Train travel is one of life's most accessible relaxations.

Once the train leaves the station, it adapts you to its pace and rhythm.

At Portland's Union Station two Fridays ago, my wife and I boarded the Empire Builder. After the train creeps through industrial northwest and northeast Portland and crosses the Columbia River, the traveler gains rare views of the Oregon side of the gorge. We had daylight as far as Pasco, Wash. Above McNary Dam, we saw a section of the Columbia that I'd never observed on the ground.

We awoke in Montana Saturday morning and disembarked from the train on the east side of Glacier National Park. We drove to the park lodge for lunch. The food was quite forgettable, but the setting was grand. Natural light illuminates the lobby, which is lined with substantial tree trunks as columns.

We spent the day driving through the park before meeting friends at Kalispell. Even though we had our fill of grand scenery at Yosemite National Park in June, Glacier caused our mouths to open wide.

It is widely reported that there are fewer glaciers in Glacier National Park, because of global warming. Soon there will be none.

In Kalispell, we met up with friends who took us to their home on Flathead Lake, which is one of America's largest landlocked bodies of water - so large that on first glance it appears to be an ocean. Montana's many forest fires had put a lot of smoke into the air. Sunsets were quite spectacular, with the sun turning a deep blood red.

We were shortly joined by a couple whom we've seen at ballparks each summer over four years. As my wife noted, we know four people in all of New Hampshire, and we were with all of them in Montana.

Deborah Murdock, who died suddenly in Portland Aug. 14 at the age of 52, was a great friend of Clatsop Community College. One of her first jobs in Oregon involved CCC. That led to a longtime interest in our community college's welfare.

About one decade ago, in an attempt to help Clatsop College understand its development opportunity, PSU President Dan Bernstine brought members of his staff to a meeting with Clatsop College's president and administrators at the MERTS facility. Murdock was Bernstine's special assistant for strategic planning, public policy and government relations.

Murdock explained to CCC President John Wubben and his administrators how an institution should look at its own academic programs and instructional goals and see how they connect to federal mandates, goals and funding. Deborah Murdock, who died last week at 52, loved Clatsop Community College.Portland State University's dramatic expansion was largely built on that linkage. As I mourned Deb's death last week, and reflected on her widespread impact on other people, I remembered PSU's particular generosity toward CCC on that particular day.

Portland State has changed enormously since I graduated in 1971. Our extended family gathered there last Saturday for our daughter's graduation. PSU's spring commencement in the Rose Garden is huge. The summer ceremony is small - with some 800 receiving diplomas - and is alfresco, in the south Park Block outside Smith Memorial Center. Walking around in the sunshine afterward, one could feel the unabashed joy among the many families posing for photos with their graduates.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski's endorsement of House Speaker Jeff Merkeley's challenge to U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith carried some code words. Kulongoski's mention of Merkeley's "work ethic" was a swipe at something that is quietly said about Sen. Smith. I picked it up a few weeks ago in conversation with one of Oregon's leading Republicans. Of Sen. Smith, this man said: "He's lazy."

- S.A.F.

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