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Monday, 3 December 2012

California Zephyr

disjointed notes from a train ride
And I'll ride the California Zephyr to the last town on the line, Railroad ties are not my friend the only ties that bind...
Day 1
Illinois
Chicago
Built on a swamp, on a river whose flow was reversed such that all its putridity now flows into the Illinois and then the Mississippi. I arrived in Chicago early enough in the mid-morning of the 12th but hardly had time to explore the city before my train across the continent to the west coast left at 2.00pm. There’s a story for another day, but I did not even get to check out the Willis (Sears) Tower adjacent to the train station.
One of the world's greatest train journeys is the coast-to-coast trip 3 days and 2 nights 3920km journey aboard the Amtrak train called California Zephyr. The train departs from Union Station - a historic landmark centrally located in downtown Chicago. From Illinois the California Zephyr follows a route taking in Iowa and Nebraska, though superb scenery in the Colorado Rockies, across the arid country of Utah and Nevada, and through the snow-capped Sierra Nevada in California to the Bay Area.  It's probably the most scenic and historic of all the Amtrak train routes across the United States. At 2:00pm I joined the other passengers aboard Train 5 as we commenced the classic unique journey to the Pacific Coast. I spent most of the voyage (Chicago-Emeryville) in the sightseeing lounge.
Towers, small town America, highways and byways, bridges then Naperville.
All along the westbound odyssey
the train pulls out at Naperville
rolls along past houses farms and fields 


Princeton
wide open farmlands
house with roof blown down, picket fences, plowed fields and farm roads, trucks rushing past, green and brown hue of the land, the grey of the railway disappearing to a vanishing point somewhere far away, wind farms, passengers waiting for a train

Streaks left by a jet plane. Clouds drawing crazy patterns in the sky. Mississippi river crossing into the wild west.
 
Galesburg
before going over the Burlington route to Iowa.

IOWA
Burlington. Cross the Mississippi in the gloom of the evening.
Mt Pleasant
Ottumwa.
Dinner in the diner. Met a couple of Aussies.
Osceola
Creston
cross the Missouri River and into the flatlands of Nebraska in the night.
NEBRASKA
Omaha
Platte River
I had a coach seat beside another traveller Jaime. I tried but could not sleep so walked about and sat back in seats reserved for train staff.
This is my first time to Nebraska but staring out from a train on that dark gloomy night, I could have sworn I’ve been there before. It was dark out there, high blackness everywhere. Night-time Nebraska looks similar to many other places I’ve seen. It looks exactly like that postcard that says (name of town) by night.
Day 2
Lincoln
Hastings
Holdrege
McCook
At dawn the rockies loom to me, the granite tops they smile.
COLORADO
Fort Morgan
Wake up in part-snowed Colorado
Piles of timber, rivers
Pancakes for  breakfast
Mile high city of
Denver
Other trains – union pacific and iron horses, railyards, buses, prairie towns
houses on the prairie, the rugged landscape, the ribbon of highways

Leaving Denver we climb out of the great plains up into the Rockies snaking through tunnels bored deep into the rugged canyons of the rocky mountains

From the canyons we rush past the rivers and the rapids and then more canyons and mile after breathtaking mile of awesome scenery and the colours change hue with the rocks


modern skyways, lakes, mountains, freight trains, deer in shade of tree, snowcapped mountains, the warping steel rails climbing and snaking up the rockies, dams

ravines gorges, frozen rivers
electric cables stung along lines cut in forests, homes and mobile homes
red barns and red houses, tall pines, green and yellow house
ski resorts
pepsi and coke cola trucks, union pacific going by.
Freedom's only station to station, A paper suitcase on the track of time

Mansions on the hills


trailers and boats, billboard signs, horses and cows, goats, farm animals
eagle county covered wagon
rocks and ridges, boulders and cliffs, pipe suspension bridge
tunnels and caves, fence that don’t make sense, food and drink, steakhouses and restaurants, Snowkist ranch, cattle in the land of milk
and into the ski resorts. 
at the Moffat Tunnel (only 6.2 miles long) beneath the Continental divide

 People see a deity, i see a lady

highest elevation on the route at 9266 ft or 2825m
Snow fields, ski resorts

 Fraser

 Winter Park Grand adventures

Fraser “Icebox of America”

Granby.  

Somewhere on the Colorado ‘moon’ river. Very disappointed to see no moons.

Snaked for many a mile through the Glenwood canyon side by side with the Interstate 70, thence
Glenwood Springs                
Stop at Grand Junction
Then into
UTAH
Cabins in Utah on a hill range at the edge of plains
Dinner while taking in more of the wild west
Green River. bye to interstate 70
Red truckin

Helper and Provo
train calls in at Salt Lake City
great salt lake. free of fish and about four times saltier than the ocean.
Day 3
NEVADA
Domes, trucks on the four-lanes, wilderness, shops selling groceries, others selling liquor, and stores
dealing drugs (i think they’re called drugstores)
Elko and Winnemucca
Racing across the desert in the witching hours
stop in the biggest little city in the world -
where
I shot a man
in Reno
with my camera
when I hear that whistle blowin'
I board my train and sigh
Sierra Nevada

Taco bell
And then sunny California

CALIFORNIA
stop in Truckee
The High Sierra Nevada mountains with snow on the peaks


Colfax Sierra Nevada



I've been warned that
here in California
hills turn brown in the summertime
and there's no gold
in wintertime
just cold

so then I tried the bay area

Roseville
13:31 on the clock in Sacramento

Beehives in the land of honey, a fellow traveller on a bike, trains, boats, the flimsy shelters of the homeless, birds on a wire
and found green and gold
Davis
More bridges and their arches, steam trains and fast trains, railyards and engines
Martinez then
Richmond
The bays
Emeryville
seen more of America than many Americans.
crossed the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, New York to California (by car from NY to Chicago via Canada, then 2440 miles on the California Zephyr).