times,” Kramer explains. “Passengers seat themselves in either six-person booths or round tables for eight. The room is adorned with Victorian touches like the floral mulberry-toned carpeting and engraved wood support beams. Walls of windows line the port and starboard sides. During breakfast, the wait staff takes orders for lunch and dinner, encouraging special requests if you're not keen on a particular menu item. This allows the galley to prepare meals accordingly and provides crewmembers with a shopping list when visiting the local grocery stores in port.”

“In the Grand Salon lounge, cocktail hour commences at 5:30 - one hour before dinner. Here, passengers mingle over drinks (a new one is showcased each night) and exquisitely prepared hors d'oeuvres, like fresh sautéed mussels and smoked salmon with cream cheese and crackers. The authentic Alaskan seafood is so good, even those who swear they don't like certain fish will be going back for seconds.”

“There is no casino, massive lido deck with swimming pool or round-the-clock buffet. On sea days, passengers create their own entertainment, which isn't hard to do, considering the ship's capacity. Passengers quickly get close to one another, and a cruise can start to feel like a family reunion,” she adds.

And that’s exactly why we love the Legacy. She’s big enough to keep you comfortable, well-fed and entertained but small enough to feel like you’re all engaged in the same grand adventure. After all, what could be more rewarding than to board as strangers and leave as friends?

• Travel to Portland by private Streamliner train aboard our very own Great Western Limited complete with Vista-Dome car from Emeryville, CA.
• Free connecting train travel to Emeryville from any California point when booked early.
• Special Welcome Dinner in Portland
• Overnight luxury hotel stay at the historic Hotel Multnomah - Embassy Suites with cocktails and breakfast and plenty of free time in the 'City of Roses.' **The September departure features an additional second night included in Portland.
• Seven-night Columbia River cruise from Portland aboard the authentic riverboat, the Legacy. This is no ordinary cruise. Excellent dining is featured, all cabins are outside with a window or veranda, service is superb and little extras like soft drinks, snacks, appetizers at cocktail hour, are all complimentary.
• Sights including Mount St. Helens, Astoria, Columbia River Gorge, Stevenson, Pendleton, Maryhill, Bonneville Dam, Umatilla, Walla Walla and Lewiston, Idaho.

Our 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark tours begin at $4,895 per person and depart June 18, July 16, August 13 and September 9. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


The Great Canadian Train Ride

For many decades, one of the must-do holidays on every travelers list has been the legendary cross-Canada train trip, from Toronto to Vancouver, across the Dominion in vista-dome comfort. At Uncommon Journeys, we have long believed that only one addition could make this idea better: Leisurely hotel stays in each great part of Canada along with intelligent, comprehensive sightseeing. For those travelers for whom how they get somewhere means as much as what they do, we offer up the most acclaimed train in North America, Via Rail's showcase Canadian where all of our guests enjoy First Class sleeping car accommodations in Silver & Blue class with all meals aboard included. Guests enjoy access to the splendid art deco dining car, the signature dome cars with all-around viewing and the famous 'Park Car' with its Bullet Lounge and Mural Bar. As befits an elegant holiday, we have included some very stylish events 'ashore' as well, including dinner in Toronto at the chic Canyon Creek Grill, stylish a dinner at Le Beaujolais in Banff, and an indulgent two-day stay in Vancouver at the beautifully situated Sheraton Wall Centre, an elegant luxury hotel of great style. In the Rockies, our guests enjoy five days of sightseeing including Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise as well as seldom-visited places like Moraine Lake, Maligne Canyon and Bridal Veil Falls. All sightseeing is included.

One of the Top 10 Train Rides on earth.

  • Fully hosted by a professional tour manager.
  • Three-day/Two-night stay in Toronto at the superbly located Westin Harbour Castle..
  • Passage from Toronto to Jasper and Vancouver aboard VIA Rail's acclaimed vista-domeliner 'The Canadian' in First Class sleeping car accommodations including all meals whilst aboard.
  • Three nights accommodation in Banff at the splendid Banff Park Lodge in superior rooms.
  • Two-night stay in Jasper at the Amethyst Lodge with Jasper sightseeing including seldom visited Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon.
  • Columbia Icefield Sno-coach tour atop Athabasca Glacier.
  • Banff sightseeing tour including the famous Gondola ride and a visit to Banff Hot Springs.
  • Lake Louise sightseeing tour including lunch at fabled Chateau Lake Louise.
  • Vancouver city sightseeing tour upon arrival in Vancouver.
  • Overnight deluxe stay in Vancouver at the Sheraton Wall Centre including breakfast.
  • Farewell dinner in Vancouver.
  • Low-cost Amtrak transfer to Seattle available.

