Chicago to Davis on the Zephyr.
With all due respect to folks from Illinois and Iowa, one field of corn or soybeans looks pretty much like any other. And most of Nebraska passes during the night. But from Denver on, Amtrak’s California Zephyr offers some pretty spectacular scenery. Here are a few verbal snapshot impressions from the past two-and-a-half days aboard this wonderful train.
Two ladies, with long-handled mop and squeegee, washed the Zephyr’s windows in Denver. This is a task that cannot be done properly in the 20-plus minutes the train is in the Denver station. The effort is appreciated, but essentially new streaks have replaced the old streaks.
The climb up into the Flatirons out of Denver is one of the scenic highlight of the trip. In between extraordinary views, there are some 27 tunnels, the last one being the Moffatt Tunnel, which takes about 11 minutes to pass through.
Could it be that we are making progress with efforts to control, if not eradicate, the pine bark beetle that has been killing the evergreen trees along this route? There don’t seem to be nearly as many brown and dying trees this time through here.
Lunch in the dining car on Day Two is disrupted by an infant who screams intermittently throughout the meal. The parents are embarrassed and adopt an appropriately concerned demeanor, but do not remove the squalling kid from the diner. Instead, every so often one of them picks it up and walks to the end of the car where arrivals for the 1:00 sitting are subjected to the din up close and personal. Attention Parents of Crying Babies: Take them ALL THE WAY OUT!!
A conductor announces that Glenwood Springs will be a “fresh air stop”. Translation: we can all get off and frantically puff on cigarettes for five minutes. Huh??
My car attendant is “P.J.”, who has been doing this for 35 years and has, in her words, “seen it all, honey”! Two different couples have asked her to serve all of their meals in their sleeping car accommodations. I will never understand that. My evening meal last night was spent chatting with a young man originally from the Bay Area who now lives in Paris doing market research for a sub-contractor hired by the French national railway, SNCF.
As I write this, we are crossing the Sierra Nevada range and several thousand feet below us is beautiful Donner Lake. Meanwhile, two ladies in the roomette across the hall are engaged in a lengthy discussion about family issues. They are oblivious to the magnificent view passing right outside their window. Go figure!
Finally, the Zephyr was running about two hours late when I went to bed last night, but we left Truckee just 30 minutes behind schedule and the conductor told me we would probably be in Davis a few minutes early. My companion at lunch said the engineer must really have been highballing during the night. Nope, speeding is strictly forbidden. We’ve made up time because of padding in the schedule. But whatever works!