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Reclaiming the Final States Sober

by Chris Guenzler

The purpose of this is two fold. One, to complete riding through every state I drank in and second to be on the last Texas Eagle and Desert Wind. The second part became unnecessary when President Clinton gave Amtrak $22 million dollars to keep the endangered trains running through May 10th, 1997. Funny how that May 10 date is so important in railroading history. So on part one, I will be on the Sunset/Texas Eagle reclaiming Arkansas for my sobriety to Chicago, Illinois Zephyr to and from Quincy and the Desert Wind home. Part two will be the Coast Starlight, Empire Builder to reclaim Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the California Zephyr and San Joaquin to home. Riding to Los Angeles allowed me to look through the new Amtrak national timetable which takes effect on Sunday. I started to plan new trips just as I am beginning this one.

San Diegan 783 11/5/1996

Well I am off again on train San Diegan 783 for the connection to Los Angeles with the Sunset Limited. Arriving Los Angeles Union Station on time, I headed for station services for a boarding pass for Train 22 and sat down starting the line for the Texas Eagle portion of the Sunset Limited.

Sunset Limited 2 11/5/1996

I found two seats on the right side of the train with a full window view, one of the advantages of being the first person in line. The train left right on time and since I am dead tired from doing JV Soccer tryouts at McFadden, I watched the train curve across the Los Angeles River and I fell fast asleep. Every so often I awaken as I think that since we are studying the stars in 8th grade science, I just wanted a better view than the kids back in Santa Ana. Night travel on the train on a clear night gives you a fantastic view of the Milky Way. Just another advantage of train travel!

11/6/1996 Waking up in Casa Grande, I started my musical selections for this trip with twenty-eight years of Jethro Tull. I started with a tape of a 1969 live concert in Sweden. We arrived at Tucson, one advantage of bypassing Phoenix is the faster schedule to here, so it's my chance to enjoy the fresh air while waiting for the bus from Phoenix which arrived as we were scheduled to leave. Due to that fact, we left Tucson ten minutes late so the dispatcher ran us up the westbound track which is quicker to put us back on schedule but spoils the pictures of two photographers I saw waiting for us down on the lower track as we crossed over above it on the high bridge. We made the quick climb to Mescal then descended to Benson crossing the Santa Cruz River only to climb again to the summit of the Dragoon Mountains. Wilcox Playa was totally dry as we continued to speed east. Funny thing about this trip is the lack of freight trains on the Sunset Route. All too soon we crossed into New Mexico. As we head east over the Continental Divide, I noticed for the first time the flatness of the area. It is like a huge dry lake with distant mountains. After Deming we started our descent towards the Rio Grande River. As we neared the Mexican Border, I saw the new fence under construction to keep the bandits from Mexico from robbing the Southern Pacific freight trains. Along here I saw two border patrol vehicles and a Southern Pacific Police Truck. We crossed the Rio Grande River into Texas as I saw the dust blowing over Juarez so I knew El Paso would be windy. While the train is being serviced, I went into the depot and purchased a Sunset Limited Coffee Mug, the only time I have ever seen them.

Leaving El Paso on time with me being amazed, the train chief starts the trivia game. Unfortunately the speakers in my car were not working so I can not play. I went downstairs to use the bathroom and suddenly hear, "Ok, here are questions one through five again!" I stood on top of the toilet with my ear as close to the speaker as I could so I could hear. The game took ten minutes so I stood there the whole time. With the completion of the game, I exited the restroom and turned in a piece of paper with my answers on it. Turned out I got seven and a half out of ten so I won another Sunset Limited T-shirt. Dinner time arrived so I was off to the dining car for a Huey P. Long Steak. I had two dining companions, a woman who is in the army as a computer specialist going home to Raleigh to her family and a diver who caps underwater oil wells. He told a story of being in a detention center as a kid near Marfa and one night he saw a twelve foot high creature approaching him out of the darkness. There were dead cows found with their throats slit and intestines pulled out through their rear ends. The creature was never found so did I hear a real story or just a Texas tall tale. Following dinner it was movie time, a double feature of the "Phantom" and "Dragon Heart." I saw both of these movies in the theaters and I enjoyed both of them again on the train. I returned to my seat and fell asleep until I awoke in San Antonio after the through Texas Eagle cars I'm on were cut off from the rear of the Sunset Limited for the connection with the Texas Eagle

The Texas Eagle 22 11/7/1996

Leaving San Antonio on time, we backed about four miles to reach the Union Pacific mainline. We then head north and for the first time I am riding on the inbound route to town instead of the usual outbound route that I had taken on my only northbound trip. Traveling north on this cloudy morning right before Austin it was announced that the lounge car would be completely non-smoking because a group of school children will be riding in it to Taylor, TX. During their ride, I purchased my Texas Eagle/Amtrak 25th Anniversary Coffee Mug and got my first of many cups of tea on this morning. We are riding in Texas Hill County and the landscape just had a nice roll to it. I spot trees trying to change into their Fall colors. We lose the kids at Taylor and the smokers returned to the lounge car. We stopped at Temple which is the hospital capitol of Texas with four major institutions located here. Here I saw a Santa Fe H-660 on display plus all the Santa Fe trains awaiting their departures. This part of Texas reminds me of the TV show Dallas so I wonder where J.R. Ewing is? North of town the Sumac is a bright scarlet standing out among the green trees. Nearing Fort Worth the trees gave way to urbanization. We got stopped at the unmanned Tower 55 by freight train interference before we arrived at Fort Worth.

After the servicing stop at Fort Worth we backed out of the station on time but ran into more freight train interference at Tower 55. Tower 55 was manned until about six weeks ago with all crossing movements now handled out of the Union Pacific Bunker Dispatching Center near Omaha. Both of our delays could have been avoided if there were an operator on the scene. An announcement over the PA blames the Union Pacific for our delay with a comment, "The Union Pacific does not know how to dispatch trains." Take my word for it they really do, just think back to the Pioneer across Wyoming. Finally moving again we made haste with the miles to Dallas passing the Ranger's Stadium and a Six Flag Complex to the north of the tracks. Rounding the curve into Dallas Union Station, we passed the building where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy on November, 22, 1963. Where were you when this took place? I was home watching Sheriff John when they broke into the program with the sad news. Arriving Dallas, the new light rail trains were passing on the station's platform right outside of the train, while a Hispanic man in the seat in front of me was being questioned by the DEA about his travel. He had a one way ticket paid for with cash from El Paso to Chicago the day he left. They asked for his ID and searched his bags. Satisfied they left him alone and continued to check the train.

About an hour after leaving Dallas, I went to the dining car for dinner. My dinner companions were a lady traveling to Marshall and a gentleman who just had returned from Belize in Central America. He told of living in Belize and the diet he's been eating for the last six months. So after eating only half of his dinner, he excused himself saying that the food was so good that he could not handle it. After dinner I went to the lounge car to wait for tonight's movie of Twister with me thinking that it is the perfect movie for this part of the country. With the announcement, I could not have been more right as nine people got up and left. One stopped to tell me that their neighborhoods were hit by tornadoes last night and they were on the train trying to get away from them. Talk about a perfect negative movie to show a group of passengers. I enjoyed it as the movement of the train added to the movie.

Arriving in Texarkana, TX/AR starts my journey through Arkansas as I reclaimed it for my sobriety. The lounge car air circulation was working really well so I fled into the next coach for fresh air. Following the end of the movie, I returned to my seat to find a guy dressed in brown passed out on my pillow reeking of alcohol. I roused the guy back to reality and after about three minutes he got up and fell into a seat one back on the left. The girl who was seating there returned and roused him again and they started to talk. He began to light up a cigarette and she told him he can not in the coach but to go to the lounge car where he can. I checked my pillow and blanket which are fine and curled up and fell asleep. With every stop I woke up and realized that I am sober in Arkansas. It was a great feeling. I fell back asleep, waking up at the next stop and after Poplar Bluff I slept soundly to St Louis.

11/8/1996 Arriving in St Louis, I am up and walked outside for some fresh air. Two Horizon coaches were added to the front of the train with two private cars added to our rear end. Reboarding I went to the lounge car for breakfast and more cups of tea. We left St Louis on time and curved along the Mississippi River through a tunnel then exited with the Gateway Arch high above the train on the left and Old Man River on the right. Ducking into another tunnel we head north along the bank over the river until we made a right hand turn which led us onto the bridge over the Mississippi River with a great view of the Arch, St Louis and the TWA Dome, the new home of the Rams. Passing through the maze of tracks at Alton, IL I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt reading "Where it all Started!" and I stuck up a conversation with him. He had over nineteen years of sobriety and we talked program for an hour and a half. He left and the countryside turns town, field, river, fields and town. This cycle is continuous as we stopped at Carlinville and Springfield where I decided to return to my seat.

I sat down and started to smell the strong scent of alcohol. I stood up and looked around the car to see if anyone was drinking, there was not. So I checked my pillow, the seat which I had forgotten to check last night so I stood up and stepped back before looking down at my bag. I noticed the bottom of it looked wet so I picked it up and it reeked with alcohol. I emptied the contents finding anything that was in the bottom of it soaking up the stuff. I surmised my visitor either threw up his drink, spit out his stomach contents or spilled his drink. I found no empty glass to prove this last one. One important thing to note about all this was I was not even upset, mad or distraught, thanks to doing my steps in AA. It reminded me of my former life style. I figured I better get the bag and seat area cleaned up so I went back to the sleeper found the attendant Chris Morgan and told him of my plight and he gave me some towels and cleaning solution which I took back to my bag and cleaned it all up. The stuff worked so well that it took away the horrible smell. Returning the materials to Chris, he suggested that I speak with the train chief and tell him what had happened. I found Dave Marshall and told him my story starting with the damage to my new Amtrak timetable and started with, "I have 660 days of sobriety today and thanks to doing my steps................" When I was done he said, "I wish I could do something for you but since you are only going to Chicago..........." I informed him of my plans to be on the Desert Wind tomorrow night and he reached into his bag, took out a Desert Wind Post Card and gave me a complementary dinner on Train 35. I thanked him and left a most thankful man. Not just for the dinner but for my sobriety. The schedule on this line is so funny. First we were twenty minutes late, then we sat at Dwight because we arrived five minutes early. At Joliet we departed twelve minutes late and making me think I will make my Metra connection on Chicago for the 1:25 to Antioch. Wrong we got stuck behind a slow moving Southern Pacific coal train down the Metra Joliet Subdivision at twenty miles per hour for fifteen minutes and by the time we got around him, we finally arrived at Chicago backing in at 1:23 PM.

