…jiggidy-jig, as they say.
Yes, I’ve been back for 6 days already and haven’t posted, but I do have the (lame) excuse of having been quite busy.
The last part of the journey was alternately frustrating and lovely. Here are the posts I wrote, but couldn’t upload at the time, plus new material…
On the 49, Lake Shore Limited
The first train back was the 449, a branch of the Limited, from Boston to Albany. On that train I met a couple who returning home from their honeymoon on Cape Cod. They’re on this train as well, and I saw them at dinner (they were at the table next to me). Nice people, for loony Christians, and obviously very happy together (which is lovely to see, even in loony Christians).
I should say that they’re not loony preachy Christians–the only way I knew they were “of the faith” was when she mentioned their church in passing and then, later, I saw her bags, which have “Jesus <heart>’s You!” sharpied on them. She’s probably about 33 or so, but she had sharpied more than one or two such mottoes on the bags. Kinda made me wish I had sharpied “Buddha Rocks!” or something similar on my bags.
Just kidding. I don’t put bumper stickers on my car, so messages on my bags are right out, I think.
I almost skipped dinner tonight, as I am so wiped out from lack of sleep the past two nights (just not sleeping well for some reason), but I’m glad I didn’t. At my table was a nice girl from Minnesota and a couple from Northern Ireland. The wife was actually Scottish but married her N. Irish hubby and they make their home near Belfast.
We had a great conversation. I told them that I had been in Belfast briefly in 1987 and had been searched for bombs, etc. and they told me they had the same experience in NYC the other day. They also explained that Belfast was a boom-town (in a good way, not exploding bombs–and not as much as Dublin, but plenty) and that I wouldn’t recognize the city now, it had so changed.
We then talked about their new government, about which they are very hopeful and excited. They said this time the lower class/working people were behind the government and that that is what was missing before.
And we talked about Bush and our government. They said they had been hearing quite a few jokes about Bush and wondered if the country’s dislike was just about Iraq or something more. I said that I thought Iraq was kind of the last straw–that many of us never liked him and others of us started to dislike him after he squandered the universal goodwill after 9/11. And there was that God-talking-to-him-thing, of course.
Anyway, they were a lovely couple. Funny, smart, interested in what we thought and open to sharing their impressions and ideas. Good people, as they say.
I awoke this morning to find dawn breaking over what looked suspiciously like Ohio farmland. I was just finishing dressing when my sleeper attendant Jose buzzed to awaken me at the appointed hour (in case I overslept, I left a wake-up call). I opened my door to find him smiling and holding a steaming cup of black java for me. Great service!
I asked him where we were and he informed me that we were (not surprisingly) running about 1.5 hours late. On this route that is very much to be expected as there is so much freight traffic. The last stop a few minutes before had been in Sandusky, Ohio, thus confirming my earlier idea.
I finished my morning routine and noticed that there was a lot of water out the window. I knew the route took us near Lake Erie, but I was surprised that it took us directly next to it here. It did, and as I had breakfast in the diner, we passed near the Davis-Bessie nuke on our way to Toledo.
By the time we reached Toledo, I had stuffed-from-huge-breakfast-waddled back to my compartment which Jose has already converted back into seats. I was just finishing my post-breakfast tooth brushing when there was a knock at my door. There was Jose’s smiling face again–this time bearing the morning paper. I was expecting the Toledo Blade (Amtrak always distributes papers to its first class or business class riders–often USA Today but sometimes local papers), but when I looked at the bundle Jose had handed me I was ecstatic to find it was the Sunday New York Times! Heaven. I did the puzzle in, I think, record time–it was completed before we reached Chicago.
Waiting on the Southwest Chief (5/13/07)
So I’m in Chicago where I had lovely internet last time here, but today, bupkis. Actually, I have a signal, but their connection is toast so it does me no good at all. I spoke to the attendants who said “yeah, it works or it doesn’t–nothin’ we can do about it.”
I think that’ll rate a call to Amtrak.
