They assigned me to seat 41 before I boarded the train. So, naturally, when I got on, there wasn’t one.
Once he came to mark our seats, he fixed where he wanted us. We were underway on time just before noon, and though I was quite hungry, the earliest reservation was at 2:00 by the time it got to our car.
I was seated with two older guys. Both hard of hearing, and one nearly blind. Minimal conversation entailed because it required me to yell. A young guy visiting a friend for his first time in Houston was seated to me after we had already been served. He spent much of the meal texting, and indeed every time I saw him on the train after that he was texting away.
Later in the evening after we had passed over the Sabine river into Texas I sat for a while in the observation car. When we were passing through Dayton, there were about four other tracks next to us, and a line of shrubs and fence hemmed them in. Three small calfs were running along the other tracks, obviously spooked by our passing.
When we got close to town, there was an obvious 50′ hill on the north side of the tracks. I’m assuming it was a landfill from the looks of it. In the flat coastal area, it stuck out quite obviously.
We pulled into Houston almost an hour early, the sun was setting on the skyscrapers and looked quite nice. I was out of change, and there was a long line of confused people in line to the incompetently slow station attendants. I didn’t think I had a chance of getting change easily. I called my mother collect. She was planning on picking me up, but not for a while.
She commented that I looked like a homeless person with my shaggy hair and travel beard. A brief ride, and I was home. Still several days later I’m still settling in, but I will only have a few days until I’m on a place to Reston, Virginia for over a week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.