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Leg Five - Jan 13th - 14th 2009: The Southwest Chef
old church image by andy anderson

An old church is slowly covered with a dusting of snow, as we pull out of Chicago, and head towards Newton, Kansas

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The Southwest Chef

I take a late checkout at the hotel, and since I'm an elite member with Marriott, they give you until 1:30PM. Around two, I check out, and grab a taxi for Chicago Union Station. Previous to this I had checked with, Julie, that's Amtrak's automated service, and found out that the SWC was on time. Since she leaves at 3:15PM, this gives me plenty of time.

I hit the station, and head for the first-class lounge (more on the Chicago lounge in my next train blog). And without incident, we board the SWC and head out on a cold Chicago afternoon. I'm not spending much time on the Southwest Chef, because my Newton, Kansas stop is only about twelve hours away.

At about 6:00PM I manage a nice dinner (flatiron steak), and for the first time on the entire trip, I'm actually eating alone. Since I'm decanting the train at 3:15AM, I go back to my room, to finish up a few things. I didn't really unpack much; however, I did work on my computer, while I watched the Illinois countryside glide past my window. Around 9:00PM I take a quick shower, and then call it a night. I've spent over a week on the train... experienced the problems of mud slides in Oregon, and delays that forced me to change my entire trip. However, the problems didn't matter. Amtrak came through with flying colors, and I find myself a bit sad that it's almost over.

I celebrate the ending of another successful journey as I usually do, with a small single-serving of white wine, then I ease into sleep with the sounds of the mornful whistle echoing through my mind.

My car attendant (I believe his name was James), wakes me up about a half hour before we hit the station. That must be one of the hard parts about being a first-class car attendant: You have to be up to wake the passengers for all those middle-of-the-night stops. If you see an attendant catching a few ZZZ's in the middle of the day, remember, they've probably been up while you were fast asleep.

Andy's Note: I did find out a few months later, that the first-class car attendent's and the conductor split the duties of waking people up for their stops.

I exit the train, on a cold Kansas morning (about twelve degrees f.). My poor little sports car (abondoned for over a week) almost doesn't start, however, just when I think I'm going to need to call the auto club, she turns over, and I head back to my nice warm home in Wichita home-sweet-home...

We weathered a few delays, and even mudslides in Portland; however, the trip was excellent, and one for the record books.

It's good to be home... I love to travel; however, it's good to get back to home and family. And since I cook, there's always one more recipe to try out in the kitchen.

This trip has taken the wanderlust out of me; however, by October, and my next journey, I know that I'll be more than ready for another journey on America's rails.

Keep the faith, and keep traveling.

Andy Anderson

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Andy Anderson