I was hoping to see Christopher waiting for me here, though he had said he couldn’t join me. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fibbing when he told me that (to surprise me here in Chicago). Poo. I called him to say I missed him and was sorry he couldn’t be there with me. Frankly, the trip was wearing on me so I was really disappointed. Oh well. One last long train then a short trip home.
It’s 7:25am CDT on Monday the 14th, and we’re running at least 5 hours late. A freight train in front of us had a breakdown/derailment and so we were stopped from about 1:30 or 2am until about 7:10am. So rather than sleep the night away while we cross Kansas farmland, we get to see it in all its glory for the next few hours.
In other words, I may get some work done.
Still, the lack of movement made my morning shower a vertical experience (rather than a seated one) and breakfast was spill-free (of course, the amazing waiter Larry pretty much ensures that, even in motion–he pours all liquids from on high, in a showy manner and does not spill).
We finally get moving and make our way across Kansas as the morning slips by. By early afternoon, we’re in Dodge City as I have lunch with a lovely older couple from Chicago. The cattle holding pens filled with our future beef flash past our windows in disturbing numbers. I continue my lunch, enjoying my chicken caesar salad all the more for it being beef-free.
Finally, we reach Colorado and the time shifts back an hour (actually, it changes before we get to Colorado, but as it’s in the middle of nowhere, who would know?). It’s now after 2pm as we pass Holly, CO on our way to Lamar, which we should reach before 3pm.
We were supposed to be in Lamar at 7:06am MDT. Ooops.
On through the corner of Colorado and up into the mountains of northern New Mexico. We pass over the Raton summit at over 7000 feet, and through its tunnel at the top and head down a bit into Raton proper. On the other side of the small town there are loads of high plateau range–and animals: deer, elk, and maybe even something antelope-ish (as in “where the deer and the antelope play”). At one point, and no, I did not have my camera handy (darn!), I saw a bear amble away from the tracks towards the tree-line nearby! I texted Christopher to let him know I had just seen a bear–in the wild!
His response was puzzling: Are you going to bed soon?
I replied, “Yes, why?”
“Call me when you get to Albuquerque–no roaming.”
Well, I have no roaming on my plan, so I called him right then as this exchange was odd. He answered his phone and there was much noise behind him. I asked where he was and he replied, “In a bar.”
“Some bar in Albuquerque.”
Seems he had heard how disappointed I was that he couldn’t meet me in Chicago to ride the last major train back with me and so he decided to surprise me where he could–in Albuquerque.
That last couple of hours to ABQ took forever, but then we were in (after getting stopped mere feet from the station by a crazy drunk who flagged down the train then tried to crawl under the engine!) and there, far down the platform, was a tall figure in a familiar straw hat.
I was thrilled.
He came bearing fancy “picnic” goodies from Whole Foods, though his tapenade was confiscated as a possible explosive at the airport (ask him about it–silly story!) and he had to convince the TSA that St. Andre cheese was not an explosive (I said he should have said that after ingestion, all bets were off on that point), but all I cared about was that he was there.
Seems he decided after speaking to me in Chicago to meet me wherever he could–just because I sounded so disappointed. What a sweetheart!
Having him with me made the last day on the train so much better. It took us forever to get into LA, but we could talk and play cards so the time passed.
Finally, we were in the car and pulling into the driveway. Home! Where the cats looked at me oddly for a few minutes and I could finally take a breath.
But not quite. As I let the boys out the back door I began to notice things were a bit different. Seems that before he got on his flight, Christopher had been a busy man. When we spoke (me in Chicago), he claimed to be “pulling weeds”–but in reality he was planting flowers and placing lights. The back yard now has more color and there are little “Japanese lantern” lights on our eaves. It was lovely. It is lovely. And he had done it just to make me happy.
Silly man…he doesn’t realize that he’s spoiled me now.
So, home again, and for almost a week. Laundry has been done (ah, to not be getting clothes out of a suitcase!) and sleeping in my own bed is glorious. Benito has been sleeping on my head and Christopher’s snoring has yet to wake me. It’s fantastic to be home.