Yes - planes, trains, and automobiles - I have checked off a bucket list item, which was to take a long-distance train ride. Okay, it wasn't a cross-country trip, but it was 38-hour trip from Chicago to Richland, WA. I had one of the roomettes in the sleeper car, and it was probably the most relaxing and productive trip I've been on. I was actually able to get quite a bit of work done without any disturbances.
So why was I in Chicago and heading to Richland? Chicago is the headquarters of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), which is one of the institutes in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The non-profit for which I'm the Executive Director, Visionary Center for Sustainable Communities, is a Tier 4 member of the institute working with them on their workforce development initiative. We are developing some concepts to promote advanced manufacturing as a viable career path. We are actively seeking funding and support for our outreach efforts to inform individuals around the country about the educational and career pathways in advanced manufacturing. So I have been traveling there at least every month or two to continue our efforts and build the support we will need to help the institute achieve its goals. So there I was in April attending the DMDII Workforce Development Advisory Council.
From there, I boarded the Amtrak Empire Builder, and set out for Tri-Cities, Washington (Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick). It was the most amazing and relaxing trip I think I have had taken. I purchased the small roomette, comprised of two seats facing each other, that then fold out into a bid. Traveling by myself, this was a perfect amount of space. So I was able to enjoy the sites while getting quite a bit of work done. I can actually say I have stepped foot in the state of North Dakota (a first). But probably most amazing was seeing the southern edge of Glacier National Park at sunset. See some of the pictures below.
When I arrived into Tri-Cities, one of my best friends and her husband picked me up and we enjoyed a great early morning breakfast. After that, I set out for my annual visit to work with a local winery in Benton City - Cooper Wine Company. About 4 years ago, I got my server's permit so that I could help him out in the tasting room. And for 4 years, I have been serving during Spring Barrel tasting. It is so much fun to share Neil's wine and his story with so many (and of course, his wines are wonderful). And this year to top things off, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a business colleague I hadn't seen in a couple years. By true chance (or design), he was out in the area on vacation (he lives in Ohio) and decided to do some wine tasting, stopping in at a winery with which he shares the same name. It was definitely meant for us to reconnect, because he now has some new technology and partners that could truly improve our offering for Ghana and other developing countries.
After a great weekend of wine tasting and visiting with friends, it was time to head back to Washington, DC for a few days (by plane), and then drive back to Knoxville for my birthday weekend.
All-in-all, an absolutely wonderful, motivating, and inspiring trip by planes, trains, and automobiles.