Jerseygator's Blog

The Great Western Train Trek: Day 3

Posted in travel,Uncategorized by jerseygator on October 21, 2010

The Great Plains

I woke up this morning just before sunset and lay in the bunk looking at the stars.  Suddenly the train jerked a few times before coming to a stop.  I didn’t think much of it, as the train made numerous stops for any variety of reasons.  I got up as the sun was coming up and quietly dressed before checking on my Mom.  As she was awake, we had an early breakfast and let Kenzie sleep in.

At breakfast I commented that we had been stopped for a quite a while, and we weren’t at a station.  Turns out the train had hit a pick up truck crossing the tracks!  Two people in the truck were hurt and the delay was to check the engine and tracks for damage and debris.  I’m glad Kenz had been strapped in!  Ultimately, the train took off, but we were now three hours behind schedule.  When I later went onto the internet to find out what happened, the two men had been heading out on a hunting trip and the driver said he “didn’t see the train.”  Hmmm, wonder how he manages to hunt with that perception problem.

Mom and I sat with an older Canadian couple at breakfast.  They had already had an eventful trip, as, on the way down the man had had a heart attack on the train!  He, obviously was ok and they were on their way home to Vancouver after touring the southern US, visiting Kansas City, Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville.  I didn’t say anything about his ordering sausage and hash browns at breakfast.  What’s the point?  I was also excited to see that they had grits on the menu and, upon ordering, that they were pretty good.  It’s the little things…

The small sleeper car seen from the hallway

After breakfast I went back to the car and read a little until Kenz woke up an hour later.  I caught her up on the excitement of the morning (we were still stalled at that time) then joined her at breakfast to keep her company.  Mom wasn’t in her car, but I saw her still sitting and chatting with the Canadian couple when we went through the dining car.  I really envy her ability to make instant friends.  At breakfast a young Canadian woman names Lauren joined us.  Lauren had traveled down to Kentucky to support some friends in an equestrian competition.  She had traveled pretty extensively for someone who was 22 and regaled us with interesting stories from Thailand, Italy and Australia and her preparations to go to Egypt next month.  We talked of trying regional foods and how it really helped you to understand a culture.  Then we discovered she had never tried grits!  Needless to say, when Kenz received our breakfast she immediately added some butter and crumbled bacon to her grits and offered a spoonful to Lauren.  After a moments hesitation Lauren took a taste and found she really liked them.  Her mother walked by a few moments later and Lauren informed her that tomorrow morning she would be ordering grits and showing her family and friends how good they were.  Another southern conquest!

I think the thing I’m really enjoying about the train travel is the people you meet.  I’m not gregarious, but when you’re sitting at a meal with folks you just can’t help but talk.  At lunch today we met an older couple that had met 14 years ago because they were pen pals—the old fashion, snail mail kind!  They were self-professed “bookaphiles” and we spent lunch comparing favorite authors and stories, writing down some suggestions from each other about new authors to try.  Turns out the woman and McKenzie had very similar taste in books, so we’re going to go online with our Nooks to check out some of these ideas.

A brief history of Amtrak:  A question we discussed on the train was why, if all the trains we were rode were representative of the company, was the business always on the brink of bankruptcy?  I asked our car steward and he explained that Amtrak is a government-subsidized company; some of their support comes from the same tax pool that pays for roads and other transportation infrastructure.  However, Congress often looks at cutting Amtrak when budget time comes around because there is a perception that the taxpayers are funding “tourists.”  There doesn’t seem to be much concern around the local Amtrak runs, but the long distance runs rile people up.  Of course Amtrak does provide economic dollars, as does most tourism driven business, but most drive those dollars without tax help.  The steward felt that, even if Warren Buffet were to buy the company, there’s no way a private company could keep it afloat.  Here is a link to the Congressional Budget Office which explains this to some degree:

This afternoon the stewards hosted a Wine & Cheese Tasting Party for the sleeper cars.  They had set up in the dining car and Mom and I sat down to a platter of Minnesota cheeses (swiss, white cheddar and blue) and little plastic cups.  The steward gave us a little talk about each of the wines before we tried them; all four were from the west coast-Oregon, Washington state or California.  While trying the wines they had a little trivia contest to give away a bottle of each type and I won a Cabernet!  I’m not a red wine drinker, so I’m sure Darrol will enjoy this one.  At lunch we met two women from Seattle and got a lot of great tips about where to go and what to do in Seattle.

Dinner that night was a repeat menu from the night before.  We shared our meal with a retired English teacher from Portland who was a fan of classic movies.  He and Mom put my old movie knowledge to shame discussing movies from the black-and-white era.  Then we discussed literature from William Shakespeare to  Robert Heinlen.  I must say, I’m enjoying the mix and meet mealtimes!


One Response to 'The Great Western Train Trek: Day 3'

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  1. DARROL said,

    I’m so glad you had a great time…

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