Chicago 1 11/8/1996

I rushed off the train like a mad man but the 1:25 to Antioch had left right on time. I asked a conductor where I could go for a couple of hours and he suggested Greylake. I went off to the Metra ticket counter and bought a round trip.

Metra 2119/2140 11/8/1996

Sitting in an ex Milwaukee commuter coach was not my first choice of spending a layover in Chicago but it would have to do. I went to Greylake on the Metra Milwaukee District/North Line which I had already ridden out to Fox Lake. I noticed the continual growth of the northern suburbs and a new station at LakeCook Road. Three college age girls are playing let us see how many seats we can sit in game? I sat back and took in the whole spectacular and had a good laugh watching them have fun. My train laid over at Greylake so I hopped on the next inbound train from Fox Lake. I spent the return trip watching the Metra Conductor work his butt off, selling tickets, taking in cash and answering all types of questions. Are not Metrolink conductors at home lucky for having ticket machines and the honor system. Nearing Chicago it was already getting dark and the afternoon rush hour had begun. It is not easy taking two suitcases through a sea of commuters. It is like being a salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

I went back by the Metra ticket office to pick up some timetables for my Orange County Railroad Historical Society members before heading upstairs to the food court. I ordered two Gold Coast Char Dogs and found a table next to where people were playing Blackjack. I enjoy watching people lose their money and not mine. On the way to the waiting area, I stopped by the Cash Station before proceeding to wait for my 5:55 PM departure.

Illinois Zephyr 347 11/8/1996

I boarded a Horizon coach for my trip to Quincy. This train has three Horizon coaches and two Amcafes for seating although only the lead Amcafe is serving. We left Chicago on time in a rain shower and quickly passed many of the commuter train stops. I went and got a Seven Up and it was weird to walk through one Amcafe car on the way to another one which was serving. On the way back I stopped to remember was this my first empty Amcafe car on a train? No, there was that one on the Washington to New York train last summer. With my headphones on and my word fill in puzzles in hand, the evening passed by quickly. At each stop I glanced out of the window and thought I will see it all in daylight tomorrow. This Friday night we are just dropping off people, so the further from Chicago we go the more empty the train became. At Macomb after the train had stopped, the conductor walked in and asked if we would all move up one car because only one car can fit on the Quincy platform. I happily move and within half an hour we passed the radio towers that mark our entrance into Quincy. Leaving the on time train, I called the Travelodge for my ride. They don't have anyone to come and pick me up, despite the fact I made my reservation through AAA in September and they said they would pick me up. Call a taxi, hold it, it is your fault, you call it so they did. Five minutes later a taxi pulled up to take the lounge attendant to his hotel which just happened to be mine. As we leave, I saw the van from the Holiday Inn leave and I thought I should have stayed there. We dropped the Amtrak employee off and the hotel paid the $11.20 for the taxi. It was a hassle, so I agreed to pay the return to the station in the morning and I went off to bed.

Illinois Zephyr 348 11/9/1996

After a relaxing night sleep, I called a taxi and took a shower. Getting out of the room at 5:45 AM for a 6:15 AM train and the taxi didn't arrive until 5:57 A.M. with a $14.20 fare back to the station. Quincy has the highest cab fares in the State of Illinois. Standing on the platform on a 22 f degree morning with the stars still overhead, I boarded and walked to the same coach seat I had after Macomb last night. Leaving Quincy right on time, we curved by the radio towers and head towards the sunrise. The woman behind turned the seats to face each other but the conductor made her turn them back citing Amtrak's policy on this matter. The sun made the first appearance of the morning as a big orange circle rising against a foreground of fields and trees. The landscape is gently rolling and used mainly for grazing and fields for the harvest of corn, now standing unproductive until next season's planting. We slowed for Prairie City an aptly named place for the location. There is frost on the shadows of the hills reminding me of just how cold it had gotten last night and all too soon we were passing the south-side of Burlington Northern Galesburg yard coming to a stop with a large number of people filling up the train. I really noticed the difference in the fields from last August with the wheat fields plowed for winter wheat. The trip down the BN double track mainline was quick and soon we were back in triple track commuter territory passing Metra commuter trains. Checking my Metra timetables to see if we arrive in Chicago on time, I would have ten minutes to get to the C&NW Station for a train out to Geneva. We did not wye the train so me and my two bags are off on a dash. Through the station, down a north platform, up some stairs to street level, across two streets, into the building, up an escalator, buy a weekend pass for $5 and out to the train all in five and a half minutes. The conductor looked at me and said, "Where did you just come from?" "Union Station, in five and a half minutes!" I replied. "You could have taken the shuttle in forty-five seconds," he said before saying, "I could not have done what you did in that time even if I was not carrying anything, you are amazing!" Am I or was it just to do anything to catch a train? You decide.

Metra 29/48 11/9/1996

We left the C&NW Station right on time and I am on a new Metra route, the mainline of the old Chicago Northwestern in an ex C&NW Bi-level coach. I sat on the north side going west and the south side going east. As on any new line that I am riding, I am all eyes and just taking in all the sights. We passed south of the Proviso Yard which was CNW main Chicago Facility and headed into the suburbs. Right before Geneva we crossed the Fox River which provided one the most beautiful setting on the whole Metra System. A passenger informed me it is an excellent canoeing stream.

Getting off at Geneva for some fresh air and pictures, a large crowd had gathered for the early afternoon train to Chicago. Crossing the Fox River the north side view is so superior to the south side view. Returning towards Chicago, snowflakes are trying to fall. I may get some of the white stuff yet on this trip. The elevated train joined the right away so I got a good view of some of their trains. Now that is a system I have not ridden yet. There was a stop called Harlem which reminds me of New York City. Empty buildings, trash and the like but I feel safe inside this passing Metra train another advantage of seeing areas around Chicago safely by Metra. As we pulled into the C&NW Station I was amazed at just how many weekend passes were sold by the conductor. It is really quite a deal.

The temperature had dropped as I walked back to Union Station. I returned to the food court for a Gold Coast Char Steak and to write a few post cards. On each one, I put the number of days of sobriety I have, today being 661. This helps me remember what I am and one special person gets one every day I travel. I walked to the waiting room via the mail box to wait for the boarding of my next train. When I set my bags on the table which was attached to my chair they tipped over causing great laughter from the waiting passengers. I guess my act has found a room in Chicago to play.

Desert Wind 35 11/9/1996

I am back on my old friend the Desert Wind and thankfully it is not its last run. I always hate to see any train end its existence and in my train riding days only the Spirit of California, San Diego Metroliner, River Cities and Broadway Limited have ceased after I had ridden them. I will be westbound as far as Salt Lake City twice in eighteen days, so I will be looking for any differences in the scenery over that period. We left Chicago on time and headed out to Galesburg the same way I had come in just this morning. I went to the dining car to present my card for the complimentary meal and was told, "No problem, just bring it along with you!" I looked down at my MacArthur jacket and then decided since I had not worked there for four years I would remove the stitching that read "MacArthur Athletics" on it. Since I had my headphones on, I removed the lettering stitch by stitch. By dinner time, I was free of my past and still had a nice warm unlettered jacket I can now wear to McFadden without out anyone saying the "MacArthur" word.

The dining car Steward arrived during my name removal and I got a dinner reservation then showed her my card. She said, "Oh, Dave gave this to you. I will take fine care of you!" When dinner time came, the Steward took my card, signed it and gave it back to me as a souvenir. I ordered Prime Rib, Seven Up and Ice Cream. The meal was excellent. My table mates were an alcoholic with twelve months of sobriety whose son died of a drug overdose and a couple returning from Wisconsin after seeing their new grandson. They also lived in Israel for ten years so there was lots of interesting topics being discussed at the table and I always learn something sharing meals on the train. Never thought of living through a scud missile attack before. Following dinner the train curved across the Mississippi River into Iowa. Tonight's movie was called "Mission Impossible" or as I call it "Movie Impossible". We laughed at the stupidity of it and had a good time watching electric trains with no wires! I returned to my seat. At Ottumwa I had a seatmate, Ernest. He is an older gentleman just wanting to get to Las Vegas. We run into light snow at Osceola and then I retired getting a good night of sleep.

11/10/1996 Daylight shows that I am in eastern Colorado on a beautiful clear morning. I went to the dining car for some pancakes and turkey sausage before taking my seat in the lounge car. When the train turned to the southwest after passing through Akron, we view the entire Front Range of the Rockies and could see some seventy miles to the south to Pikes Peak. The conductor pointed out where places were by the mountain peaks, such as Rocky Mountain National Park. Longs Peak and where the train will pass through the Continental Divide at the Moffat Tunnel. Nearing the outskirts of Denver, I saw a railroad car company with three Via of Canada Dome Cars. If only I had the money to own one of them. Well that's a dream I one day hope to fulfill.

After backing into Denver Union Station twenty minutes late, I detrained for the usual fresh air and the mailing of today's post cards. The funny thing about sending post cards is that most of the people I send them to see me before they receive the card in the mail. With the new passengers boarding I found a seat in the lounge car on the left side. I have always sat on the right side on every other trip on this line and since I will be back on this same route in eighteen days, I will ride the right side then. We left Denver five minutes late and moved about three quarters of a mile and then sat for fifteen minutes. "Only 569.25 more miles of the old Rio Grande to go," I joked with a fellow passenger. Once on the move again, we passed a freight at Leyden then headed for Rocky and the Big Ten Curve. I was seeing deer like they were going out of style and I figured they must have come out of the mountains looking for food. Making a left hand turn towards the Big Ten, the crowd was oohing and was awing at every passing scene. There are a lot of first time train riders aboard who if they think this is so great wait until they see the wonders later in the day. Rounding the curve always makes me think of what it took to build this railroad and how it played such an important role in the history of Colorado.

We are climbing steadily and the mountainside view gave me an appreciation for the geological beauty of the mountains. We curved around Coal Creek Canyon and entered the first of the forty four tunnels on today's route. The kids began the counting the tunnel game as we continued to climb. Passing through Plainview siding, we entered one of my favorite tunnels of all time, this one carved out of the diagonally rock face of the mountain. We then curve, tunnel, curve, tunnel, etc. Slide detecting fences abound with people asking me what they are. When other passengers hear my answers, they came up with new questions of their own. It was just another trip for Chris "The Tourist Guide", but I just love it. A few miles later, the stream following the tracks had ice formed along the bank with water still running down the middle of the river's course. Winter is indeed coming to the Rockies. "Do not open the door between the cars!" as we approached the Moffat Tunnel came over the PA system and minutes later we plunged into the tunnel, the highest point on our days route and the crossing beneath the Continental Divide. After having a hot dog, chips and Seven Up along with fifteen minutes of complete darkness, we burst out into the brilliant winter wonderland with a loud chorus of ohs and ahs. Traveling about eight more miles, we came to a stop at the Winter Park-Fraser station and a smoking stop. I got off for some fresh cool Rocky Mountain air. I watched an SP coal train pass and an impromptu snowball fight between an English girl and a Scottish guy. Who said that smokers have all the fun at these stops?

