I got up about 6 AM to see if I could get my borrowed laptop computer working again. When I powered up, I got the dreaded "Death Chimes" with a screen containing columns of garbage characters. Fortunately for me I was able to "tap" it in the right place to get things going again. Something inside the computer must be loose. Since I don't have any tools (forgot my Leatherman Tool), I have no means to open the computer up. The computer is a Macintosh PowerBook145B and I'm borrowing it to be returned to my sister the way I got it--hosed (kidding!). If the computer wouldn't work properly, I was planning to ship it home as I didn't intend on hauling "dead weight" across the country! Fortunately the computer worked fine and I was able to complete the first segment of my trip report. After breakfast at Denny's, I had no problem checking out of the Vagabond around 9:30 AM. From there, I stopped by the Sacramento Amtrak station to put my baggage into a locker before heading off to the California State Railroad Museum, the biggest railroad museum in North America! The museum was everything that I had heard about it and more. I loved the F units and I got many photographs of them. There was one steam locomotive that resembled a Union Pacific Big Boy but it was a "Cab Forward" locomotive! Being in a huge hurry, I forgot to pick up brochures along the way. I did, however, stop into the museum general store and purchase some postcards.
I arrived at the Sacramento station in plenty of time to retrieve my luggage and make my way to the platform before my train arrived. Train #6 arrived 15 minutes early so this looked to be a good start to my trip to Denver. In my room there were two pillows, two coat hangers and a passenger Safety card. There were no fresh flowers, route guide or toiletries kit. Later on, I took a walk to the Sightseer Lounge and grabbed a route guide and schedule to jot arrival/departure times from each station. There was no coffee, soft drinks or fruit juices available either. Maybe the attendant brewed coffee at Emeryville and the pot had been finished already? While I was settling into my room, a couple tried to enter the room next door to mine, room #8. A young man, probably college age, was occupying it like he owned the place. My car attendant, Al, came up and asked what the confusion was all about. After Al looked at the young man's ticket, he said: "Sir the Coaches are three cars back." Wow, that's either a very inattentive individual or someone with a lot of gall. "Reserved Coach" is printed in large BOLD font. He made a quick retreat and acted like he didn't know any better. Did he?
As soon as the conductor collected my ticket, the first call for lunch was made and I then headed for the dining car. It's a good thing I did because I was the LAST PERSON they seated before beginning a very long waiting list. When all was said and done, the dining car served over 300 lunches which took up to nearly 4:00 PM to complete! A senior citizens group had boarded in Emeryville and was traveling to Reno for an overnight gambling trip. For lunch I had the Soup and Salad with a dinner roll, Diet Pepsi--uh, diet cola-- and cherry pie for desert. The dining car on this train was using Plasticware except the soup spoons! The reports were true about Amtrak's dining car "service reductions." There were three choices for lunch and four for dinner. Sitting with me was a son and stepmother traveling to Denver. The other gentleman was traveling to Chicago from Emeryville. Since all of them had Internet access, I passed out my "business card." Actually, it was a piece of 20# paper with my name, email and web URL! I generated about 40 of them before I left. It sure saved time just handing out pieces of paper rather than fumbling around for a pen and paper. Trying to write legibly on a moving train is a challenge so this proved advantageous.
After lunch, I went into the Sightseer Lounge to view breathtaking Donner Pass. The weather turned pretty nasty for awhile with heavy snow fall and visibility down to 100 feet. As we descended closer to Truckee, it started to clear up. I shot an entire roll of film on Donner pass alone. Just think of how many rolls I would have shot if it had been a clear day! After cresting the summit at Emigrant Gap, the canyon scenery switched to the opposite side (left-hand) of the train. There were no available seats so I went back to my room which was on the left side. There was less "reverse reflection" off the windows in my room so I could get real nice photos of Donner Lake, Truckee river and our P42 locomotives rounding the horseshoe curve at the east end of Donner Lake.
Just before our arrival at Truckee, I went downstairs to see if the attendant was going to open up the door so I could jump off for a few photos. He never came down, but when I looked out the south window of the vestibule, I saw a huge Rotary snowplow with SIX SP C-C units running it! I had no warning that it would be there and I couldn't get my camera ready in time to photograph the west end of the Rotary. Fortunately, there was a duplicate Rotary on the opposite end of the consist which was RUNNING! I got off about five shots of it before it went out of the narrow photo range of the window. I had my shutter set to the highest allowable speed for the lens I was using in order to get clear photos of this fast action. Just after passing the huge Rotary, there was an enormous line of railfans armed with tripods, still and video cameras shooting the Rotary as it was preparing to clean off a siding nearby west of the Truckee depot. Wow!
I have visited Reno many times before but never by train. It was different experience to roll through the middle of town surrounded by all the casinos. I briefly stepped off for a couple of photos.