Beginning at just $5,595 per person, the 13-day Great Canadian Train Ride trip departs on June 18 and October 8. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


Un-Cruise Adventures

Un-Cruise Adventures’ Legacy on the Columbia River. Photo courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventures.

At Uncommon Journeys, we founded our company on offering travel that is elegant, comfortable, nostalgic and unique. Finding travel partners who share the same vision as Uncommon Journeys was tough but we succeeded admirably in Un-Cruise Adventures. Their website relates the interesting story of the man behind the company:

“We've all heard a tall tale or two, but when it comes to Captain Dan Blanchard, well, he's the real thing. Growing up in Washington State, he has always been around boats. Even as a kid, Dan worked alongside other family members restoring the family's wooden tug. And the reward of all that hard work paid off in a big way through exploring winding waterways, beachcombing on remote shores, oyster picking and clam digging, learning to skin dive, incredible wildlife and cultural encounters, and a lifetime on the water.

“Dan's unassailable career began early. As an accomplished Sea Scout, his leadership skills earned him honors of Regional Boatswain and National Boatswain Mate when he was 16. At 18, he received his Ship Master's License. He attended Everett Community College, and from there he's lived a storied-tale as owner and operator of Blanchard Marine; Captain of sightseeing vessels at Glacier Bay Lodge in Alaska; 14 years at Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West working through the ranks from Captain to Director of Marine Operations to Vice President of Operations; and in 1999, he joined American Safari Cruises. Dan acquired the company in 2008 and as Principal/CEO, launched InnerSea Discoveries, a new small boat expedition company specializing in active adventures on the water. In January 2013, the company changed its name to Un-Cruise Adventures.

“A natural storyteller (he was the 2012 winner of Seattle's annual "Stories of the Sea" contest), enthusiastic skier and cyclist, energetic hiker, world-explorer in off-the-chart places, accomplished sailor, ocean lover, lover of the natural world, and lover of life are just a few of the tags and feverish passions you can pin on Dan. He's living the dream and wouldn't have it any other way.”

We’re proud to say that Un-Cruise Adventures replica steamboat, the Legacy, is featured on our 11-day In the Path of Lewis & Clark cruise/train tours departing June 18, July 16, August 13, and September 9.


The Chicago Hilton

The elegant Chicago Hilton is still glorious. Photo courtesy of Hilton Hotels.

Many of our vacations begin and end in Chicago and the Hilton Chicago is one of our favorite hotels not just in the Windy City, but anywhere in the United States. Whenever possible, we want our hotel selections to reflect the golden era of travel that our guests enjoy on our classic trains and the Hilton Chicago fits the bill perfectly. Overlooking Grant Park, Chicago’s museums and Lake Michigan, the hotel is a landmark that has hosted every president of the United States since it opened its doors back in 1927, the same year Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic solo.

The hotel started life as the Stevens Hotel and was the largest hotel in the world with 3,000 guest rooms. It took its name from James W. Stevens who, along with his son Ernest owned the famed La Salle Hotel as well as the Illinois Life Insurance Company, built the structure at a staggering cost (at the time) of $30 million. Keep in mind that a decade earlier, the original Yankee Stadium had cost a mere $3 million. The hotel was truly a marvel of its day with it expansive public spaces, grand architecture and its amenities including a bowling alley, drug store, movie theater, ice cream parlor, barber shop and even a miniature golf course on the roof.

Unfortunately for the Stevens family, their timing was lousy. When the stock market plunged two years later and the country fell into the throes of the Great Depression, an investigation by the State of Illinois charged the owners with corruption. By the late 1930, 80% of hotels in American had gone into bankruptcy and the mighty Stevens Hotel was worth a mere $7 million. Uncle Sam stepped in and with the advent of World War II, bought the hotel in 1942 for use as both classrooms and barracks for trainees in the United States Army Air Force. The grand ballroom’s elaborate turn-of-the-century glamour became the surroundings for more than 10,000 cadets who passed through the hotel and used the space as their mess hall. With victory on the horizon in 1944, the hotel was sold for just under $5 million and by the end of the war had been sold once again. This time, Conrad Hilton become the owner and set about making the hotel the premier spot for Hollywood celebrities, well-known politicians and visiting royalty in Chicago. And he succeeded admirably.