They announced first call for lunch so the lounge car emptied out so I switched sides so later in the afternoon I will be on the right side for Glenwood Canyon. Too bad though that I will have to sit through Gore and Red Rock Canyon before that. Well that is tough but someone has to do it. Passing through Bond I noticed for the first time where the Craig Branch left the mainline. Now on the Dotsero Cutoff we switched sides of the Colorado River and right before entering Dell siding, I spotted a Bald Eagle sitting atop of a tree. Passengers rushed across the car to get a look at it and one passenger remarked that it's the fifth one he has seen today, even one with a dark head meaning it is a young eagle. Now I know something about Bald Eagles which I didn't know of before this trip. At Dotsero, we met our eastbound counterpart. Later, we entered Glenwood Canyon with the sunlight out of the southwest making viewing more difficult. I met a lady who had biked all the way through the canyon on the bike trail who loved every minute of it except being watched by the guards at the hydro electrical plant. I guess they must be worried about trespassers on bicycles. Sounds like a good Monty Python skit to me. I returned to my seat finding my seatmate out asleep so I got my dinner reservation before I headed for the stairs to be in place for the fresh air stop in Glenwood Springs. An older black lady looked lost, so I said, "Can I help you?" She said, "Can you take me to my garage?" I helped her back to her seat. She and her sister were being sent to San Bernardino by her brother and she had never left home before in her entire life. They were going to live with their younger brother out in California.

Having arrived in Glenwood Springs, I enjoyed the smoking stop by sitting on the grass slope working on my suntan. Boy, did the sun feel good on my skin. A freight train passed through town giving us an even longer stop but no one is complaining. Glenwood Springs is a place I would like to come back and visit sometime. Speeding west from Glenwood we are moving really well until just past Rifle where we hit a slow order before going into a siding for a parade of six freight trains. On the move again, just outside of the town of De Beque to the west, I spotted a herd of Mule Deer to the north of the tracks before we entered De Beque Canyon. I imagined seeing faces in the cliffs with a few looking like some people I know. Low light sure can create interesting shadows. Sunset occurred just as we were exiting De Beque Canyon which looked larger to me in the low light. We entered the Grand Valley in twilight and arrived at Grand Junction which allowed me to visit the hobby shop and I purchased Pentex's Southern Pacific Central Valley Mainline tape. I wished there were more train shops along the Amtrak system. About twenty-five minutes after leaving Grand Junction, they called my six P.M. dinner reservation so I picked up menu number two and ordered the same thing I had last night. While eating, we entered Ruby Canyon in the sheer darkness. It was too bad the scheduling out of Denver is not better and the train heads into the dark night of the Utah Desert. The only light shown are those of vehicles on the Interstate 70. The movie was a repeat showing of "Dragonheart" which was entertaining for a second straight night. We passed the lights of Thompson and Green River and Price before arriving at our next scheduled stop at Helper. I enjoyed the climb up the east slope of Soldier Summit before retiring for the night. I woke up briefly at Salt Lake City before falling back into a restful slumber.

11/11/1996 I was awaken at two o'clock in the morning by the Black garage looking for lady arguing with the conductor. Regaining my senses, she said, "I want off this train now! I will take a taxi cab home! I have the money to pay for it!" The conductor responded quietly, "Lady, you are in the middle of the desert, two hundred miles from any place. There are no roads here let alone taxi cabs." They go on back and forth like a tennis match and the conductor called the Assistant Conductor to come back. He told him that she had been disrupting passengers, smoking in the men's dressing room and can' no take care of herself. He decided to baby sit her and the conductor asked me for my seat. I responded with, "I am out of here!" I took my pillow and blanket going to the lounge car to find a quiet place to sleep. I stretched across three chairs and fell right asleep getting another three hours of restful sleep. I woke up thinking there is always at least one place on a train where I can get good rest. So I am happy and bright eyed as I returned my stuff to my seat. As I entered the car I found her wandering around again and navigated by her. Back at my seat, I found Ernest awake with us joking he is getting close to Las Vegas. Several passengers told me about the night they had and how she kept them awake the whole night. They asked where had I gone and why I looked so restful? I told them about sleeping in the lounge car and they made a beeline for it hoping to get some rest. I returned to the lounge car as twilight began to take hold just east of Caliente, NV which was another smoking stop. We headed into Rainbow Canyon at sunrise and I just thought DeBeque Canyon at dusk, Rainbow Canyon at dawn. Heading down through the narrow passage along Meadow Valley Wash, the Aspens were a golden brown. This was a view I had been waiting for the entire trip the beautiful Autumn colors I have always wanted to see. We left Rainbow Canyon and headed down through the Meadow Valley Wash. We made quick time of it as I had a breakfast of French Toast and Bacon. I ate at a leisurely pace and returned to the lounge car for the rest of the trip to Las Vegas, passing the time doing word fill in puzzles.

Arriving Las Vegas, I detrained to find a mail box with the dining car crew behind me going to play the slots. I played three quarters with no luck. I am lucky at train riding we joked but it was a nice diversion. Leaving Vegas I had the same train crew I had last August eastbound. The lounge car was alive with stories of wages lost. That's why I call Las Vegas, Lost Wages. The Europeans aboard met some Californians and are talking about Southern California. They asked me about the truth of what they were being told. We passed the last of the Casinos at Stateline and entered California. We started our climb up the east side of Cima Hill and reached its top with a Joshua Tree forest. I went downstairs and talked with the conductor and a biker looking chick from Australia. We discussed the tale of those three Australians from my last eastbound and completing the riding of the entire Amtrak system. We all had a good laugh at their taxi cab ride to Fort Morgan. I returned up stairs and talked with a train rider from San Diego. He was on a one region All Aboard America Fare doing Portland, Spokane, Seattle, Sacramento, and Denver. He had old timetable pages Xeroxed and magazine pages. He had a few interesting stories to share as we related our experiences. We traveled through Afton Canyon and then sped towards Yermo passing through the UP's yard there and entered the Santa Fe's mainline at Daggett for the quick trip to the smoking stop at Barstow.

People looked at the old Harvey House as well as the equipment of the new railroad museum in Barstow. We left Barstow fifty minutes late and my new friend the train rider was worried about missing 578 in Fullerton because his wife will board in Oceanside to ride with him to San Diego. Well, since I had the new Amtrak timetable in hand, I calm him down and tell him we can take the new San Diego Express from Los Angeles and he could call his wife from there. The train made very good time over Cajon Pass and arrived at the last smoking stop at San Bernardino. When the "looking for the garage" black lady went to detrain, everybody in the car rushed to the station side of the car and when they saw here off of the train, everyone then cheered about how happy they were that she was gone. I had never seen such a reaction before on a train. I saw three Inland Empire Metrolink trains sitting at the station and I could have taken that home had I thought about it. I did want to be on the first run of the new San Diego Express anyway so everything will work out to my complete satisfaction. On the run down the San Bernardino Sub, I met an older black gentleman who lives in El Monte. He is going to take Metrolink home and had never used the service before. I offered to teach him how to use the machine and show him the track his train will be on. We passed through Riverside with me remarking that the Desert Wind never comes through here while I am waiting for a Metrolink train here. We made a quick trip to Fullerton and it was announced, "Train 578 will be held in Fullerton for connecting passengers going to points South towards San Diego!" Connecting passengers detrained and left twenty-five minutes late.

Before we arrived in Los Angeles all of us who had traveled all the way from Chicago together said our good byes to each other and wished each other well. Like I had said so many times before, Amtrak's slogan should be, "Every Trip is an Adventure". I got my new friend his first Metrolink ticket and showed him the track it would be on before taking him to the baggage room so he could reclaim his luggage. We said our good byes and he sent me off with, "God Bless you and many thanks!" I went to the east end of the station, used the phone for a ride home from the Santa Ana Station.

The First San Diego Express 580 11/11/1996

I walked up to Track 8 to take the 4:13 P.M. first departure of the San Diego Express and found an empty track. Departure time came and went so I began to question my judgment about riding this train with the thought of if I had taken San Diegan 578 from Fullerton, I would be in my nice hot shower now. The end of this trip is the one thing I crave the most. Finally at 4:20 the train backed into the station and I boarded a California Coach walked upstairs into the California Dining Car finding Linda Paul, one of my favorite Lounge Service Attendant {LSA} working which proved my decision to take this train. The wait was all worth it. During my trip to Santa Ana we talked about my trip and her change of job assignments. The San Diego Express left thirteen minutes late before getting delayed for six minutes at DT Junction, bypassing Anaheim and arrived at Santa Ana twenty-three minutes late. I stepped off thinking part one complete. T-minus eleven days until the rest of this trip.

San Diegan/Coast Starlight 771/14 11/22/1996

Having worked for two weeks and just starting another JV Soccer season at McFadden, I left the team in the capable hands of Albert Cortes. He will be leaving tomorrow to get married in Las Vegas. I arrived at the Santa Ana train station on a bright sunny cool morning. I checked to see the status of my train when who do I run into than no other than Linda Paul who was waiting on a very late train 570. We walked out to the platform and talked mainly about my trip. With all the rain in Oregon and a fifty foot sinkhole on Interstate Five, I joked about what time I will get to Seattle. Either eight in the evening or four in the morning! We said our goodbyes and within minutes the San Diego Express arrived with two through Superliner coaches on the rear for the Coast Starlight with an engine behind. This is a new idea and allows anyone boarding on the San Diego Line one seat service through to the Starlight without having to change trains in Los Angeles. I've been waiting to try this since the service was announced.

The car attendant sat me at the front of the coach and I found a right hand large window seat because I always sleep better on the right side for some reason. I unpacked my suitcase, pulling out my pillows, backpack and tape carrier. Since this is my seat all the way to Seattle and am the only person in the car going all the way to Seattle, I felt right at home as we departed Santa Ana eight minutes late. The car attendant puts a hat check up over my seat but facing backwards as a way for the conductor to know my ticket had not been taken. With no sign of him, I went to the California Dining Car for a Seven Up and returned to my seat to wait for the conductor to finally take my two tickets, a Santa Ana to Los Angeles and a Los Angeles to Seattle. He took the opposite first one, a Los Angeles to Santa Ana. The rest of the trip was fast bypassing Anaheim and downtown Los Angeles stood out in the clear blue morning sky as I glimpsed it from Santa Fe Springs. We passed Linda Paul's train at Commerce and I figured out how late she would be into San Diego. The San Diegan Express pulled into Los Angeles Union Station on Track 9 right on time and within minutes the two through cars were cut off, pulled down the station leads and then coupled onto the rear of the Coast Starlight on Track 10. This was a whole lot easier than having to detrain from one train, make your way through the mob of passengers on the platform and then board the Coast Starlight. I like this new system so much better.