This is a service stop for the California Zephyr so I had about ten minutes to run up to the locomotives for photos. I had finished two rolls of Seattle Filmworks film, filled out the order form and had the film mailer all ready. Now if I could only find a mailbox! The engineer of this train from Sacramento to Sparks was Phil Gosney, who also can be seen on the Coast Starlight between Oakland and Santa Barbara! I guess in his spare time he "qualified" for this run, or this is his permanent route? I tried to talk to him but he had already left the locomotive when I got off in Sparks. The only reason I knew it was him in the first place was when he obtained the only DTC block, the Reno Block when he repeated his name to the dispatcher. Small world! Mr. Gosney was recently on a TV show called "Friday night."
More technical problems with my borrowed computer. I would be typing along and the computer would freeze up for no reason. Knowing this, I saved my work every...paragraph instead of the usual 10 minutes. One time, I attempted to save my work and the computer froze in mid-save, trashing the file completely. Makes me wonder why I even brought it along. Knowing how much trouble it has given me, I am beginning to regret it until now. For the past few hours, it's been stable. I noticed that the computer was very hot underneath it. Perhaps the voltage on this train is higher than usual? My scanner AC adapter and the back of the scanner were extremely hot as well. I've seen computers act "funny" when the CPU becomes overheated. To help combat this, I put a folded newspaper underneath it (no, it's not hot enough to start a fire) to act as a heat sync. I already tried elevating the whole computer off the plastic table but it didn't help. When the bottom of the newspaper gets warm underneath, I simply rotate the newspaper so the unit rests on a "cool side" of the paper. When it gets warm under the paper again, I repeat the process. I used this same laptop on my trip last year and it never ran warm like this. Perhaps it's the current generated by the new P42 Genesis locomotives?
For dinner tonight I had the "Chicken Kiev" which came with corn, rice, baked potato and more Pepsi--er, cola. I'm getting tired of cola so I'll switch to 7-UP or slice for awhile. Metal silverware was used but plates and cups were all Plasticware. The food was excellent though! I sat with a very nice couple from Chicago who were riding the train for their vacation--JUST LIKE ME! They took the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, caught an Amtrak Thruway bus to Bakersfield and rode a San Joaquin train to Sacramento to meet this train. I've met at least six other people who took the same San Joaquin train as I did due to a washed-out Coast Starlight. So far, I've handed out 10 personal "papers" with my email address. Hopefully some of these people will write when they get home. A British exchange student on his way to New York City sat next to me. His home is in London so I talked with him for awhile and told him that I had lived there for one college quarter.
I was pretty tired from all the running around today so I decided to go to bed. Al was turning in at 8:30 PM so he offered to make up my bed.
I actually was awake for these events! I was amazed at all the snowfall in Salt Lake City--approximately 18 inches on the ground. I had skied in Utah many times with my high school ski club and only once have I ever seen so much snow.
I awoke around 6 AM to clouds and lots of snow on the ground as we began to climb the mountains east of Provo. I was drifting in and out most of the night so I'd say I only got a total of 3 hours of sleep. This was all new territory to me and I really wanted to see it. Tomorrow when I continue on to Chicago, I will probably sleep soundly for I have traveled over that territory before and the scenery is quite boring. For breakfast, I had the eggs order with hash browns and a biscuit. I wanted sausage but the waiter messed it up. It was no big deal so I took the meal as it was. I found it insulting to drink coffee out of paper cups in the dining car! When I returned to my room, I got out my Coast Starlight coffee mug and downed two more cups of coffee from the pot of coffee that Al brewed! Actually the mug is hard plastic and the Coast Starlight logo is on the front. When the one coffee pot ran out, Al closed up shop for the DAY. Oh well. I still plan on tipping him $5 as he was friendly enough.
The best views came while I was at lunch. This portion of the trip follows the Colorado River for over 200 miles! Today I had the Beef Burger along with potato chips. Pickles, lettuce and tomato on the side. Same as before, plastic plates but real silverware. I wonder if they wash those plastic plates? They seem heavy duty enough.
There weather is clearing a bit as we headed eastward. Still lots of snow remains on the ground and I can feel the train descending. Looks like I'll be at dinner when we reach Moffat Tunnel. I wanted to get a photo of the West Portal as the train locomotives were entering it. The tunnel is still an hour away and it will be dark by then. My dinner reservation at 5 PM is going to be called soon and I will begin packing up my gear for the arrival into Denver. I sure hope my friends will be there. I phoned them yesterday from Sacramento and left a message with a rather "out-of-it" sounding roommate who couldn't care less. Actually, I think I woke her up--at 12:30 PM her time! I will finish this if I get time in Denver but I doubt my friends will let me sit down for even a second! Also, I have to work on cleaning the built-in mouse on this computer. It's not working too well.
It looked as though we were going to get into Denver over an hour early. Since the train must back into the station off the "wye," it took nearly 45 minutes to reach the depot from entering the city limits. Nevertheless, we were early and my friends Christine and Clark were standing on the platform waiting for me. I had a nice visit with my friends and I wish I could see them more often. Christine and Clark are former co-workers at the nursery at which I'm currently employed. The following morning, I slept until nearly 10 AM and had a nice hot shower. Most of the day was spent just driving around seeing the sights of Ft. Collins and later on, Denver.