By the 1970s however, the hotel was looking worn out and there was talk of razing the building. However, a year-long refurbishment reduced the room count by half to 1,544, all of which were larger and better-appointed than the rooms they replaced. After spending $185 million, six times its building cost nearly 60 years earlier, the hotel opened its doors as the Chicago Hilton and Towers in 1985. Thirteen years later, the name was shortened to Hilton Chicago. Another $150 million fueled a second refurbishment in 2012.


King Kamehameha

Hawaii was the only state to be ruled by a king.
Photo courtesy of D Ramey Logan 2011/Wikimedia Commons.

Hawaii is the only state that once truly had a king. While the Kingdom of Hawaii only lasted 15 years, it was a fascinating story. In 1795, the kingdom was created from the chiefdom of Hawaii subjugating the much smaller chiefdoms of Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Maui, Oahu and Niihau under a single government and king. It took 15 years to get all the chiefs to submit, but by 1810, the Kingdom of Hawaii was a unified and formidable force. But those 15 years were tough ones for the other chiefs as a warrior named Kamehameha the Great fought them into submission, assisted by weapons provided by westerners. Kamehameha quickly overran islands such as Oahu and Maui but Kauai was a much tougher nut to crack. Disease and an ill-timed storm wiped out a good portion of his invasion force. Despite Kamehameha’s failure to capture Kauai, the writing was clearly on the wall. Kauai was the last holdout and eventually the Kauai chief decided the better part of valor was to agree to be ruled by his neighboring chief. The Kingdom of Hawaii was born. It all came to an end in 1898 when Hawaii was annexed by the United States of America and in 1960 became the 50th State. You can see statues of King Kamehameha throughout the islands on our 19- or 20-day Hawaii Calls cruise tours departing March 27 and November 25.

If you’d like to see a photo from one of your own Uncommon Journeys trips featured in our newsletter, just email it to us at and be sure to note in your email that we can use it for marketing purposes.


Yellowstone’s Winter Caretaker

The wonderful program CBS This Morning recently had a story on Steve Fuller, one of the winter caretakers who looks after some of Yellowstone’s facilities during the offseason. The scenery in Yellowstone in winter is utterly spectacular and a reminder to all of us what it takes to maintain our national parks. It’s also a preview of what to expect as the snow melts and the wildflowers bloom this summer when Yellowstone once again opens to our Uncommon Journeys guests. Yellowstone is featured on our 14-day Great Western Explorer train tours departing May 9 and October 17.


Flying High at the Multnomah

The Multnomah was part of aviation history.

There’s often more than meets the eye to an historic hotel. Take the Multnomah Hotel in Portland, for example. The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and first opened on February 28, 1912. At the time, it boasted of nearly 600 rooms and Philip Geburtz, the local businessman who recognized the need for a first-class hotel in Portland, eventually sold the property in 1931 to Western Hotels which operated the hotel for 32 years before it closed in 1963, no longer able to compete with the sleek new hotels of the jet age. Looking for a use for the 600 or so rooms, the owners turned it into government offices and it served in that capacity for almost three more decades until finally the classic lines and historic nature of the hotel caught the attention of the powers-that-be. The smallish rooms were turned into 276 much larger suites and in 1997 it reopened as an Embassy Suites. But, as you can guess by now, there’s more to the story than just that.

The hotel was the queen of downtown Portland for many years during its 20th century heyday and, in fact actually hosted queens such as Queen Marie of Romania. A parade of celebrities and politicians followed, including Jack Benny, Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Rudolph Valentino, Charles Lindbergh and, if legends are to be believed, every sitting president including both Roosevelts, Wilson, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Since the smaller rooms have been turned into large suites, it’s tough to tell what rooms some of these celebrities stayed in so it’s always possible that any given bed in the hotel is situated in a spot that shares a slice of history with notable names from the past.

The hotel was the largest in the Pacific Northwest when it opened 103 years ago and certainly the most modern. The hotel was so beautiful and so beloved by travelers that it was affectionately known by many as “their Western home.” It was said that the hotel’s accommodations were “ample and pleasing to the most fastidious. The rooms are large, cozy and elegantly furnished and given scrupulous care by fastidious maids.”