Coast Starlight 14 11/22/1996

The Coast Starlight left right on schedule with me in the lounge car but this time with a new twist, we were backing out of the station. I knew this was coming but I did not expect to take the route we took. I thought we would back out the way we had come in then run along the west bank of the Los Angeles River. Wrong! We backed out across the river on the former Union Pacific lead into Union Station, cleared the switch and when the signal cleared, we headed north along the east side of the LA River giving me a short section of new mileage. Was I ever surprised by this routing. The Starlight stopped at Glendale before heading into the San Fernando Valley as I put on the first of the Emerson Lake and Palmer tapes I would be listening to on this first segment of the trip. West of Van Nuys, we lost thirty minutes because the signals were out so the train had to creep along until it could find a green signal. Entering the Chatsworth Tunnel a passenger remarked about its length. I thought, "Yeah its long, but small potatoes compared to the Cascade, Flathead and Moffat Tunnels I would pass through on this trip". They are only the three longest tunnels in order in the United States. After exiting the tunnel and entering the Simi Valley, I walked to the dining car and ordered a Monterrey Chicken Sandwich and enjoyed my meal at a table with a fresh cut rose. My table companions are with a group going to Hearst Castle and were first time Starlight riders. We spent a pleasant half hour in conversation before I returned to the lounge car for the trip up the coast.

The trip along the coast from Ventura to past Surf was one of the most relaxing journeys that I had ever taken. There was no passenger traffic passing through the car and with my headphones on, it was just me, my music and the California coast line. There were offshore clouds obscuring the view of the Channel Islands, but their presence added something to the character of the trip. The waves were breaking low and the tide was out exposing the rocky shoreline. The only interruption to this was the smoking stop at Santa Barbara where I detrained to get some fresh air. I returned to the lounge for the high bridges like the one at Gaviota, the ride around Point Conception and the crossing of Vandenberg Air Force Base. I returned to my coach seat at Surf for a nap until Grover Beach where I went and bought some BBQ Chicken Wings as a snack before we arrived in San Luis Obispo. Thirty minutes late into town and with the smokers stop, I detrained to mail a post card before reboarding just as southbound Train 11 arrived in town. We departed and headed up the Cuesta Grade under a deck of low clouds. I remained in my coach seat for the twisting climb which also gave me a better view on the horseshoe curve. We climbed into the low clouds and I looked back down into the valley. The approach to the Steener Trestle came into view ten minutes after we had crossed it. Continuing upward, we passed through the tunnels and a few minutes later we passed through the summit tunnel and into the Salinas Valley's watershed.

The upper valleys were green from the late fall rainfall and the creeks were flowing nicely. I walked forward to the lounge car for a Seven Up and on the way to the lounge car stopped off at the new "Kiddie Room" on the Starlight. It has seats along the walls, video monitors and children's books which were being used by seven kids. I asked a parent how they liked it and responded with many positive comments. It gives the little ones their own area of the train isolating them from the rest of the passengers. I went to the lounge car, purchased my Seven Up and returned to my seat for the rest of the ELP tapes. The Steward came through with dinner reservations and as usual the passengers going the furthest got the last of the reservations. Traveling down the green Salinas Valley, the moon is in the eastern sky about three quarter full with black storm clouds over the ridge line of the hills. I walked to the back door of the train and watched thirty mileposts fade into the early evening darkness. Red Lights changed to green as we passed each opposite signal. On two sections of tangent tracks, I watched three signals change green and remained green with our passage. I always enjoy automatic block signals and my view was a fitting way to end the daylight part of the trip.

Before Salinas, my dinner time was called so I headed to the dining car. I ordered a New York Steak and enjoyed the entertaining dining car service which took place. This Dining car crew really worked hard but also had a good time doing it. Their attitudes just show how much they like their jobs. While eating I was the odd man out as my table mates conversations were not the least bit interesting to listen to. At least I had the rain falling in Salinas to make the meal memorable. Returning to my seat, I started another word fill in puzzle and listened to the Nice-BBC sessions tape. The Nice was Keith Emerson's band before he was in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This occupied my time through San Jose and the tape finished just as we were passing the home of the Oakland Raiders and the A's and made the final miles into Jack London Square Amtrak Station thirty minutes late. I took a fresh air stop as the smokers puffed away and I laughed to myself wondering if they would have any cigarettes left for the next smoking stop a mere five miles down the tracks. We proceeded down the streets through Jack London Square and entered the West Oakland Coach Yards where our last coach was cut off. We left on the rerouted mainline due to all the freeway construction from the Loma Prieta Earthquake which has eliminated several restricted curves so we made quick time to Emeryville, arriving twenty-five minutes early due to the padded schedule. I enjoyed some more night time air prior to departing on time when I retired for the night. I found the leg rest on my seat broken. My quick fix was to put my suitcase underneath it to support it. I was successful and I slept the entire night away.

11/23/1996 I awoke to find I was still in California but not for long as we passed through the border town of Dorris and plunged into a tunnel under the border with Oregon. I went to the dining car for breakfast of pancakes and sausage with a couple who had been to Churchill, then flew to Lynn Lake to ride the mixed train. Both of these trips I hope to make one day and a gentleman whose train riding experiences were limited to troop trains during the 1950's. We arrived in Klamath Falls thirty-five minutes early so I had time to finish my meal and then enjoyed some of the fresh Oregon air on this foggy and cold morning with temperatures in the low thirties. Leaving K-Falls on time, we traveled along Klamath Lake with the clouds obscuring the peaks to the west. We passed a southbound roadrailer train at Lentz siding before we made a double station stop at Chemult. West of town, I saw the effects of logging, with all the down trees rotting away after they had cut to get all of the prime timber. I next saw the abandoned rails of the Klamath Northern and owning a track speeder came to my mind. We passed first by Crescent Lake followed by Odell Lake as my mind turned back to the trip when I had met Carol over this route. I wished I could have her with me on another trip. I was hoping for snow over Cascade Summit but I knew with all the rain Oregon was having this wish would not be granted. The Cascade Crossing is still one of my favorite train rides. When the train started its westward descent, I went to the back door to enjoy the receding downhill views. Further down the grade, the Aspens were still in their brilliant golden leaves stage which gave me a warm feeling inside. After passing through Oakdale, we passed the Lookout Reservoir which was thirty feet below the vegetation line waiting for the winter's rain to fill it. We pulled into Eugene right on time with another fresh air stop. We left town by passing the Southern Pacific hump yard and heading north up the Willamette Valley with every stream we crossed at flood stage. The stops at Albany and Salem came and went so I returned to the rear door for the trip into Portland. With the hills and the river it was a really tight entrance into the City of Roses. We passed the Oregon City Falls of the Willamette River and I was amazed just how much water was flowing as it was so early in the rainfall season. The trees here still have some of their Fall colors to them and I figured we would be into Portland by two thirty.

Wrong! At Brooklyn Yard we stopped to throw a hand switch to cross over to run over the wrong signaled mainline into Portland. We came within sight of Portland Union Station across the Willamette River and came to a halt. It seemed that there were not enough tracks in the station to handle our movement. The conductor went on to explain that the Empire Builder {two Superliner Cars} was on Track 1, the Talgo Train was on Track 2, Track 3 had the cars for the Seahawk Football Special and on Track 4 was the southbound Coast Starlight running forty minutes late. We would sit here until his station work was done which we did for an hour. Finally the Coast Starlight passed and after fifteen more minutes we crossed the steel lift bridge and arrived at Portland Union Station.

While we were at Portland I bought some post cards as they added another Superliner coach to our train that would be dead heading to Seattle. I enjoyed a late afternoon snack of BBQ Chicken Wings and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon scenery after leaving Portland thirty five minutes late. The sky was turning dark as we crossed the Columbia River into Vancouver, WA. After the most brief stop of the whole entire trip, we sped north up the double track mainline of the Burlington Northern. I returned to the lounge car at Vader {I always add Darth to that name} and by Centralia there were traces of snow. Moving quickly, the next stop of Olympia-Lacy came and went before we ran along the shoreline of the Puget Sound. The lights of the distant islands and the high bridge were very beautiful. I can not help but notice all of the growth that was taking place. We stopped at Tacoma and made our way to Seattle ending another great trip on the Coast Starlight.

Seattle 11/23/1996

I taxied to the 6th Avenue Inn and while registering I got asked if I knew a Laura Guenzler who has an area code of 309. The name is the same as my sister but the last time I called her she was an area code of 415 so I have another mystery to solve. I watched a little television, took a nice long shower and got a good night's sleep.

11/24/1996 Waking up I had two possible plans for my day in Seattle. Plan one: Go and see the Raiders- Seahawk game or plan two: Waterfront trolley and Seattle attractions. I taxied back to King Street Station, filled out some post cards and paid the dollar fifty a bag to store my stuff for the afternoon. I walked over to the King Dome ticket office and bought a forty-one dollar ticket to the game. Happy with my seat location, I walked the covered tailgate area and looked around at all of the activities. My favorite one was the Sumo Wrestling. For a single dollar donated to charity, participants are put into inflatable Sumo suits, wigs are put on, they line up on their lines and then wrestle. Whoever wins two out of three then gets to pounce down onto the loser who is laying down on the mat. The more air the winner gets in his pounce, the louder the cheers. This was very interesting thing to watch.

Knowing I had to reclaim my bags by 4:15 P.M., I walked back to the station to time how long it would take. I decided to walk to the old Union Station across the street and I saw the Waterfront trolley waiting across the street. While waiting for it to leave, I talked to the conductor and the female operator. He had sixty days of sobriety and we both enjoy our sober lives. She sees all the same movies that I do so we laughed at Mission Impossible, Dragonheart and the like. I rode to the north end of the line and while waiting for the return trip, I saw a BN container train passing by on its way south. Heading back south, the trolley fills with Seahawk fans going to the game. Our conductor was wearing a Raiders Jacket and got comments from everyone. The mob detrained at the Pioneer Square Station and then we went into the passing track to let the other trolley pass. We then started again on our way when we came to a quick stop because the trolley wheel had come off of the wire and had to reposition the pole. I had always wondered if that could happen so I finally witnessed it with my own eyes. Returning to the King Dome, I entered the building and found my seat. It was on the ten yard line but offered a good view of the entire field. Every time the Raiders came onto the field they were greeted by a round of boos. The fans behind me came to the game on the eight car Amfleet Seahawk Football Special Train from Portland. They boarded at Kelso and were amazed that I had come from Santa Ana by train. I watched most of the Raiders 27-21 victory with Billy Joe Holbert's punting debut and the usual Raiders penalties. I left with seven minutes in the game and reclaimed my bags to prepare to board my next train.

