Life Hacks: Wake up early. Travel alone.

I woke up at 4am on Saturday morning. My body thought it was 5am due to the time change, though, so I guess that makes it OK. Idaho turned into Washington and we reached Spokane just after sunrise. The Pacific Time Zone is made for morning people. It gets bright there so much earlier than it does in Ohio. A Mennonite farmer from Indiana who had been traveling with me since Chicago agreed. “I have no use for it being light at 9:30 in the summer,” he said. “I’d love it to be light at five, though.” So the Mennonites and I have at least one thing in common.

By now our train was three hours behind schedule. As a I said before, keeping a schedule isn’t important to me on this trip. One downside, though, was that instead of reaching Glacier National Park before sunset the night before we reached it after dark. I’ll see it on the way back I suppose.

It’s hard to figure that the scenery could compare to the Cascades anyway. The stretch between Wenatchee and Seattle was breathtaking. The route follows the Columbia to the Wenatchee to the Skykomish rivers. Though the Okanogan National Forest and past a half dozen beautiful mountain peaks and over a few dozen bridges above waterfalls, rafters, kayakers and fishermen. The only part that wasn’t beautiful was nonetheless amazing: the Cascade Tunnel, which took us under Stevens pass. At nearly eight miles long it is the longest tunnel in the United States. I turned the lights off in my roomette an went through it in near total darkness.

I took these from the train window. I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to hike and raft in this country. I plan to someday. 

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At Everett we turned south and headed into Seattle with Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to our right, Mt. Baker behind us and Mt. Rainer ahead and to the left. The day was sunny and crystal clear. The conductor said that we were lucky to see them all.

A baseball writer friend – another one I had never met in person – picked me up at the station. We had lunch and talked about our various writing projects. He’s writing a book I’m rather excited about, as it encapsulates and will attempt to quantify an idea about baseball, fame, stardom, hype and media bias that has fascinated me for some time. I was flattered when he asked me to write the foreward. I hope I can do the thing justice and I hope for my friend’s sake that the book is a success.

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I made it to Safeco Field late in the afternoon. By sheer happenstance some baseball bloggers I know were holding a group event before the Mariners-Rays game, so I bought I ticket to that. I met a handful of HardballTalk readers and people I know through social media and enjoyed a couple of innings of Felix Hernandez shutting down the Tampa Bay Rays. Midway through the game I left the group to get a better look at the ballpark. Just after the fifth inning I hit a wall, however, with a couple of days worth of sleep deficit finally waylaying me. I hate to leave a ballgame early but I could tell that I wasn’t going to be good company if I had stayed.

It was a nice night so I walked the mile and a half back to my hotel, going through Pioneer Square, stopping at Pike’s Place Market – the fish-throwers were closed for the night, sadly – and trying to soak in what little bits of Seattle I could in my short time here.

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I made it back to my hotel, got a drink in the bar and took it upstairs. The hatch to the fire escape at the end of the hallway was open for some reason. I climbed through it and sat on the fire escape for a while listening to the sounds of the city. My head hit the pillow just after 10 and I was out a second later. I slept eight and a half hours, which I never, ever do. A bed that didn’t rock back and forth was just what the doctor ordered.

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When you’re a morning person breakfast is really important. Which makes Sundays hard sometimes because I don’t want brunch, goddammit. I want breakfast. Not at 11, not at 9. But at 7. At the latest. Denny’s and Waffle House are always there for you, of course, but we morning people who are interested in something a bit more adventurous on Sundays usually have to wait. Luckily I found a nice place near my hotel that opened at 7. I only had to wait outside five minutes for them to open instead of my usual 15 minutes. I sort of have a problem.

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From breakfast I walked to the Space Needle. I was told that after 10am or so on the weekends that the line can stretch forever and you can wait over an hour to go up to the top, but for me there was no wait. Another clear day gave me a great view of Mt. Rainer and a city that has no business being as beautiful as it is. Once back down I wandered through an interesting neighborhood, found a cafe, got some coffee and relaxed.

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On the train I’ve felt like I’ve been working. In Seattle for the past 24 hours, however, I have felt like I am on vacation, which is not the sort of thing most people do by themselves. I suppose people think it’s odd to do it. They really shouldn’t. It’s pretty fantastic. You can make decisions quickly. You can sit in a cafe or on a bench and watch people and listen to their conversations. Or you can do nothing for a longer period of time than you might otherwise. You can get lost in your thoughts and not worry that you’re being rude to your companions.

I plan to vacation with my kids and my girlfriend and other loved ones throughout my life, of course, but I think I’ll always make a point to take some trips by myself too. Traveling is about getting away from that which is familiar. That applies just as much to your headspace and routines as it does to your home.

I’m getting on the train to Portland now, where I’ll spend the next couple of days. More updates to follow.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the national baseball writer for NBCSports.com. He writes about things other than sports at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.

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