May 28 29 Sunset Limited

I noticed that I was placed on the link of the train that had several small children, and unfortunately the two closest to me were ill behaved.

I had several flashbacks to the final M*A*S*H episode where someone strangled a small crying baby. My sleep deprivation due to them enforced this.

The last third of the trip was even worse, with a woman who reeked of port-a-let rolled in baby powder. She also spoke loudly from 2-6am. When you get on a train full of sleeping people in the dark, STFU!

The one bright spot of the trip was the British couple I ate dinner with. I forgot to get their names. They were bussing and training America. They were impressed by Houston even though they missed so much of it.

They were mostly staying in Hostels, though had a hotel in Houston. They took a sleeper car on the train out of Houston and didn’t feel it was worth it (noisy and small). Next stop for them was San Diego. They had no plans in particular.

I arrived in Los Angeles in the morning, took the 25¢ DASH B to the Millennium Biltmore and was checked in by 10:00a.

I cleaned up and the DASH A took me to Japan Town, where I had a nice sushi lunch from a grocer/deli. Then a few block walk to the Wurstküche, a relatively new sausage and beer bar. Upscale on both accounts. The beer selection on tap was fabulous. It’s in the art district and has a German industrial vibe. They looked set up for evening DJs, which could perhaps get annoying if it’s overplayed.

I took the DASH A, back to the hotel, scoping out a nearby bar: Library. I never made it out, enjoying the comfort of the hotel room instead.

May 21 Alpine

We pulled into the station in Alpine a few minutes early and pulled up short letting the smokers hop out the back while some in the front offloaded. I waited until we pulled up further, but we were still a ways short of the small platform.

The last time I talked to (my ride) David he was under the impression that the train would arrive at 2:30. He still thought he might be late. Since the train came in an hour before that, I dragged my luggage across Holland Street to The Mural Cafe.

I ordered the Los Lobos panini and sat down to wait.

May 21 Del Rio and West

By 8:30 my breakfast was over and we were passing Laughlin Air Force Base.

We had a very brief stop in Del Rio, the “Queen City of the Rio Grande”.  The cigarette fiends didn’t even get to finish them.  The train comes fairly close to the Rio Grande here.   Ciudad Acuna is just across the border and a city I have never visited.

A few miles west of Del Rio the Rio Grand is briefly visible, looking not nearly as grand as half a dozen other Texas rivers.

I pulled out my computer and worked on a few items that needed it.

A bit further west the train slowed considerably and the route became quite windy. I noticed on one turn there was a cargo car that had derailed sometime in the past and was quite mangled about 50 feet below.

At around 9:40 we crossed over the Pecos river on the Pecos High Bridge, one of the highest spans in the United States.

A few miles later were some stone ruins of small buildings close to the rail. They were spray painted “Jesus saves”.  Apparently, Jesus’ followers vandalize.

May 21 San Antonio

Close to 2:00 in the morning we were approaching San Antonio. We went through a large exchange yard on the outskirts, and then came to a stop in the station along several sets of parallel tracks where we jockeyed to add two cars to the train.

We sat idle for a while alongside another train that appeared empty.  Apparently, it was the Sunset Limited eastbound.  The attendants intermittently bustled through the car, checking the destinations of everyone to make sure to wake those who were disembarking.

A lone stumbling Mexican repeatedly strode up and down the aisle looking as if on an urgent errand never to be fulfilled.  I later found him asleep in the sightseeing car.  He must have been looking for a place to crash.

We stayed parked in the station for several hours, our car immediately adjacent to a massive, throbbing engine idling. Once a rail worker in overalls and a hard hat passed through the car. The low frequency so nearby and loud became somewhat oppressive.

I finally curled up across two seats and got some sleep. It seems we got moving about 5:30. I briefly stirred but then woke again at almost 8:00 as the signs of civilization were waning.

I went to the obsevation car, obtained some ice for my Dr Pepper, and had my breakfast there. I overheard one passenger comment that she woke up and thought she was in Africa.

May 21 Pecos High Bridge

Along the route today we saw the small Rio Grande (granted, it was below the Amistad Reservoir), and then passed the impressive Pecos river.  To make the Pecos even more impressive, the bridge we went over on was for many years the highest span in the United States.

The Pecos High Bridge: video of the ride over the bridge.

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.