Saturday, March 7

The Train Ride Home, Part Two

I need to wrap this up, don't I?

The day continued to be gray and dreary which made all the scenery seem sort of washed out.

After getting settled in our roomette, we headed to the observation car. The observation car is usually in the middle of the train. We were two cars up from it and had to pass through another sleeping car and the dining car. The observation car itself is all about windows. Big windows and sort of half skylights above. It's a good place to go for space, light and full on views of the passing landscape. Half of it is filled with tables, the other half with seats that face the windows. First thing we did was head downstairs to the snack bar for a couple of beers.

Then we settled in at one of the tables upstairs. Space. Light. On the train. I was feeling good.

Having a sleeping car reservation includes free meals in the dining car. Dinner requires reservations so we asked for a spot at 6:15 PM. As we came to find out, the dining car folks are usually behind schedule so we didn't get seated until about 6:45 PM. Now I wish I could tell you that dining cars still used fine china and crystal glasses, but no, not anymore. It's more picnic style. And because there is not a whole lot of space, it is community seating. We ended up sitting with Josh from Lawrence, Kansas. He looked to be in his late-20's, a super nice fellow. He had been on business in Applegate, WI and apparently a snowstorm hit or was expected to hit and his flight home got canceled. He was told he probably wouldn't get out of there until Monday. (This was on a Thursday.) He very much wanted to get home before then to see his wife and 14-month old son so someone suggested Amtrak. So there he was, riding Amtrak, having dinner with two complete strangers.

I'm not always much of a talker, but my husband is so I listened as they talked about their jobs and what not. We all ate our Iceberg Lettuce Salads and ordered steaks for dinner. Then, because Will and I are football addicts, Will said, "So I have to ask, are you a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs?"

Josh replied, "I watch them from time-to-time, but I am really a Pittsburgh Steelers fan."

Oh yeah. I think I may have actually squealed with delight. As it turns out, Josh is from Pittsburgh, grew up on the North Side, still has family there. He played football at Temple in Philly and was thisclose to going to the Scouting Combine when he injured his knee and that was that. No more football. So it was a good dinner, we talked Pittsburgh and football. Oh and as it turns out, Josh has a lot of musician friends in Lawrence and has a friend who plays with this guy named Brody. We never quite determined whether or not it is the same Brody that we know that lives in Lawrence, but it was just yet another interesting connection. It's a small world. And a Steeler Nation.

As for the food, it was fine. The steaks were surprisingly decent for train food. We said our good-byes to Josh and then headed back to the snack bar to get a bottle of wine. We thought we might have a glass back in our roomette, but by the time we got back there, we both realized we did not want anymore wine. We wanted sleep. It was only about 9:00, but we were both exhausted. Will pulled down the beds and we washed up. (A bit tricky with those small sinks.) And gentleman that my husband is, he took the top bunk so I wouldn't have to crawl up and down. We thought maybe we'd sleep well, you know, the gentle rocking of the train and all. But no, not so much. The rocking of the train was more like a roller coaster. The train was headed across the flatlands of Kansas overnight and our best guess was that on the flat straightaways, the train actually hits its top speed of 90 mph, hence the heavy rocking. So it was kind of a weird night. I just remember laying awake for periods of time and then waking up and turning over and then waking up and turning over. I'd wake up hot and push my sleeping bag down. Wake up cold and pull it back up. It wasn't unpleasant, it was just unfamiliar. Not the not sleeping, but the environment. Finally I was so awake that I decided to check the time and it was almost 6:00 AM so I went ahead and got up.

When I got back from the bathroom, Will was up too. He reported that he didn't sleep many winks either. That the top bunk is totally claustrophobic. He said when he lay on his side, his shoulder rubbed against the ceiling. And there was this netting that goes up along the side to keep people from falling out and that drove him crazy. And it was hot. Oh well. Now we know. It was just starting to get light so we headed to the observation car. I wanted hot water for my tea and I was hoping for a nice sunrise. Since we were headed west, the sunrise was behind us and while it was certainly nice, it was not a spectacular sight.

Breakfast was first come, first serve so we headed in after awhile. This time we sat with an older couple, probably a little bit younger than my folks. They were traveling back to Santa Barbara, CA after visiting their son in Nashville. Their son who is an audio engineer. Good lord, could there be more connections on this trip?! (For those who may not know, Will is an audio engineer as well.) I was kind of out of it so didn't participate too much in the conversation, but they were super nice. Breakfast was kind of like plastic though. Eggs. Plastic. Hash browns. Plastic. Biscuit. Doughy. Pork sausage patties. Good.

After breakfast we went back to the observation car and settled into some of the window seats. I finally pulled out my knitting and Will read the newspaper.

He was really restless at that point. Not such a big fan of the train. The rocking bothered him, the walking back and forth from our car to the other cars and the biggest thing, the lack of leg room anywhere that we sat. Totally understandable but not an issue I have so I have to say, I pretty much enjoyed the whole train experience. Of course I was happy to arrive in Lamy that afternoon. I was ready to be back home.

We did have lunch on the train as well. We sat with a fellow from Seattle. He had been in Tucumcari, NM visiting his daughter and her new baby. He had just gotten on the train and had a long way to go. Nice fellow, but we were weary of making conversation with people. We both chose the veggie burgers for lunch. Unexciting.

So. Now we know that if we travel by train again, we both need a roomette to ourselves!

Not that we could afford it, I'm just saying, that's what would be ideal. And even though food is included, we'd probably pack more of our own snacks as the train food gets tiresome after awhile. Personally I'd take the train everywhere if I could, but some of the routes just take far too long for it to make sense.

We arrived in Lamy at 2:30 or so, about 24 hours after boarding in Chicago. Home sweet home.

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