May 20 Houston

As I sit in the waiting area of the Houston Amtrak station just after 9pm, a wide variety of life is dribbling through the front door. Young, old; couples, singles; white, black, brown. A few families with kids are in the mix.

The TV blerts out programming, and overwhelms the meek voice that comes from behind a glass wall. Pirates of the Caribbean trumps Old Station Lady. The announcement was something about carry-on luggage; I’m sure I’ll need to know its content. Later.

The attendant said the train would be here about 9:30. Departure time is set for 9:50. It’s 9:25 and the double-sided heavy wood pews are filling up. At 9:27 the train pulled in. About 50 of us walk onto the pavement.

Several sleeper cars at the front, then a dining car, then a lounge car. Most of us are headed for the two coach cars at the tail of the train. They are stopped under Interstate-45 making it difficult to hear the porter checking us onto the cars.

It seems she’s placing the long distance passengers in the front car and the shorter rides in the back. Someone’s pulling a trailer alongside the train picking up garbage and luggage carts.

Someone shouts “all aboard” and soon we start to move. All the cars are two levels and I have an overview of the family members leaving the platform. One young fellow running alongside as long as he can. That’s one thing you don’t get anymore at an airport: walking your loved ones to the plane.

As we pulled west from Houston on the Sunset Limited it was almost 10:00 and they called last call at the lounge and cafe, to reopen at 6:30. So I made my way up there to check it out.

The upstairs of the lounge car is an observation car, with chairs facing outward from the train and enlarged windows. It was empty save for one guy crashed out horizontal.

I navigated the two cars back to my seat, passing some rambunctious young ones with one parent trying to corral them. There were fewer than a dozen people in the upper section I was in, all quiet save the newly acquainted senior couple immediately behind me chatting away.

The drain drops south before hitting Houston’s west loop, then heads west along Highway 59.

Next Stop: San Antonio.