Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN
9 April 2014
I read for a while last night and then tried to fall asleep. It almost happened a couple of times, but not quite. Obviously this isn’t the ideal environment for sleeping, but usually I can manage nonetheless. I think I’m just kind of wound up tonight. Anyway, I decided to get back up for a while. Eventually I should be tired enough to crash.
I’m looking around the car, and I can see people wrapped up in blankets, sprawled out on the seats. Most of them, like me, have double seats to themselves, though a few are sharing. It’s not quiet, exactly, but it’s as quiet as a train gets at night. You can hear the movement of the cars on the tracks, and conductors and other people periodically walk by.
It’s pitch black outside. No lights in the distance. Nothing. My guess is that we’re going through the Salt Flats. World’s End. That would mean we’ve crossed the Utah border—well, I know we’ve crossed the Utah border, because the time zone changed. I wasn’t born in Utah (we moved to the state when I was five), and I’ve been living in California for the past ten years. But Utah is home to me in a way that I don’t know that any other place ever will be. Its landscape resonates with me in a way that’s hard to articulate. I may poke fun at its culture, and I may not plan to move back (I don’t)—but it’s still a part of who I am. I used to kind of apologize for my Utah roots. I don’t do that anymore.
Despite my diligent efforts to get to bed at a reasonable hour while I’m on the train, I’m fundamentally a night owl, and I enjoy being up late. The rocking of the train is calming, and I just feel content.
I love mornings on the train. It’s just before dawn, and we’re somewhere around Helper, Utah. If I’m remembering correctly, they’ll be on the intercom in eight minutes to announce the start of breakfast—which I think is an obnoxious thing to do at 7:00 am. (The announcement, not the breakfast.)
I didn’t sleep well, even for being on a train, which means I’ll be doing a lot of napping today. Fortunately, I like to nap.
I’m getting close to the 24-hour mark, as in, having been on the train for 24 hours. I can’t say that it doesn’t feel like that long, because it does, but the time always goes by quickly. I’ll get off in Chicago tomorrow afternoon, which means that today is my one full day on the train (midnight to midnight). I feel quite settled in.
Sure enough, the dining car attendant has just wished us good morning. And reminded us that shoes are absolutely mandatory when moving about the train. I completely understand why that’s necessary, but I still find it annoying. In general, I’m not really a fan of shoes.
We left Grand Junction about half an hour ago. The scenery is absolutely stunning. I want to know what’s going to happen in this book I’ve been reading, but I also just want to look out the window.
The guy behind me has also been enjoying the view, but for different reasons. He’s been calling people and telling them how many abandoned cars and trucks and tractors he’s seen. If he could, he says, he’d take them back to Indiana and make a fortune.
We’re still going through the Rockies. I’ve alternated between enjoying the view, sleeping, and reading. That’s actually a good percentage of what I do, which is probably why I find train travel so fun.
My book had a disappointing ending. I hate it when it turns out that everything wasn’t real. Ah well, on to the next one. Maybe fantasy this time. I’ve been wanting to re-read Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, so that I’ll have it fresh in my mind for reading the sequel, Words of Radiance.
I just got off in Fraser-Winter Park for some fresh air. It felt good to stretch my legs, walk around a little. There was snow on the ground—this trip has reminded me that not everywhere in the country has California weather. It’s been delightful to go through the mountains. I really do love where I live, but I miss having mountains right there, practically in my backyard.
We’re coming out of a long tunnel. The sky is bright blue with scattered clouds, and the river is frozen over. I had cell phone reception for all of fifteen minutes a while ago, but it’s gone again. I’ve hardly had any today, so I don’t know what exciting things are happening in the world. The church could be ordaining women at this very moment. Probably not, but you know what they say about watched pots.
Fraser-Winter Park, CO
Quickly getting online when I have a chance
We’ve finally made it to Denver, only about an hour behind schedule. We’re at the new station, which I hadn’t seen before. It looks like it’s still under construction. It’s very empty.
Another large turnover of people. I’m guessing that at this point the majority of the people on the train are going to Chicago; when I boarded in California, everyone with that destination was in the same car, but now there are at least two cars with people headed that way. I like watching how that all works.
Over the holidays, I took the train from Utah to Indy with two of my sisters (Elbereth and Amalthea), and a crazy blogging friend of ours drove down from Cheyenne to meet us in Denver and drop off some gifts. She made it just in time, and then got the conductor to take a picture of us all, despite this being after they’d called “all aboard.”
I’m glad I’m not getting off yet. I was thinking about that as we got closer to the city, that it’s a nice feeling to still have a good chunk of time on the train ahead of me.
Looking down into Denver
Leaving the mountains behind
Union Station in Denver
It’s so familiar to look out into the dark and hear a train whistle. I hear them all the time where I live. Except, of course, this time the whistle is us.
Things have pretty much quieted down for the night. I’ve been reading, and working on future blog posts, which may or may not see the light someday. It’s been a good day. Time to put my feet up, get out my Zune, and just enjoy the ride for a while.