Friday, May 8, 2009

All Aboard!

Well, Thomas and I are off on our first train trip. We are traveling from Lamy, NM to Chicago, IL on Amtrak. So far – so good. We spent Thursday morning getting last minute things done . . . cleaning the house, final packing, getting the dog to the sitter and watering the plants and yard. Around noon Nancy and Cliff drove us to Lamy so we could check in and get our tickets. What a difference from the airport. There was one woman working the counter and we had to wait in line behind one other person. So easy and simple. No security check, no bag search, no taking off your shoes and no crowded waiting room – you get the picture. We sat inside for a little while and about 20 minutes before the train arrived we went and sat out on the platform. A beautiful day in Lamy, a cloudless blue sky and a gentle breeze is what greeted us as we waited to board the train. The differences between the train depot and the airport couldn’t be more opposite. As the train approached I snapped a few pictures and then we gathered our carry-on bags and walked down the platform to our car. On the way to Lamy we talked about trying to upgrade to a sleeper but once we were on the train we decided it wasn’t necessary. As the train departed we got settled and we noticed that our car was almost empty. We also noticed that the seats were big, reclined quite a ways back and there was more than ample legroom. We spent the first half hour of the trip looking out the window and I took some pictures. We hadn’t had lunch so Thomas went and got us a snack to tide us over until dinner (our reservations were at 5:45pm). When he returned he told me about the observation car and I decided to go to that car and take some pictures. After a little time there I returned to our seats only to find that Thomas had spread out between the two seats and was reading. I went and sat in the seat behind and started this journal. So far the ride is comfortable, there is a little swaying and rocking but it isn’t bad. The New Mexico landscape is wonderful from this vantage point – no crowded interstates and you definitely wouldn’t see this from an airplane. We made two stops in New Mexico – one at Las Vegas (very quick, less than 5 minutes) and the other in Raton (where we were able to get out and walk around for 15 minutes). Next to the station in Las Vegas we were able to see the last remaining Harvey House on the Santa Fe route – The Castaneda. When we left Raton we went over Raton Pass and then through our first tunnel. By this time we were eating dinner. The tables are set up to seat four. So when Thomas and I arrived they put us on one side and a few minutes later a woman joined us and then a gentleman. Thomas and I both had roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies. It was a pretty good meal, at least better that airplane food. We also had a great visit with our two tablemates. The woman was from Kalamazoo, MI and her name was Dorie. She was an Investment Broker but is now retired and travels quite a bit. She was on her way back home from visiting friends in Los Angeles. Her husband retired from Amtrak so she rides free for life. She had some great stories from her travels. The gentleman’s name was Samer, he was from Dubai and is in the US for a three month vacation and to better his English. I thought he was doing rather well speaking English. He seemed to have a better grip on the language than most Americans. He was a very nice man and was thoroughly enjoying his trip. After dinner we returned to our seats and I took some pictures while Thomas read. I took some pictures and watched as the sun slowly slid lower in the sky. It wasn’t long before we made our next stop in La Junta, CO. We had 45 minutes at this stop so we both got out and stretched our legs, we walked a little ways down the road from the depot and I took a few pictures – then we returned to the train. By this time the train left La Junta it was dark and picture taking and looking out the window was over. When I was packing I put a couple of movies we had from Netflix in with the computer and so we decided to watch one of them. I got everything set up and we watched “Life After People”, a documentary from the History Channel. The show was about how the earth would change from 1 year to 500 years without people. I thought it was quite interesting and was a little shocked by the extent that we have gone to control nature. I really enjoyed the show and would recommend that you see it if you haven’t already. During the movie a woman stopped by and offered tootsie rolls to everyone – I have to say that we have met some very nice people so far on the train. After the movie Thomas moved to the seats behind us and went to sleep. I connected my earphones and turned on my itunes and continued writing this journal. We made quick stops in Lamar, CO; Garden City, KS; and Dodge City, KS before I called it a night. I would continue writing the next day after breakfast. Thomas and I slept on and off through the night. Most of the time we couldn’t see anything because of the dark. But we did see quite a bit of lightning and we could hear the rain hitting the windows. Pretty much we missed all of Kansas since we passed through it at night. This morning our first stop was Kansas City, MO. The morning was rainy and gloomy and a little muggy. We had about 45 minutes here so we got out and walked around a bit to stretch our legs but that didn’t last long because of the rain. I did manage to take a couple of pictures before we got back on the train. We decided to have a quick breakfast before returning to our seats. This morning we were joined by two very nice women. Maureen from Portland, OR and Jan from LaPlata, MO. We had a great visit and a nice breakfast before heading back to out seats. I tried to take some pictures but the weather wasn’t cooperating. Thomas read some more and I did work on the computer. We then decided to watch the second movie we brought with us. This one was “Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day”. I quite enjoyed it, mostly because I like Frances McDormand and I thought she gave a great performance. The rain has stopped but it is still very overcast. I am hoping that as we get closer to Chicago that the sun will come out. I would like to do some walking around when we get there but I don’t want to do it in the rain. And sure enough as we made our way through Missouri and Iowa the sky cleared up. By the time we entered Illinois the sky was blue and beautiful. We passed the time by reading and enjoying the beautiful Midwest landscape. We made stops in La Plata, MO; Fort Madison, IA; Galesburg, IL; Princeton, IL; Mendota, IL; and Naperville, IL before our final destination of Chicago. Most of the stops were quick and we were on our way again. We only got off the train once during all those stops. At Union Station in Chicago things went smoothly. We got our bags in no time and quickly found a taxi to take us to the hotel. From the time we left the train to the time we arrived at the hotel only took 40 minutes.

Once we checked in to the hotel and got settled in the room we washed up and headed out.
Our first stop was Macy’s (the old Marshall Fields) on State Street. We needed to pick up some passes at the Visitor’s Center there. We walked around the store for a little while bought some Frango Mints and then continued on. We decided to walk down State Street for a while and then made our way back towards the hotel. We decided we wanted pizza for dinner and the women working the desk at the hotel suggested Giordano’s. It was pretty good and we enjoyed our dinner and talked about what we were going to do the next couple of days. We walked for a little while and just enjoyed the city and finally arrived back at the hotel. We are showered and are relaxing. Tomorrow we meet up with Thomas’ Mom’s cousin and do some things with her and her family. It should be nice to see Chicago with someone who knows it.

1 comment :

John and Diane said...

Sounds like a wonderful train trip. Hoping the weather is cooperating in Chicago. I liked the Miss Pettigrew movie too, will add the other one to our queue, thanks for the rec! Have fun-