The Empire Builder 8 11/24/1996

I have never ridden over the route from Seattle to Spokane or east of Havre eastbound. I was looking forward to seeing the Wisconsin Dells as we had passed that area on my westbound trip and I wanted another look. Of course the main scenic highlight will be the crossing of Marias Pass along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park in the Rocky Mountains. I'm standing at the door leading to the track out to my train at a very busy King Street Station with the Empire Builder, Cascade and Seahawk Football Special all to leave within a half of an hour of each other. The station had the most people I have ever seen inside of it. Within a minute of me standing there, a line formed behind me with passengers ready to board. It is nice to know I can start a line anywhere I go.

Being first in line always allows me first choice of seats. I took my usual right hand side large window seat and settled in for my journey. Across from me wearing a pair of warm up pants like I had at MacArthur is a women named Marisol. She has been traveling around the country on Amtrak and I must say she wears those pants a lot better than I did. You know, the Rod Stewart song "You wear it well!" In the seats behind me and across the aisle is a family from Ephrata. The boy's favorite form of amusement is to pull on the back of my seat and watch it vibrate. His father watches him do this for about five minutes then asked me if it was bothering me? I responded with, "No, at least you are only going to Ephrata, so I would not try to sleep until then." He said, "Thanks for being so understanding. We took this trip to Seattle to see how the boys would do on a train. As you can tell there not ready for an overnight train trip." A wise man who is an excellent father.

The train left at exactly 4:50 P.M. right on time and we plunged into the tunnel underneath downtown Seattle emerging back into daylight along the waterfront trolley route. We passed through BN's Interbay Yard and had a two minute delay at the drawbridge at the Ballard Locks. I walked back to the dining car which until Spokane is half diner and half lounge to purchase my Empire Builder Coffee Mug along with a free cup of tea. Returning to my seat we were running along the Puget Sound with the clouds hanging over the Olympic Peninsula and a beautiful blue sky fading into night with distant light on the opposite shoreline. I love the end of daylight aboard a train. I heeded the first call to dinner and was seated across from a couple who had just finished riding the Canadian from Toronto. We shared stories while we enjoyed our Prime Rib dinner. I asked them what was their most special Canadian moment and they replied, "Snow! Snow! Snow!" I returned to the lounge side of the car to get a Seven Up and found an Australian who was upset about the train already being out of things like sandwiches. He can not understand how a train can be out of things right after it started its trip. Neither can I!

We hit snow on the ground at Gold Bar as we met BN 7040W. Pass the traffic on US Highway 2 hoping to beat the icing on the road. Snow began to change from the rain at the lower elevations. Further into the mountains of Stevens Pass at Scenic, we passed our westbound counterpart running eleven hours late. I wondered how he got so late? On the move again, we entered the longest railroad tunnel in the United States, the Cascade Tunnel. People were walking between the cars allowing the diesel exhaust to enter the car warming it slightly. I wondered why they do not restrict passengers movement like they do when the Desert Wind or the California Zephyr go through the Moffat Tunnel? Emerging into a snowy night, we passed another westbound freight at Berne siding waiting for us to pass by. Descending the eastern slope of Stevens Pass I enjoyed the winter wonderland by the lights of ranches, farms and industries. We passed through the town of Leavenworth before we came to our next stop at Wenatchee. Upon departing, I laid down across my two seats and fell asleep only waking while the family from Ephrata was packing up to get ready to detrain. The next thing I knew I was in Spokane.

11/25/1996 Looking at my watch, I could tell we had been sitting here for at least an hour as my watch read 1:30 AM I fell back asleep only to be reawakened by the sound of two passing freight trains. They are so much louder when a train is standing still versus when it's moving down the tracks. I took this opportunity to walk downstairs and get some fresh air. I looked up and down the platform with there being no one in sight just the little snowflakes trying to join their brothers on the ground and the sound of another freight train passing on the opposite side of the train. I stopped by the bathroom before returning to my seat and the dream world of sleep.

I awoke at Sandpoint, ID where I took a look at my watch and timetable discovering that we were running three hours twenty-four minutes late. I wondered what had happened but knew I would find out during the day. I decided to get up and go down stairs to change into some fresh clothes putting on my Los Angeles King Wayne Gretzky jersey and black sweats. I went to the Superliner lounge car that had be added at Spokane and found a seat. The car was full for so early in the morning and a guy named Rick who was already drinking heavily asked me my name and introduced me to everyone in the car who were all in a bad mood. Every time someone new entered the car he did the same thing. I learned from this group that they had to board busses in Portland because of a freight train derailment. The Portland section of the Empire Builder never left Spokane last night and sat there throughout the day. What should have been a quick bus trip turned into a long one on account of bad weather, a major ice storm. When they arrived in Spokane, they had to wait forty five minutes and nobody told them why. I suspect since the equipment had sat all day in Spokane the cars were dead and cold and the wait was for them to warm once they were coupled onto our train. They were glad to be on the train on their way to Whitefish to ski but still in a fool mood. I guess in my former life style after a bus ride like that I would be drinking too, but thank God that I do not drink anymore. There was a lot a negative vibes in this car so I decided to do something about it. I stood up and said to all my new friends, "Excuse me, but have any of you looked out the windows as you are getting to see something that maybe only a few Amtrak passengers have seen if any!" Everyone turned to look out the windows and then turned back to look at me with everyone either saying thanks or just smiled a big grin at me. I had just cured the negativity of this car. No matter what, this will be a good trip.

There was an ice storm through here last night so there are trees and track side lines down. We were following a BN freight with SD-40-2 7177 who would have gone into the siding at Algoma to let us by but there was a tree laying across the siding so we followed him until we reached Elmira where we ran around him. Before we could do that though, we ran at restricted speed due to a block signal failure near Crossport. We continued following him until we reached Leonia where our crew had to hand throw the dual crossover switch. This whole episode added one hundred fifteen minutes to our lateness. The good news was since I've been up, I am seeing scenery passengers never get to see due to the nocturnal schedule of the Empire Builder through the panhandle of Idaho, so I raised my Empire Builder Cup in a toast to the beauty and splendor of Idaho and Montana that I'm going to get to see this morning. It is going to be a great day!

We entered Montana so already this morning I have reclaimed two states for my sobriety. Near the siding of Yakt we had more dark signals. We were following the Kootenai River and with the snowfall it was absolutely beautiful. We spotted cabins along the route and looked for smoke from the chimneys to see if anyone was home. They are located in some of the most peaceful scenery in the whole United States. Throughout the morning I have been talking with a couple from Bellingham and talked about many subjects too numerous to mention here. They were really fascinating people and I enjoyed talking to them. Marisol was playing with two children who thought I was Wayne Gretzky because of the jersey I was wearing and wanted my autograph. I told them I was not, showed them my driver's license and they finally believed me. I did give them each an Amtrak post card and wrote, "Best Wishes and may all your dreams come true! Have a great train trip. Christopher {not Wayne Gretzky} Guenzler. "I wondered if Wayne every has been mistaken for me? I seriously doubt it!

With all that happening we passed through the town of Troy and I went back to my seat to enjoy the sights of Kootenai Falls which were very impressive. We pulled into Libby our first stop in Montana and had to wait for the conductor to find a passenger who was supposed to get off. We started on the Flathead Tunnel relocation line and stopped at Fisher Creek siding to let a dead heading BN crew drop off. The weather effects are sparing no one. We proceeded to Rock Creek and waited for twelve minutes for the BN to flush out the diesel exhaust in the Flathead Tunnel. We entered the tunnel which is the second longest railroad tunnel in the United States and was constructed because of the construction of the Libby Dam which flooded the original right away of the Great Northern. We spent our time in the seven mile long bore before emerging back into daylight. We had more block signal failures between Twin Meadows and Brimstone before passing the freight that had proceeded us through the tunnel at Stryker. This running at reduced speed cost us another fifty one minutes. I had heard of having days like our train crew was having before but now I was living one of those days.

We arrived at Whitefish, MT five hours and one minute late and since it was a servicing stop I got off into the cold slightly snowing Montana air for a quick picture of our train and the ex Great Northern NW-5 on display covered with snow. I did not have to be quick as it was announced that our crew had died on the hours of service law {twelve hours} and would have to wait for a dog catch {new crew} who would be here in forty five minutes. I bought a post card of the NW-5, mailed it, toured the Great Northern Museum and used an ATM a block away. Returning to the train, it was announced that the train would be here until three P.M. but they would show the movie "Flipper" in the lounge car during the delay. Since I had never seen "Flipper" and I always had liked Paul Hogan I decided to watch it. It is a truly funny setting to watch a movie based in a tropical location while it was snowing outside. Well I enjoyed the movie and it did pass the time during this latest delay.

My hope of getting to at least Essex in daylight was granted when the new crew arrived and we departed Whitefish at 3:11 P.M., seven hours thirty six minutes late. I wondered how late we would be into Chicago. I checked my Metra schedule and realized we could be eight and a half hours late and I still could make my CNW line train out to Arlington Heights where my hotel is located for that night but that would not be until tomorrow night so I will just enjoy the rest of this day. We passed through Columbia Falls and crossed the Middle Fork of the Flathead River to our next stop at Belton {West Glacier}. We headed into the canyon and through the tunnels along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park but the clouds obscured the majestic peaks. At Nyack we passed a westbound grain train and at Paola we met the BN 1059W delaying us ten more minutes. We passed the Izaak Walton Inn with people on the porch waving as usual before we made our platform stop at Essex. We had tripped the detector west of Essex so the crew inspected the train during the station stop which took nine minutes. We entered the first snow shed east of Essex which brought back memories of my BN helper ride through it back in March of 1989. Minutes later we crossed the Goat Lick Trestle and came to the end of double track at Java West. We passed the slide area before crossing the Java High Bridge and headed up the north track at Java East. The night took over after the next set of snow sheds and blackens out the scenery which we would normally be seen in daylight. People came to me thanking me for everything and asked, "Chris, what will we see tomorrow?" I responded with, "If we do not lose any more time during the night you will not see the plains of Montana or North Dakota. We will get to see all of Minnesota which the train passes through both ways in the dark. Tomorrow is going to be a great day!"