But beyond the obvious delights of staying in an historic hotel, the thing that always fascinates guests is, of all things the roof. Because the roof actually played a bit of a role in aviation history. First, we need to establish that the footprint of this hotel is a large one. It covers an entire downtown Portland city block. And that means there’s plenty of roof up top. In fact, there was so much roof up top that a gentleman by the name of Silas Christofferson built a small clapboard runway at one end, hopped into a flimsy, kite-like Curtiss Pusher biplane of the era, and took to the sky just after the hotel opened in 1912. He soared over downtown Portland, fighting to keep the fragile plane stable in gusts of wind. For most observers, it was the first time they had ever even seen an airplane; the Wright Brothers hand only flown for the first time less than nine years earlier and aerial exhibitions around the country by the daring new breed of aviators, or “birdmen” as they were often called, only began a year or two prior. Though the daring flight was hardly the dawn of a new way for guests to arrive and depart the Hotel Multnomah, more than three quarters of a century later the stunt was repeated using a replica plane for publicity purposes.

The Multnomah is featured on our 11-day In the Path of Lewis & Clark cruise/train tours departing June 18, July 16, August 13, and September 9.


Crossing Canada by Train

The Canadian heads through the Canadian Rockies in 1957.

There’s one train on North America that always ends up on the list of the Top 10 Train Rides on Earth. It’s VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian, a truly first class experience which is the company’s flagship brand. VIA has restored and continues to operate some of the most notable train cars of the last century. During the spring and summer months, for example, the Canadian includes Château sleeper cars. Built between July and November of 1954 Budd Car Company and AMF, 29 units were acquired by VIA in 1978 and have been regularly refurbished ever since. The cars were originally constructed for use by the Canadian Pacific Railway on their Canadian and Dominion trains, the Château cars were appropriately named after important figures in Canadian history. The names were chosen to commemorate famed explorers and administrators of the first French and British colonies.

Another highlight of the Canadian is the famed Park cars with their lovely Mural Bar and Bullet Lounge. VIA owns 14 of these 1954-built cars, also crafted by Budd Car Company and AMF. The cars are named after famous Canadian National Parks and carry monikers such as Banff Park, Glacier Park, Prince Albert Park, Evangeline Park and Yoho Park. We feature the Canadian on our 13-day Great Canadian Train Ride train tour departing June 18 and October 8.


Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Photo courtesy of Ansel Adams

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” Lewis Carroll


Hawaiian Pizza

Recipe courtesy of Robin Miller/Food Network

Photo Caption: Hawaiian Pizza will be a big hit with kids and grandkids.
Photo courtesy of

Want an easy to make taste of the Hawaiian Islands? Try this recipe from our friends at Food Network and give your pizza a Hawaiian twist. It’s not just pineapple and ham but the addition of chicken that gives it that extra flavor. Your kids or grandkids will love it! And for a taste of the real thing, book one of our 19- or 20-day Hawaii Calls cruise tours departing March 27 and November 25.


  • Prepared pizza crust (recommended: Boboli)
  • 2 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken breast
  • 1 cup diced pineapple
  • 1 cup diced baked ham
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, place pizza crust on a baking sheet and top with all remaining ingredients, in the order listed. Bake 8 to 12 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. For a taste of the real thing, book one of our 19- or 20-day Hawaii Calls cruise tours departing March 27 and November 25.


Saint Laurent

The perfect size ship for perfect destinations. Photo courtesy of Haimark Line.

This year, we’re doing something a bit unusual. If you follow Uncommon Journeys, you’ll note that if we love a particular ship, we offer multiple trips incorporating that vessel, sometimes as many as four or five in a single season. But if you check out our website right now, you’ll see that we have a tab that takes you to a brochure about the Saint Laurent, a lovely small ship that carries just 100 couples but which we think you’ll like so much, we’re promoting almost all of this wonderful ship’s sailings. 

The indisputable joy of sailing is brought to life on the Saint Laurent, an agile small ship that easily navigates canals and locks, tranquil bays, and hidden ports where larger ships dare not go. Onboard, fresh, modern design tips its hat to our maritime past as spacious, open-air lounges, inviting dining venues, and generous windows ensure you never miss a chance to savor the view.

With a caring crew of 90 pampering no more than 210 guests, you’ll feel at home on the Saint Laurent from the moment you step on board. Whether it’s a favorite cocktail served to you on deck, hot coffee delivered to your room, an iPad® offered for use in the lounge, or the delicate chocolate on your pillow ensuring sweet dreams, serving you is our pleasure. Throughout the ship, “free flowing” beverages are available 24 hours a day and 24-hour room service is just a phone call away.

