June 15 California Zephyr

The guy next to me was off the train in Lincoln, and the spot was soon filled by 1 of a group of 3. I was soon back asleep.

I awoke around 7am, it was raining in Iowa. It remained overcast and puddled throughout. A while later I went up to the lounge car and got a cinnamon bun and some orange juice for breakfast.

Not having slept well, and with the help of the overcast mood, and the monotony of farm land, I napped a bit.

Afternoon we passed over the Mississippi River into Illinois and more farmland.

I moved up to the lounge car, read a central Illinois paper, and grabbed some lunch.

I found it odd that as the sun broke through the clouds and I rode the train through a pre-suburban countryside somehow so near to Chicago that I was reminded of Liz Phair.

As I came into Chicago, we went into a switchyard that was under the station.  It was the end of the line and with all the unpacking of checked baggage and old-people movers, it was slightly difficult to make it down the narrow, dark, and loud platform.  When I made it into the station, John K was right there waiting for me.

June 14 California Zephyr

I woke around 7:30 pacific time, but the train was now in the mountain time zone. The scenery was an ever changing collection of typically stark mountains that Utah is known for.

The engineer commented that the type of rail we were passing over would lead to a rougher ride than normal, and he was correct.

I got up to get a cup of ice from the lounge for my Dr Pepper and was then tempted by the Prairie City donut holes only to realize I had left my wallet at my seat and the attendant was about to take his morning break.

However the attendant gave me what I wanted if I would bring him the money later on account it would make his comment easier to produce: “if Paul Giamanti and David Crosby could produce a child, I belive it would be you.”. Made all the more humorous for his resemblance to Ray Liota.

We took a brief break at Green River along the foothills of the longest east-to-west mountain range in the US.

Did a bit of reading, watching, listening, and working for much of the day. The guy who had sat next to me in the middle of the night found an open seat after we stopped in Grand Junction, Colorado.

I decided to skip lunch since I wasn’t doing much to burn calories.

We stopped in Winter Park just before 4:00p, and soon thereafter passed through the Moffat Tunnel that goes under the Continental Divide, over 9600 feet in altitude.

After that we passed through some amazing views into a canyon and passed through 44 tunnels in total. The approach into Denver was fabulous, with nice weather and amazing views.

We were early into Denver and had about an hour to kill. Unfortunately, I had dinner reservations on the train only an 30 minutes later. Fortunately, there was a brewpub across the street.

I went across and had one beer, and checked my email. Suspiciously, I had only 7 emails after a day and a half on the train. Twitter API didn’t work, but the website did.

I got back to the train to hear that the 7:30 reservations were running late. Luckily I wasn’t seated with any of quite a few oddball groups. They sat me with a very interesting British journalist who had flown to San Francisco and was heading to Boston via train. All the while stopping at the oddball small towns on the route.

He had actually stayed in Winnemucca (sp?) and said the nearby hotel had a fabulous Basque restaurant, and they were having a Basque festival (as well as a rodeo) the few days he was there.

He was disembarking the train in eastern Colorado.

After dinner I hung out in the observation car until after dark, enjoying a book and an apertif. I suspected that I had gathered a travelmate since my absence, and indeed I had.

While many of the other single occupancy seats were being maintained by what seemed like bag ladies, my spot was relatively clean on top of being unoccupied through several stops.

When I returned at 10p the car was dark and the spot wad occupied; luckily he was still awake. He was disembarking at 4a in Lincoln, Nebraska.

I sat down, finished my wine, read some, and listened to a Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast I had managed to download to my iPod Touch at the brewpub.

June 13 California Zephyr

I began the day with a 5:45 wake up call. Not on my list of favorite ways to start the day. But I had already checked the bedside clock several times through the wee hours; I got out of bed and turned on the lights.

I had done no prep the day before, so I picked the clothes to wear, packed my bags and took a shower to last for three days. I checked out, and had only to walk across Market street to wait for the Amtrak connector bus.

It was scheduled for 7:15 on the schedule I had, and it was only 6:40 when I arrived. The bus came, loaded 4 of us and luggage and was gone by 6:50. Good thing I was early.

A few more stops and then it was over the Bay Bridge to Emeryville. There’s another bridge under construction next to the second half of the current bridge. It will include a pedestrian walk with periodic benches. It’s seven miles across the bay.

I waited over an hour and through several other train arrivals and departure before boarding the Number 6 train, the California Zephyr once again. This time for a three day / two night trip to Chicago.

After being awake for 4 hours I was getting a bit sleepy. I took a small nap over the familiar path with a variety of stops.

Later I had lunch with three Californian’s in the dining cart. An older couple was headed to Chicago and going to drive Route 66 back. The other was heading to her hometown in Nebraska. She implored us to check for the Morman Trail Museum arch early in the morning. She was slightly defensive about her home state and sprung to its defense before it could be attacked.

I read for a bit after lunch and listened to some podcasts. We passed through some dead dirt looking places. Playas?They looked like they had received some recent rain. There were also, oddly, some marshlike wetlands.

Later we passed through sagebrush with mountains in the distance most of the way. By the time the attendant came through for dinner reservations all that was left was 8:30, which is fine with me, though last time some of the items were no longer available.

We stopped about 8:00p in Winnemucca Nevada. It’s the first real town we had seen since leaving Reno, and it seemed rather small. There was no station to speak of, just a bus shelter and a parking lot. There was a hotel a block away that didn’t seem much larger than a house.

It was just a brief smoke and/or walk on Terra Firma break and we were once again headed east (northeast?) as the sun set over the mountains to our left.

I had dinner with a mom and son heading to Utah, then Idaho, to help her daughter pack and move back to Nevada. And a married lady with several kids but traveling alone. Her husband and sons had flown to Michegan for football camp. She has grown weary of flying and was going to meet them there.

I retired to my seat where it was mostly dark. Watched some video podcasts from the past week and was trying to sleep by midnight.

We had two latenight stops, and a guy had claimed the seat next to me around 2:30 in Salt Lake City.