I had a five thirty dinner reservation and ordered Prime Rib again. It is Menu 2 all over again. Tonight's movies were the "Phantom" and "Twister" but I did not watch more than ten minutes of it because a buzzer kept on going off in the lounge car. I asked a waiter from the dining car about it who came wandering in when he heard it and after talking a few minutes he admitted only hearing that sound down in the kitchen of the dining car. Guess we will have to write the car manufacturer to find out what it was. I went back to my seat for another Jethro Tull concert and fill in puzzles. As we approached Havre, I went downstairs where the car attendant could not get the door open because it was frozen. He asked me if I could and I managed to open it but scraped my hand producing some blood. I went inside the station, called home and walked back to the train to get a bandage. The temperature was five degrees with a light wind blowing. I talked to an Australian who was photographing the Great Northern Steam Locomotive on display and we talked about what else, trains! We left Havre eight hours and twenty three minutes late and it was back to music. Marisol met a young man and they were enjoying each other's company. At Malta it was a balmy twelve degrees as we left town and I fell asleep.

11/26/1996 Waking up after an excellent night of sleep. I wondered where we were and if we lost any more time while I was sleeping? I went to the dining car for a breakfast of French Toast on what appeared to be an absolutely beautiful clear day. While eating we pulled into Devil's Lake and met our westbound counterpart running on time. A woman on that train mouthed to me, "How late are we running?" I mouthed back how late we were and wished her good luck. I was amazed that she knew our schedule. My dining car waitress upon seeing number seven wished that she was on that train and not ours because it was going home to Seattle. It has been a long trip for a lot of people and we still had 742 miles to go before we get to Chicago. Being in North Dakota has added that State to my sobriety goal with only two more states to go. Again today, we are seeing scenery normally never seen by Amtrak passengers. Well it is not the Rocky Mountains but it is going to be something new. I have got my headphones on listening to a 1979 Jethro Tull concert as we crossed a flat, cold, snowy and treeless landscape. There is a lot of wheat buried under the snow waiting to come to life this coming spring. We made our last two station stops in North Dakota at Grand Forks before we turned south and ran to Fargo. From here to Minneapolis we left the ex Great Northern rails for those of the ex Northern Pacific.

East of Fargo, we crossed the Red River of the North and entered Minnesota, another state down one more state to go to complete my sobriety goal. The countryside was hilly and covered with trees as we spent the late morning and early afternoon crossing the state. There are 10,000 lakes in this state but I only see two. With typical Chris thinking it was two down and 9,998 to go. I guessed that they are all up in the northern part of the state. There is a lack of freight trains on the old Northern Pacific route so I just enjoyed my new vistas and watched the towns we passed through. We stopped at Detroit Lakes, Staples and St. Cloud. Nearing Minneapolis, the landscape became more urban in character and I saw the Skyline of Minneapolis. When the train curved I could see the skyline of the smaller of the Twin Cities St. Paul. We passed through the vast BN Northtown Yard and saw various transfer jobs of the Soo Line, CNW, UP and Wisconsin Central on the way to Midway Station.

Midway Station is the station for the Twin Cities region and as the name implies it is located halfway between the two cities. We pulled past the station before we backed into the depot. This was a servicing stop, so I ventured off of the train into the station to mail a post card. The drinkers were upset to find the station in the middle of an industrial area with no liquor stores close by. People who needed to make phone calls which was about half of the train found only three phones to use with one lady who talked on one of the phones for the entire time we were there and was still on the phone when the conductor yelled his, "All Aboard!" We boarded basically no new passengers because our schedule was protected by the running of an on time bus so we became a discharging train only except in Milwaukee where a few passengers boarded. On the move again, we left Minneapolis eight hours and five minutes late.

We started out along the east bank of the Mississippi River passing by the Dayton Bluffs an area I have seen in many books and I enjoyed our passing of a UP freight in the narrow passage. The Mississippi River was frozen and the sun was sinking low in the western sky with the frozen river reflecting the red sky in an absolutely beautiful sunset. We crossed the Mississippi River and the train stayed in Minnesota so that the old Milwaukee Road could serve the towns of Red Wing and Winona. We came to a stop in Red Wing, a town better known for tennis shoes more than anything else. The announcement came about us running so late that a complementary meal of Salisbury Steak would be given to the sleeping car passengers first followed by the coach passengers. They were showing "Mission Impossible" as we arrived in Winona. The station work came and went but why were we still sitting here, now what?

I figured that we were now eight hours and thirty-four minutes late when over the PA system came the announcement. "The bridge across the Mississippi River is out of alignment and we will be here until they can fix the bridge." When Mission was over I went to the dining car and had a decent meal of Salisbury Steak before I returned through the lounge car which was showing the "Phantom" which I skipped for another Jethro Tull concert and a puzzle. Taking their opportunity, the drinkers seeing a liquor store a block away exited the train to secure their booty. The smokers stepped off the train to puff away and the passengers going to La Crosse, WI were taxied to their station. I could see Wisconsin across the river my final state I needed but now there was talk of rerouting the train into Illinois and I would miss my final state. The conductor and I talked about my goal which he thinks is great and told me that if the train were to get rerouted, he would send me in a taxi cab which he would pay for across the river into Wisconsin to complete my goal with me getting out and yelling at the top of my lungs, "I am sober in Wisconsin and thank you Amtrak for getting me here!" while we waited for a pilot engineer. I would come back to the train and go on to Chicago on the new route.

Well at 7:50 P.M., nine hours and fifty one minutes late we left Winona and continued our journey east. We arrived at the siding before the bridge to let a westbound train by which was the first train over the bridge. The conductor came and took me downstairs and opened the vestibule window wanting me to yell my lines when we got to the east end of the bridge on his cue. When the freight had cleared we headed out onto the Mississippi River Bridge and once out of Minnesota near the east bank on cue I yelled my lines. Out of the darkness below when I had finished came, "So am I! God Bless You!" The conductor and I had a good laugh both thinking it had to be a fisherman. Two passengers from upstairs and the assistant conductor came down to shake my hand upon hearing my message. One woman remarked, "If you can be on a train ten hours late and not be drinking you must be cured!" Nice thought but the truth is I am only one drink away from being right back where I was, a drunken fool named Chris. I went to the lounge car and Mr Long gave me a complementary Coca Cola for the completion of my goal.

During the latest delay I asked my car Attendant Barbara McKay to ask Train Chief Ralph Reed to call my hotel on Arlington Heights and cancel it since we passed the nine hour thirty minute window and I would miss my last Metra train out there, that way I would not be charged for the night. As we departed La Crosse ten hours and three minutes late it seemed as if I made the right choice as Barbara returned saying, "Mission accomplished!" The Amtrak service people boarded at La Crosse and started calling in passengers connecting in Chicago by train numbers. The chief walked by telling me to make sure that I talked to these people, telling them what had happened and that they would find a room for me in Chicago. I sat in my seat listening to Jethro Tull as the train stopped in Tomah, Wisconsin Dells {so much for the daylight view}, Portage and Columbus. After Columbus I walked to the dining car for my turn with the service people. I met Marisol who was very happy with her hotel, meal and taxi vouchers. All I wanted to get was a hotel room at the same rate that Amtrak pays. Sounds easy, right?

I waited in the dining car for my turn. There is a lady getting sick to her stomach on account of some bad news she got and our chief Ralph Reed went and got her a bowl to assist her. One black lady service agent wearing no name badge called me to the table and asked me what I needed. I told her the story of the hotel reservation, the lateness that caused me to miss the last Metra train to Arlington Heights and my need for a hotel room on Chicago. She responded with, "You should not have changed your hotel reservation and you should think about what you did!" I responded with, "It was not Amtrak's fault. I am not going to charge Amtrak with a forty, fifty of whatever cab fare to get me to a hotel where I would now have to pay for two nights since it will be after midnight and I did not arrive on the day I said I would." All I need is your help in getting a room in Chicago for the rest of the night!" She then said, "Just think what you did and I am not going to help you! You might try Lounge G in Chicago as she walked away from me. What did I do? Saved Amtrak money and me about one hundred a fifty dollars in hotel rates. What did she do to help me? Nothing. Maybe she should think about that! Ralph had overheard the end of our discussion and said, "You're back at square one." I said, "I will either sleep on the floor at the station or find a cheap hotel. Everything works out if you let it!" For the first time in my train riding history, I walked away a dissatisfied customer.

I walked back to my seat as we neared Milwaukee and Marisol asked me how I did. I said, "They were no help what so ever." With a smile on my face I added "Time for a new plan!" Marisol then said, "Well whatever you do Chris it will work out. "I said, "Thanks! Too bad our journey together is about to end. I wished it would continue on". The smile on her face said it all. She wished it would not end either. Funny thing is that no one is sleeping. We are all waiting to see how this adventure is going to end. We're like a family and with every stop we say good bye to our new found friends.

11/27/1996 We arrived at Milwaukee, change crews one last time, add three passengers and left into the night at 12:05 A.M. nine hours and fifty five minutes late. We made quick time towards Chicago and once into Illinois, we entered the Metra Commuter district but with no trains at this late hour of the night we sped right through it. I developed a new plan. I remembered there is a hotel board in the station so I find a hotel and taxi to it. The idea that I going to waste my time in Lounge G so early in the morning is laughable. So with the stop at Glenview, our last one before Chicago we speed on to the Windy City arriving at Chicago Union Station at 1:30 A.M. nine hours forty minutes late. Before we went our separate ways we all said our good byes with high fives and hugs. As I disembarked and walked down the platform, I looked back at the train. It was a new record for being late and the end of one adventure but this morning I about to start another adventure.

Chicago 2 11/27/1996

I walked into the station carrying my two bags and found the hotel board. I looked and found one that looked nice and called. No answer. Who would not answer the phone, at 1:38 A.M. in the morning? I looked back at the hotel board and saw "Hotel Roosevelt. 25 Dollars a night. We pay cab fare from Amtrak Station. Ask for the Amtrak Rate." I called and asked if they had a room. "Yes!" I told them I would be over as soon as I could get a cab. He gave me the address and told me to get a receipt. On my way out of Union Station, I walked by Lounge G with no one there giving any help before I walked out onto the street to find a cab. The streets which are so busy during the day are completely empty until a couple joined me also looking for a taxi. We decided that I would walk south and they would walk north and whoever finds a taxi first would have the driver call one for the other party. So I walked to the corner of Jackson and Clinton where a black man approached me and asked if I had any spare change. I told him he could have all of my change if he could get me a cab. He said they were all over at the bus depot and would walk me there making sure nothing happened to me. I bought a guide and protection. We went about half a block when a cab came around the corner and he ran out into the street to stop it. He opened the door for me and I gave him all of my spare change. He said, "God bless you!" and I never saw him again.