Aboard the Saint Laurent, you’ll often travel in the company of engaging specialists focusing on areas such as: marine biology, naval history, ornithology and geology who share their expertise freely in presentations and impromptu discussions throughout your journey. In port, shore excursions with knowledgeable local guides provide meaningful opportunities to uncover the rich history, unique wildlife, and fascinating cultures of the destinations you visit.

To check out the online brochure and the cruises, just click on this link here. You can even receive a $250 shipboard credit per couple if you book and pay in full by April 24. It’s easy to see why the Saint Laurent is our Ship of the Month!


Virginia & Truckee Railroad

History rides the rails in Carson City. Photo courtesy of Drew Jacksich/Wikimedia Commons.

A gentleman by the name of Stephen Drew wrote a history of the fascinating Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s on their website and we wanted to share some of the story of this amazing piece of history with you in this month’s newsletter. He tells us that “Nevada’s most famous short line is the Virginia & Truckee Railroad which connected Reno with Carson City, Virginia City, and Minden. Operating for 80 years, the V&T was Nevada’s Bonanza Railroad as it hauled valuable Comstock ore to quartz reduction mills located at Silver City and along the Carson River. Today visitors to Virginia City enjoy a ride over nearly three miles of the original line amidst encouraging prospects that rails my soon once again reach the outskirts of Carson City. The name “Virginia & Truckee” is recognized the world over: V&T locomotives and cars have appeared in scores of feature-length motion pictures and the historic equipment is preserved and exhibited in museums in Nevada, California, and as far away as Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The V&T enjoys an international constituency.

“The Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company was organized in Nevada on March 5, 1868. The objective was to connect Comstock ore producing mines with quartz reduction mills and, on the return trip, to bring in needed lumber, mining timbers and cord wood for fuel. Surveyed by local surveyor Isaac E. James, the 21-mile standard gauge line was completed on January 29, 1870 between Carson and Virginia City. A 31-mile extension north from Carson City through Franktown, Washoe City, and Steamboat Springs connected the Comstock with transcontinental rail service at Reno in August of 1872.

“For nearly twenty years the V&T was a major political and economic factor in the growth and development of Western Nevada and Eastern California. Headquartered at Carson City, a massive complex of railroad shops were erected under the direction of Abraham Curry. The shops were proclaimed by the Central Pacific to be equal to or better than their great locomotive and car building facilities at Sacramento. From these shops poured nearly every conceivable type of essential machinery for communities throughout Nevada, Eastern California, and even Mexico. For decades the Virginia & Truckee was hailed as the wealthiest short line railroad in the world.

“With revenues derived from the twentieth century Tonopah boom, a new Virginia & Truckee Railway Company was incorporated in Nevada on June 24, 1905 to purchase the predecessor company and to construct a 15-mile branch south from Carson City to Minden. This branch offered transportation facilities to a growing agricultural and grazing district and resulted in substantial new revenue to the railway until such time as a surface highway was constructed between Reno, Carson City, and Minden in the years 1921-1922. Known today as U.S. Highway 395, the concrete highway completely paralleled the V&T between Reno and Minden and ultimately was the cause of the railway’s red ink operations beginning in 1923. Prior to that time, the V&T was the only efficient means of transportation for freight and passengers between these communities.

“After 80 years of continuous operation, the Virginia & Truckee finally succumbed to the increasing competition of highway truck traffic. The Bonanza short line’s last official revenue train operated on May 31, 1950 between Reno, Carson City, and Minden. Following the local sale of the railway’s structures and properties, the rails between Reno and Minden were finally removed and the famous V&T became but a legend.”

Happily, the train and a portion of the route has been revived and is beloved by train buffs the world over. In fact, a ride on the restored Virginia & Truckee is featured as part of our 14- day Great Western Explorer train tours departing May 9 and October 17.


Packing for Leaf Peeping

Layers and comfort are the keys

Our guests often ask us for tips on what to pack for a fall foliage trip to Canada and New England. Comfort is key so it’s really not that challenging. Nevertheless, our insider thoughts of what to wear will come in handy on our 8-day Fall Colors in Quebec and Vermont train tour departing October 5.


It goes without saying that you’re going to want to be able to layer during a trip to see fall foliage since the temperature can change during the day and you’ll want to be comfortable. Bring one pair of shorts just in case, but make sure you bring long pants such as jeans or a comfortable par of khakis, long and short-sleeved undershirts, a button-down shirt, a sweater, a light jacket and a medium jacket. Sweatshirts are comfortable substitutes for sweaters. Our trips are casual so leave the suits and ball gowns at home. It’s all about feeling good and having fun. But don’t forget warm, woolen socks!

