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It was my favorite Saturday morning cartoon back in the days when my kids were young. And when I was pretty young, come to think of it. Anyway, perhaps some of you will recall it too. It was a spy thriller, of the children’s variety. But even then there was a thread of adult humor running through it. I don’t mean adult humor of the sexual or potty-mouth type, which seems to be the go these days. I just mean terrible puns, satire, and fun sight gags. Those were the days… Fargo North, by the way, was a spy… a decoder.

I mention it because I am currently in North Decoder Dakota. Minot, ND, to be precise, in the lounge car of Amtrak’s Empire Builder. Let me be clear here: I am not complaining. Amtrak told me, even before I booked, that there would be delays. I’ve arranged a hotel in Seattle so a few hours delay are no problem for me at all. Had I not known ahead of time I would have flung myself in front of one of the many oncoming trains hours ago. But my flight back to Australia isn’t until day after tomorrow, so I’m pretty sure we’ll get to Seattle in time.

I do love trains. It’s such a gentle–genteel, even–way to travel. The perfect way to meander, and you have the opportunity to actually see where you are. If there’s anything to see, that is. So far there hasn’t been much in North Dakota. Indeed, Williston, ND is a perfect example of what happens when an ordinary little western town suddenly becomes a genuine boomtown. I have to say, it’s not a particularly good look. I won’t comment on the politics of the fracking oil fields; I realise they have been the source of many, many jobs. But from what I read, ithe boom has turned Williston into what can only be described as a re-emergence of the Wild West of yesteryear.  And  just between you and me,, I don’t think I would be too eager to drink the water there.

In contrast, the autumn colours in Wisconsin were stunning, particularly around Wisconsin Dells. As the late sun crept closer to the horizon, the tops of the hills virtually glowed with a fiery blaze of autumn color. When the sun finally melted away, it left an orange sky that was like a watery reflection of the trees below.

Now here’s a thing–I get lost on trains. Theories abound as to why this happens, but none of them help. On the train from Toronto to Chicago recently, I was totally lost for much of the journey, wandering from one car to another, up and the aisles, like a lost soul. I’m pretty sure I heard whispers of “Here she comes again.” And “They shouldn’t let her out. Poor old dear.” Finally someone gave me directions, which I swear I followed to the letter, and found my sleeper. But, Alas! I couldn’t get the door open. I kept trying to force it open, to no avail, so I wandered around some more, trying to find somebody to help me open it, occasionally returning to try again to jimmy it open.

Eventually I found the conductor who had given me directions and I explained my new dilemma. He came with me, but had no better luck. “Are you sure this is the right room?” he asked. “Yes, it’s right here on my ticket–Room 12.” He rolled his eyes and said, “There’s more than one room 12.” Well how the hell was I to know that?! At least it explains why I thought I heard someone inside the room say, “It’s that crazy woman again. Call somebody!”

We are now in Spokane, WA, where the train divides–part going to Seattle, the other part to Portland, OR. I said to my conductor, “Please, please tell me the dining car and the observation lounge are going to still be in the same place…” he looked down for a long moment before answering.

Nevermind. I still have a couple apples brought from KC.            MM