In the cab I told the driver "Hotel Roosevelt. Please call a cab for a couple walking north on Jackson." he said, "They called about you! Hotel Roosevelt it is, sir" although his voice was not all that enthusiastic. We headed east until we took a right on Wabash Street driving under the "L" line like in the Blues Brothers movie something I always wanted to do. The streets are empty and as we emerged for under the rails, I saw all lit up on a blue neon sign Hotel Roosevelt and on the wall in big letters "Transients Welcome." I thought, "What have I have gotten myself into this time!" The taxi cab driver drove right pass the place thinking it was further down the street. He made a U-turn and asked, "Are you sure?" I said, "Yes" and paid the driver five dollars who gave me my receipt. I walked across the street and from out of the shadows I heard, "Sir! Sir!!" not knowing who what or why, I hurried across the street into the Hotel Roosevelt.

The lobby looked right out of a scene from a gangster movie. Behind the counter is a rough looking man with a cigar in his mouth and seated by the elevator was an old black man, the bellboy/bouncer. I asked for a room and as he talked the cigar never fell from his mouth. It reminded me of Rock Bottom, a character from Felix the Cat who could also talk with a cigar in his mouth. He asked for my driver's license and taxi receipt. I signed my name in the book just an X and the whole thing came to twenty dollars. The bellboy/bouncer took my bags and we walked to the elevator where he pushed the button repeatedly but nothing happened. He vanished so I thought I'm on the sixth floor I will just walk up the stairs as I hear the sound of jumping above me coming from the elevator shaft. Moments later, the elevator opened and he said, "Going up." Slowly we went up until we reached the sixth floor where he led me through the narrow dark hallway until we reached the southwest corner of the building. He tried to open the door but the lock was stuck so he had me try it and I opened the door. He took me into the room and wanted to show me all the features of the room. I just wanted to get to bed. I thanked him, gave him a tip and he said, "You lock that door behind me and I will make sure it is locked because you do not want any unwelcome visitors!" He exited, I locked the door he checked it and said our good nights through a locked door.

Now what did he mean by any unwelcomed visitors. I used the bathroom and saw the largest bath tub I have ever seen. I returned to the bed and looked down and saw a sixteen inch circle in the bed spread. Moths? No, it looked more like it was made with a shotgun blast. My mind starts to think like I am in an old gangster movie when they break down the door and shotgun the victim in his bed. Hold it, this is 1996 not the 1930's. Things do not happen like this anymore or do they? Maybe I should put a chair against the door? Good idea. I undress but kept my wallet in my pant pocket and climbed into bed. I laid looking up at the ceiling thinking of gangsters and all the old scenes in the movies. Tiredness finally got its hold of me and I fell asleep.

I was awoken by the sounds of trains running outside the building and shaking the room. I looked at my watch which I was still wearing. 6:40 A.M. and an idea was forming in my head. Since I am on the south side of Chicago why not taxi to La Salle Street Station and take Metra out to Joliet on the Rock Island line something I have always wanted to do then walk back to Union Station. I sprang to my feet and I decided to follow my new plan. I went into the bathroom to take a bath in the largest bath tub I have ever seen or sit in. I turned on the faucet. Good hot water now where is the drain plug? There is not one. No problem, I went to my bag, grabbed a dirty sock and stuffed it in the drain. It works!

Within minutes, the tub is half filled so I climbed in but had a thought, "How can I wash my hair?" I climbed out, looked around the room and found a plastic drinking cup. Perfect, I thought as I climbed back in and took a nice long relaxing bath even washing my hair in the process. One thought came to my mind as I bathed about this bath tub, "They must have made a lot of homemade gin in this bath tub!" I climbed out of the tub and looked out of my windows at the south side of Chicago and the elevated trains. The room had an excellent view of the streets below. I dressed and packed up to leave with Alice Cooper's Lace and Whiskey album playing in my head and I feel I am playing a part in a gangster movie. This room does look like a movie set and I guessed I did live out a little American History during my stay here plus I did get to live out a gangster fantasy but where are all the young women? Not taking a chance on the elevator. I walked down the stairs with the tiniest steps I have ever been on. Down six flights to the lobby where I checked out to a woman with a cigar hanging out of her mouth. Mrs Rock Bottom? I returned the key, wanted a taxi called and asked, "What is so historic about this hotel?" The lady responded, "You know that room you had last night. Al Capone used to stay in that room when the heat was on because of the view the room offers." I didn't ask about the bed spread. I waited in the lobby for the cab thinking true story of a selling point of the hotel? My taxi pulled up and I left the Hotel Roosevelt.

The taxi cab driver started a conversation with me on the way to La Salle Street Station by saying, "I quit drinking hard liquor thirty eight years ago, beer six years ago and now I am trying to give up wine. He had five days in his quest and I told him of my 679 days of sobriety which he congratulates me on and I do the same with his new start. He pulled up a side street next to the La Salle Street Station and after I paid the cab fare I walked to find the station. I saw a crowd of people walking towards me and I knew they had come from a commuter train so I made my way up the stairs and found the ticket office/waiting room. I bought a round trip ticket to Joliet and picked up some extra Metra Rock Island timetables for my Orange County Railroad Historical Society members.

Metra 503/508 11/27/1996

I remember a song title, "Take a ride on the Rock Island Line" or at least that line from the famous song when I was a kid and always wanted to ride the Rock Island. The Rock Island is dead and gone as it just could not survive bankruptcies and merger attempts by its neighboring roads. It could not join Amtrak because it did not have the money to join so it ran the two passengers trains to Rock Island and Peoria for a few years in the seventies until the government allowed it to discontinue all services except the Chicago to Joliet commuter service. The Rock's freight lines were either abandoned or sold off to neighboring railroads and new short lines. Metra then took over the running of the commuter trains the reason why I am here today.

I walked on the platform at La Salle Street Station, turned and looked back to where the Station building I saw in pictures once stood is now a modern skyscraper. I boarded the second car of an eight car train and right at 7:45 A.M. the train departed with me traveling the same track as the Golden State, Rocky Mountain Rocket and all of their Rocket brothers and sisters on this route. We crossed the St. Charles Air Line and picked up speed as we headed directly south from Chicago. At Gresham we left the Mainline for the Suburb Line and from Brained to Prairie Street we made stops every three or four blocks through Beverly Hills and Morgan Park acting more like a trolley than a commuter train. These are the closest stops together that I have ever ridden on a train as we made all eleven. We passed through the remnants of Rock Island's Blue Island Yard being torn up although Metra has a small facility on the site. At Blue Island, I saw a Metra Electric Train on the ex Illinois Central branch waiting for its departure time. It is another route I have not ridden but will in the future. We crossed the Calumet River then over the tracks that make up the Blue Island Crossings of three major railroads. We are now passing southwest through Tinley Park, Hickory Creek which are relatively new stations to Mokena where we traveled almost west through some forest to New Lenox before we arrived at Joliet at the crossing of the Santa Fe and Illinois Central {Southern Pacific}. I enjoyed the fresh air on this cold breezy Wednesday morning shuffling my bags which I packed in a hurried manner to a more suitable arrangement. I reboarded for the quick uneventful trip back to Chicago, watching the car fill up with passengers and the conductor doing his work.

Chicago 3 11/27/96

Arriving back in Chicago, it was living up to its name as the Windy City. I started my walk back to Union Station by crossing the street walking up the sidewalk and crossing the next street. Half way up the block I looked into a building seeing a hallway all the way through it. I cut through the building getting me out of the wind. As I'm walking, a guy seeing my baggage asked me where I was going. I said, "Union Station," and he responded with, "I will show you how to get through the buildings except for the Streets and the Chicago River." I followed him and learned he worked for the FDA and really did not like his job. We parted company, he wished me a nice trip and I headed across the Chicago River into Union Station. I went to the food court for some postcards and two Gold Coast Char Dogs for lunch as I had skipped breakfast so let us call this brunch. Looking at my watch and realizing I had time to kill, I decided to go out to Hanover Park on the Milwaukee West Line of Metra.

Metra 2213/2236 11/27/96

With a set of tickets in hand, I boarded the Metra train which of course left on time. Past the Milwaukee Line's Metra Coach Yards with its trains all being serviced for the afternoon Commuter rush. We headed off the Northwest Line on the Milwaukee mainline. We did not stop at Mars a familiar name if you have ever eaten a Mars Chocolate Bar. We passed the Soo Line Yard at Bensenville with many trains getting ready to depart for distant points on the Soo's system. We stopped at Woods Dale, Itasca, Medinah, Roselle, Schaumburg before I detrained at Hanover Park. Before I left the train I thanked the conductor for all of his hard work and told him what a Metrolink conductor does and we laughed at what an easy job they have as I climbed off of the train. The wind was blowing strong and hard. I went into the depot and wrote seven postcards. The hotel story got the most space as I want people to know about it back home. I went inside to wait for a train from Big Timber. It arrived right on schedule and I was off on my non eventful trip back to Union Station. I mailed the postcards, stopped at the ATM and went into the waiting room to wait for my next train.

California Zephyr 5 11/27/1996

I am finding out that Amtrak Station Personal cannot ever tell you which gate to line up for to board a train and today was no exception. We as the passengers were told one thing and then had to do another. This is where I met Ralph who was on his first series of Amtrak trips having left Pittsburgh last night. He is returning to Nevada to sell off his property there since he and his wife have moved to eastern Ohio. They announced the boarding of the Zephyr at the wrong gate of course so I told Ralph to follow me. We back tracked into the rear waiting area circled around to the south being first in line to board. Ralph was very impressed. We walked down the platform and boarded the Zephyr going upstairs with each of us taking a separate seat. The car filled up and when a couple of newlyweds were looking for a seat together, I asked Ralph to join me and he happily agreed. With everyone seated, the California Zephyr departed on time.

This is the one day of the week which the Zephyr runs but does not carry the Pioneer on its rear end to Denver so there was no chance of getting a Pioneer Coffee Mug for my collection. Now is that a reason to take another trip. After having our tickets taken, I introduced Ralph to a Superliner lounge car. We sat down and waited for service to commence with Ralph sitting in amazement at the car and the view it provides. I told him, "If you think this is great just wait until you see the Rockies from it tomorrow!" I got us a five thirty dinner reservation and you guessed it, it is menu two again so it is another Prime Rib dinner. Right before dinner the train made an emergency stop at Princeton almost hitting a car. I still have not hit a car or killed a person in a vehicle yet and pray I never do. While eating during our stop in Galesburg, I spotted the steam engine there all decked out in Christmas Lights. Tonight's movie was Dragonheart which I would not watch because I am sick of it so I continue the Jethro Tull marathon. We crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa and continued west. At Ottumwa, IA I got off for some fresh air at Radar O'Reilly's hometown of MASH fame. Upon departure, I returned to my coach seat and fell asleep.

