October 8, 2011

Heading Home

Above: The 18th Street Railway Bridge built in 1919; Bascule movable bridge. Below: Sears Tower.

September 30, 2011
We found ourselves in a wonderful, uncrowded full sized room…with our own bathroom. As soon as we settled in and departed Chicago, we began taking pictures.

Yet we had a very rough night in this roomy space. We both were jarred awake often during the night by violent, jerking movements of the car, and we woke feeling battered and literally very bruised by the rough ride. We got up to fresh coffee, made by another wonderful car attendant, and breakfast at 6 central time. Not bad food, just food, and after a brief time for meds and other annoyances, we managed to find a table in the parlor car and felt heroic.

For it was a food holiday in a way. I with my allergies and food sensitivities, I only fought my demons twice. Not bad. Since our ticket included the food, that’s what I ate. It worked well. Dining car food is often frozen and what’s fresh is based on the talents of the cook. Once my scrambled eggs weren’t. The omelets looked good, the continental was, and the muffins were excellent for the most part. Breakfast was a success every morning. At lunch, nothing mitigated the sameness of the menu: over cooked hamburgers, ok Amy’s veggie burgers, a really boring salad, and an amorphous lunch of the day. Dinner had its shining moments though, and none of them made me sick. Herbed Chicken wasn’t bad, and G said there a pretty good duck with orange sauce on the side. What more could we want. Good dining companions too. Thank you all.

Often our only means of spatial orientations were the water towers….when the GPS wasn’t working.

The last of the flat plains flew by. Farm land changed to range land. Even a few deer and a small herd of elk were visible. Once there were buffalo. Small towns passed by quickly also. Here Fort Madison, Holly, Raton, Lamy, and Las Vegas New Mexico all small stations in high, dry desert hills.

Left: The Geester telling stories out of school. Right: School.

La Junta faded behind us as G began naming the peaks and talking about the land as it passed us by outside the windows. Fishers Peak…you can find it now in many of the old pictures of G’s family. Simpson’s Rest above the town still flew a flag, still said Trinidad. Some of G’s stories would curl the hair on a mongoose. Once the family returned from Pakistan, he was a hall raiser that got straight A’s in school. There above the rails was the school, the college, and the playing fields of Eaton all set against a high Colorado background. It was as if a switch had been turned, and he talked and talked. It was wonderful, heady stuff to hear his stories.

I found I was just as fascinated by the melting adobe’s and small stone buildings as I was by the wonderful Chicago skyscrapers. Here in Colorado and New Mexico there were often just fragments of homes or downtown’s left to see. I was often left wondering who built these homes or inns or lives however poor or grandiose their dreams might have been.

A second night battered us in our fancy room…not quite as badly. We thought perhaps it was not just the track used by the miles of overweight trains, but the fact that we were now sleeping a different direction. We woke to breakfast at five. Only a few things were left on the menu and the dining car was full.

October 1
Because it was Sunday, we were able to make up any lost time as there were few Metro cars to slow us down. We arrived an hour early to check our bags and sit a moment in my very favorite station before heading for the Surfliner and stations south. We sat upstairs this time, over the G’s objections, and there was a wall partially blocking our view. At least he was going in the right direction.

Soon the surf, beaches, and the San Juan Capistrano station signaled we were nearing home. Green canyons and miles of beaches with me pointing like a six year old. “Look, home. Right there.”

The Star of India on Harbor drive just a few miles from our house.


  1. Loved the photos and the peek into your trip. It all sounds great....even if the food wasn't always the best you ever tasted.

  2. Mage, glad to hear you arrived safe and sound.

    Actually, there are ways to get good fresh food on boats, trains, and planes. Think the problem is the country you are traveling in.

    I remember my brother flying down from Montreal to Martinique. His first flight was to Miami with American Airlines and he said most of the "food" on the plane was unidentifiable and indistinguishable from astronaut tube food. And then he boarded an Air France flight where there was fresh baguette bread with a bit of virgin olive oil and sea salt as a side dish to accompany a main dish to die for. He couldn't believe the difference...

    In any case, thank you for writing all the good stuff and posting all the fantastic photos.

  3. When I take the train to NYC I always bring lunch with me. The dining car food is just too dismal. Coming back from NY there is always a long stop in Philly, so I often buy lunch and/or dinner there. The station is beautifully renovated and has a good food court.

    Love the pictures. We used to drive through all that country--Chicago to California--at least ten times. Still looks the same from a distance. The first time we drove there were no fast food places. The only national retailers were Sears and Montgomery Ward, and they were only in county seats or larger towns.

  4. Your pictures are wonderful. I'd love to take a train trip but not with my railroader Bob. He would never sit down, only pace back and forth.

  5. Gosh! We still haven't gone in to Chicago to see the Sears Tower. We've been so busy! I'll be sure to check out all your photos when we return to Hawaii! You are having an awesome trip!!!

  6. I would love to take a trip like that. Maybe someday. Such a sweet adventure for you and the Geeze Man. So glad you had a good time.

  7. I am happy you made it back. I missed you while you were away. You make my heart sing. Dianne

  8. great pics! memory or not, i'm glad you publish these here or in a scrap boo.

  9. Outstanding photographs as I knew there would be. The accompanying text is done well indeed also. I'm reading backwards in my attempt to catch up. You two would be great dinner companions!


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