|The Southwest Chief (stock photo)|
The tickets have your name on them, but I had noticed that not once did an agent look at the names so I let the girls board for the sleeper car with Youngest-daughter using my ticket and I used hers for the coach seat. I would spend another long, mostly sleepless night in a single seat while they slept in the bunks, but I wanted them to be comfortable. At meal time, I would use my sleeper ticket to get my meal free and Youngest-daughter could get what she wanted from the snack car or the food we brought for her. Very happy to report this worked exactly as planned! All three of us spent most of the next day together in the sleeper - it was a bit crowded with two of us laying beside each other in the bottom bunk, but doable. I strongly recommend if you will be traveling for 24 or more hours, by all means, pay the extra for the sleeper car! It is definitely worth it. Trust me on this.
Shortly after we left the station, I became aware of a nuisance problem. There was a rhythmic clunk, clunk, clunk accompanied by a very irritating little jerk as we rolled along. Other folks noticed it too and we all began looking around at each other with questioning looks on faces. We started talking amongst ourselves and finally concluded one of the wheels must have a flat spot on it. A lady sitting behind us said she had been traveling Amtrak for years and she has noticed in the last couple that maintenance has been severely lacking and service has really gone downhill. She thinks it's because Amtrak has been cutting expenses to the bone by not replacing workers who leave and delaying all maintenance not absolutely required. She thinks that's also why there have been a number of Amtrak derailments in the last couple of years. We sure had issues on our trip and since this was our first, I had no previous experience to compare or not take her word for it.
We had not left until almost 11:00PM so the car's lights had been dimmed and most of the occupants soon covered up in their blankets (the cars were always refreshingly coldish, especially at night) and tried to get some shuteye. There was a sliver of a moon, but not near enough light to see anything but shadows darker than the night as we sped along. We came to Lawrence and then Topeka, stopping for just a couple of minutes in both. Next came Newton where we slowed, but didn't stop. By then it was dark-thirty and the town had long since closed up for the night - just a few street lights and security lamps shining. As far as I could tell, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Before we came to Dodge City, the soft, haunting sound of the horn in the dark and the gentle swaying lulled me to asleep in spite of that infernal clunk, clunk, clunk. I missed Garden City and crossing the state line into Colorado.
We stopped in Lamar, Colorado at 7:00AM, which woke me up. I had managed to sleep a goodly part of 4 hours and needed to walk around to get the kinks and folds out of my poor old abused body. I made my way to a working toilet room and then to the snack car for a cup of morning coffee to sip as I watched the world go by through the big windows. Now this was what I was expecting when we decided to travel by train!
At 7:45, I made my way to the sleeper car to wake up the Momma-woman and retrieve my ticket from Youngest-daughter so we could eat breakfast at our 8:00 reservation time. When the announcement came over the speaker system, we made our way to the dining car and were promptly escorted to a table for four where we were seated across from another couple. All of the white-cloth-covered tables seat 4 and if there are not 4 in your party, they seat another couple with you. This was one of the things I wasn't sure about at first, but turned out to be most enjoyable.
Our breakfast companions were a really interesting couple in their mid to late 50's. As we sat down, we shook hands and introduced ourselves. We learned the man lives in California and the woman lives outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico on a remote, mountain-top ranch. They never did say whether they are married or what, but they don't live together. They do, however, visit each other several times a year plus they travel together several times each year and they've been doing it this way "for years." Whatever works for you is good and this arrangement obviously works for them. Since Momma-woman and I both like Santa Fe, we discussed that and when they found out we're from Texas, they said they have plans to go to Big Bend National Park next year. That's one of my all-time favorite places and we've been numerous times so we gave travel advice and answered their questions. The meal, the usual breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast, juice and coffee, was about the same quality as a good IHOP or Denny's, and the conversation with friendly people was interesting and very enjoyable. All too soon, they were rushing us out as they needed the table for the next scheduled group of people.
3 human sardines crammed in the
Church along the tracks outside Trinidad
Lunch was again enjoyable. The food was tasty and we were seated with a young married couple from Germany visiting America for the first time. They had been to New York City and Chicago and were now traveling across country by train to see the Grand Canyon and then on to Los Angeles. They said they had been very pleasantly surprised by how friendly and helpful all Americans are. We gave them some travel tips, invited them to come to Texas the next time and found out about their little town and living in Germany. We left looking forward to supper to see who we would meet.
Supper was once again good and we had a nice chat with an older couple who were headed to Los Angeles. They were friendly enough, but seemed to be more food focused so there wasn't as much talking this time. Certainly not unenjoyable, but not as memorable as our previous meal companions. Afterwards, I let the girls head back to the sleeper and I went to the coach seat for what was supposed to be just a couple more hours until we reached our departure at Flagstaff, Arizona. As I passed through the lounge car, I noticed the Mennonites all had their shoes on and they only took up about half of the car.
We were somewhere between Gallup, New Mexico and Winslow, Arizona when the train slowed down, pulled onto a side track and stopped. After a few minutes of everyone wondering what the heck was going on, an announcement came that we had to wait for a train coming from the other way to pass and that it should be just a few minutes delay. We waited. And waited. And waited.
Watching the scenery go by on this leg
of the trip never got old
The cabbie was nice and as he drove us to the Howard Johnson hotel, he informed us the reason we had been almost 4 hours behind schedule was because some poor drunk woman had wandered onto the tracks and had been hit and killed by the train that had passed us going the other way. The police had closed the tracks until they completed their investigation. I wondered if that rude and crude woman would feel bad about her statements if she knew about the dead woman being the cause of our delay, but I figured, no, probably not. It was a very short ride, the cabbie didn't try to cheat us by taking a long, winding route and it was the middle of the night so I gave him a twenty for the $8 fare.
|Sunset picture taken by Youngest-daughter Katie|