When looking for outerwear, consider the difference between the average high and average low temperatures. During the fall foliage season it can vary by 40 degrees from highs in the 70s to lows in the 30s. That means you should have a light windbreaker, a waterproof warmer jacket and, of course, a spare umbrella or poncho so you can still enjoy the leaves if the sunshine becomes liquid sunshine. If you have a coat with a removable lining, that can serve double-duty. It never hurts to have a hat, scarf and gloves so that you can stay out among the trees as long as you wish without worrying about the evening chill. Comfortable and warm walking shoes or boots are a good idea if you want to explore the myriad trails you’ll find along the way. And for goodness sakes don’t forget your camera or the folks back home will never believe just how beautiful the autumn colors in Canada and New England can really be!


The Footprints of Hawai’i

Volcanic eruptions left ash that preserves footprints from the past.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

In Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, most people come to see the lava tubes and eruptions. But there’s a preserved and hidden treasure few people know about. In the ash from prior eruptions are footprints of ancient inhabitants. The National Park Service tells us that in 1919, “Ruy H. Finch, a geologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, discovered human footprints fossilized in the Kaʻu desert ash. The discovery of the prints was purely accidental. In 1919 lava from Halemaʻumaʻu drained out of the crater and erupted in an area of the Kaʻu Desert. The eruption built a hill called Mauna Iki. Although the eruption area was only three miles from the then Hilo-Kona road, to get to Mauna Iki Finch and his crew had to walk nearly twelve-miles through the desert. A shorter route was available, but if the crew chose to access this route they had to walk over the very rough Keamoku ʻaʻa flow. While walking through this shorter route Finch and his crew discovered human footprints preserved in the hardened desert ash. After they were discovered, a crude trail was marked through the jagged Keamoku flow, and many people visited the area. Soon, this area of the desert which, in 1919, was not part of the newly formed Hawaiʻi National Park, became known as Footprints. Acquisition of the Footprints area became a goal of the National Park Service after a visit to Hawaiʻi National Park by National Park Director Stephen Mather in 1919 and later by his assistant Horace Albright in 1920. Both Mather and Albright recommended that the Footprints area be included as part of Hawaiʻi National Park. The area shared a common border with the Park and would extend the boundaries of the Park to the seacoast on the southwest side. The Park Service had to convince the Territory of Hawaii to give up its rights in this portion of Kapapala. Originally, the entire ahupuaʻa of Kapapala was the personal property of Hawai`iʻs monarchy. After the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, the lands belonging to the Crown were ceded to the newly formed Hawaiian Government. Because the Footprints section was now government land the Park had to enter into negotiations with the Territory of Hawaiʻi to acquire it. Congress approved the acquisition request and the Footprints bill was signed into law on June 20, 1938, twenty-one years after the fossilized prints were first identified.” Discover the footprints for yourself on one of our 19- or 20-day Hawaii Calls cruise tours departing March 27 and November 25.


Guests Speak Up

“We had a blast! Bernice and I think that a lot of the success of this trip was entirely due to Tour Manager Conrad. You made an outstanding decision when you decided to hire Conrad. He has a great attitude which rubs off on people around him and people benefit from his enthusiasm. Conrad kept making the best of each and every day. He's funny and knowledgeable and did we mention his great sense of humor? He is so organized and full of energy and so informative (just loved his trivia game and really loved his Lewis and Clark dissertation and all the info he passed along to us).

“When we arrived at each destination, our luggage and room keys were always ready. Conrad clearly set and explained expectations for sightseeing and schedules all along the way. We all knew just what to do and where we needed to be with adjustments as needed.  Loved his hand puppet and only Conrad would don antlers en route to our rafting trip!  Along with all of this, Conrad is professional and positive and courteous at all times. This was our first train ride and our first land tour. We just retired two years ago with all our trips by plane or car. We are now forever spoiled regarding tour guides and may never again find a tour guide as great as Conrad.  He is a great guy; it's a pleasure to just be around him. What a great representative for Uncommon Journeys! We'll be back!

“Well anyway, we had a great trip, loved all the scenery, history and wildlife, met some great people and definitely will do something like this again and hope it's with you folks many times over the coming years. Great tour, the best guide ever, and a wonderful trip.”

-Gary and Bernice


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