11/28/1996 I awoke and found I was back in Colorado on Thanksgiving Day 1996. I went downstairs to change and on my return I found that Ralph was awake. He suggested that we go the lounge car for some coffee for him and tea for me. He couldn't believe how peaceful I looked when I was asleep and I explained that it took me until after I was sober to master my technique. I told him of the various positions I would try to sleep in during my drinking nights and we agreed it would make a good comedy video someday. We stopped at Fort Morgan as I took that moment to recall the Australians adventure in the taxi cab to get here. The things I used to do to get a drink. This morning began with a quiet red sunrise and another clear morning exposing the whole Front Range of the Rockies again but the main difference was a full moon at about a forty five degree angle in the western sky. I went downstairs for another cup of tea and heard the tales of an anxious black woman who was causing problems last night who got into it with our lounge attendant using racial slurs to a member of her own race then challenged him to a fight. Our Attendant kept his cool, avoided the conflict and summoned help. After two more cups of tea we arrived in Denver twenty minutes early.

Ralph guarded our lounge seats while I got off to mail postcards. I returned and we swapped places so he got an extra long smoking break as the car filled up with people. Ralph returned and was amazed at all of the people and was grateful to be traveling with me because I know the ropes of riding the rails so well. My car attendant walked by and I asked about the Denver loadings. "One hundred eighty-seven passengers on in Denver but after Glenwood Springs there will be only fifty-eight passengers heading west!" he said. Shades of the old Rio Grande Zephyr and that memory surged into my head.

We left Denver on time and retraced my routing of sixteen days ago with two exceptions - a different cast of characters and I am sitting on the right hand side of the train. Heading into the Front Range there was no snow until Tolland but Ralph's keen eyes spotted something I had never seen before, mine car tracks on the north side of Upper Boulder Creek. There's more snow as we headed into the Moffat Tunnel but no ohs and ahs as we burst into the winter playground of the Winter Park Ski Area. At Fraser a ski group occupying the last coach took a little time to unload so I made a snowball and threw it in memory of the British Isle couple from my last trip. The canyons and river were as beautiful as ever with fourteen spotting of bald eagles. We met our westbound counterpart at Dell and thirty minutes later passed through a snowy Glenwood Canyon but only in places where the sun does not shine which is most of the canyon. It really added to the character of it and I saw the canyon in a completely different light. Passengers detrained at Glenwood Springs and we left on time with a fairly empty train.

There are no slow orders today so we did maximum track speed and for that matter there have been no freight trains as today is Thanksgiving Day. What a way to spend Thanksgiving on a train on Amtrak's most scenic route stone cold sober, I'm most thankful for that. We arrived at Grand Junction at sunset, called home getting the answering machine and reboarded the train to leave. I returned to my seat as the train started to move and as I was looking out the window I saw a blonde woman jumping up and down. The rear brakeman spotted her, stops the train and she boards our car. Up the stairs she came, embarrassed, spots me and told me what had happened. She was in the station's bathroom, heard the whistle and came out seeing the train was moving. I comforted her with a white lie saying I have seen hundreds of people do just what she did. She smiled and walked off. The truth is I had never seen anyone ever do that before.

Tonight's dinner was a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, turkey with all the trimmings but for me and my unique tastes it was turkey, gravy and potatoes making for one fine meal for Chris. I was really thankful it was not Menu 2 again. This was Ralph's first dining car experience and he was totally impressed with the food and the service. Dinner once more was in the darken Ruby Canyon so the idea of making a trip east is in my mind again to see it all in daylight. Out across the Utah desert it was "Mission Impossible" again until Helper where I had another chance for fresh air due to our excellent running. Upon departing I fell asleep across two seats as everyone in our car now had their own set of seats. I awoke at Salt Lake City to find the conductor loading passengers into the car we were all sleeping in and not in the two empty cars. I went downstairs and stepped off into a night of rain turning into sleet which felt really neat on my skin. I fell fast asleep again and after passing to the south of the Great Salt Lake then crossing the salt flats, we exited Utah into Nevada riding on the former Western Pacific rails. I slept through only one station stop of Elko which is the longest point between stations on the entire Amtrak system at 263 miles from Salt Lake City to Elko.

11/29/1996 Waking up, I changed and found Ralph up so we went to repeat our coffee/tea ritual but unfortunately our LSA is under the weather with a head cold and was late in arriving so we sat enjoying the scenery with me learning a little bit more about Nevada. I tried for an hour to think of the town name of Gerlach but could not remember it until I told the story of the UP 3985 trip going to San Jose. There was snow on the mountains and we passed through a part of the valley where the floor is all covered with the white stuff. The sunrise made the landscape absolutely beautiful as we sped across it. We made our station stop at Winnemuca and passed by the Rye Patch Reservoir before a brief stop at Lovelock. Since just west of Wells we have been riding the rails of the Southern Pacific and finally have passed a freight train. We had been following the Humboldt River and reached its end at the Humboldt River Sink. The train passed through Fernley and Truckee River and we followed it to begin our westward climb of the Sierra Nevada. We passed the famous Mustang Ranch of "Ladies of the evening" and within thirty minutes we arrived at Sparks thirty minutes early. It is our five hundred mile servicing stop so I detrained to enjoy the morning air and bought a USA Today to read about the O.J. Simpson Trial going on back in Los Angeles.

I returned to the lounge for the short trip to Reno, Ralph came to say goodbye and thanked me for making his trip so unbelievably fantastic. He hoped we would meet again one day on the train in the future. At Reno the train filled up again with a couple with a child from Brazil sitting next to me. This was their first train trip and asked me where the scenic highlights were. We talked music and being from San Paulo I asked if they liked Queen. The father told a story of riding his bicycle to the concert there and thought it was the best show he had ever seen. I shared the story of my first Queen concert at the Long Beach Arena in 1977 and we all agreed that Queen was one of the greatest rock n roll bands of all time.

We followed the Truckee River, passed through the small town of Verdi and entered back into California. The lounge car was now full but I sneaked down to get my usual lunch of a hot dogs, chips with a Seven Up returning to my seat just as the train crossed the Truckee River. We twisted and turned up the canyon through Boca a favorite location of train photographers before we reached Truckee our next station stop. We headed up Cold Steam Canyon, reversed direction and plunged into Tunnel 13 before getting a fantastic view. There was a narrator of Railroad History from the California State Railroad Museum giving commentary so I just sat back, listened and enjoyed the ride today. We reached the end of double track and soon entered the Summit Tunnel 41 and crested Donner Pass within its darkness. The Southern Pacific single track parts of Donner a few years ago so I wanted to ride back over it to see the difference.

Heading down the grade through the limited snows of maybe six inches and a big difference from 1983 on my first trip over Donner Pass to ride the Rio Grande Zephyr when the mountain was covered with thirteen feet of snow. We passed through Norden followed shortly by Soda Springs and descended along the ridge line. We're back on double track with the views of the Sierra's perfectly clear. The highway was far below us as we twisted along the ridge line and near Troy after a few of the remaining snow sheds we reverted back to single track. Across the valley I saw a fire lookout station on Signal Peak. Dropping further, we passed through Yuba Gap, ducked underneath the freeway and stayed on the north side of it until we crossed under it again at Emigrant Gap. The snow may be long gone but from reading books I learned it came down quick and hard with a person better being prepared in advance for its arrival. Near Midas, we passed the location of the former view point of the American River two thousand feet below where passenger trains once stopped to give passengers a view of the gorge. We cut around the ridge at Alta before passing through the Gold Rush Towns of Dutch Flat, Gold Run and Magra. At Cape Horn we made a one hundred and eighty degree turn going through Tunnels 33 and 34 as our eastbound counterpart passed by. We crossed the high bridge at Long Ravine and just as we arrived at Colfax we lost HEP. {Head End Power} We sat in Colfax for fifty minutes as they tried to fix the problem and meal service in the dining car was suspended until the problem was fixed. There was a Nevada County Railroad steam locomotive on display here so during our delay I walked the train trying to get a good angle for a picture and then went downstairs to a vestibule window opened it and clicked the shutter away. Being restless, I walked the train to the rear door remembering my only other westbound trip when the brakeman opened the rear door and I shot pictures all the way from Norden to Roseville. They may have single tracked part of Donner Pass but they can never take away the beauty and excitement of a trip over "The Big Hill."

Departing Colfax forty-five minutes late we continued our descent down through the foothills to the Sacramento Valley. The tracks split later crossing over one another before we travelled through Auburn passing the restored SP Depot there. Crossing over Interstate 80, I looked out to the north and saw the Sutter Buttes. Boy is it a clear day. After exiting a cut I could see downtown Sacramento forty miles away with the Coast Range standing further away. That is what I call a clear California day. We rejoined the other track and within minutes we stopped at the Roseville newly built depot. We passed the yards there with Union Pacific signs everywhere. When they merge a railroad they try to get rid of all of the previous traces of the former but there is still a lot of SP box cars to be found so the name lives on. We paralleled the Sacramento Light Rail Line for a few miles before we crossed the American River, traveled along the north edge of downtown Sacramento and arrived at the depot where I detrained. Thanks Amtrak for another wonderful crossing of Donner Pass.

Sacramento 11/29/1996

My brother Bruce met me and we drove to his house. He asked me when I was leaving because he had to be in Bakersfield to oversee the passenger loadings on Sunday so he had to be on the last train south tomorrow. I said that would be fine and told him the tale of my trip until we reached his house. Karla fixed me a turkey dinner, Adam beat me in backgammon and Eric showed me his video game skills. We watched Independence Day and I slept on the lower bunk of a bunk bed.

11/30/1996 Eric, Adam and I the next morning went to see "Jingle All the Way" which I enjoyed. Returning to their house I packed up and prepared for my next trip. Bruce and his family took me to In and Out {did that taste good} before the two of us drove to the Sacramento Amtrak Depot.

San Joaquin 718 11/30/1996

This trip will be a bus/train/bus home to Santa Ana. I put my John Cougar on my headphones as we cruised down the highway. At Stockton the train was late but that was ok with me as it will cut my layover time down some place. The train arrived with Bruce and I boarding the cab car taking two seats across from each other. After a Seven Up, I decided to get some sleep. Bruce gave me some ear plugs so I took my bags placing them between the seats and slept my way down the San Joaquin Valley. I only woke when the stations were called out over the PA otherwise the next thing I knew we had arrived in Bakersfield. Bruce and I said our good byes, I boarded the bus and fell fast asleep and the next thing I knew we were pulling off the freeway to Union Station in Los Angeles. After a twenty minute layover, we made the quick miles down Interstate Five to Santa Ana where I debussed, found a taxi to take me home, climbed our fence on account of not having my keys and was fast asleep in my bed by 3:45 A.M. with another trip done as I started to dream of another.