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So the day has finally arrived

So the day has finally arrived.Itís Wednesday April 25th, the departure date for Chris Guenzlerís Million Mile Trip.For the last several weeks I had been working on getting the T-shirts I designed for the trip ready and I finally got to see the final product on Tuesday.I must say they came out really nice.Since I had to work today, I had my assistant manager pickup the hockey jersey I had made up for Chris on her way into work.Iím glad that worked out otherwise I donít know how I would have been able to pick it up.

 

I left work at about 3:30pm and went home to get my stuff.My dad drove me down to Knollwoods for the pre-boarding celebration.The turnout was great, around 30, and I think we overwhelmed the Knollwoods staff.I had the turkey burger with fries and got a piece of cheesecake for the train.We then headed for the platform to wait for the eastbound Southwest Chief.

 

Jonathon Ortiz and I were the only ones riding in coach so we got inline to board near the back of the train.There were 3 coach cars on this particular trainset so we went to the first one.We were informed we needed to go to the next car so we got inline for that car.As we were about to board the car attendant tells the couple in front of us that they need to go to the last car and promptly closes the door.Jonathon and I go to the back car and get inline only to be greeted by the same car attendant.We inform him of our destination of La Plata and in a very irritated voice says ďyouíre supposed be on the next car!ĒWe informed him that he kinda shut the door on us at that car but he didnít seem to think it was his fault.He led us upstairs with all of our luggage, through the car, and into the correct car.I told him there were two of us and we would like to sit together so what does he do?He seats us with other passengers!Now I still have my large piece of luggage that wonít fit in the overhead storage so Iím thinking that I have to haul this thing downstairs.Along came Sally to the rescue!She let me put the bag in the space behind one of the seats.The conductor came by and I asked him if Jonathon and I could sit together.Sally immediately called to him and said she had two empty seats together up near the front of the car.So went the start of our journey.

 

On board we had the manof the trip Chris Guenzler,Steve Grande and his wife, Carl Morrison, Chris Parker, Andy Smith, Anton, Larry, Winston Walker and his wife, Tony, Richard Hamilton and two guys videotaping the trip to La Plata and the festivities there.They were all up in the sleepers so only Jonathon and I were back with the common folk.After our tickets were taken we made our way up to the lounge car to join with the others.In the lounge car I met John Kuderna who had in fact been at Knowlwoods for the party.Apparently he had been following Chrisí story and wanted to ride along with us and surprise Chris with and invitation to check out a house in Galesburg IL that he and several other railfans had bought and fixed up.There will be more on this later.John was going to continue on to Galesburg instead of getting off at La Plata.Not much else happened that evening.I enjoyed my cheesecake while going through the Cajon Pass and attempted to get some sleep back in my coach seat.I never really sleep well in coach.Iím 6í3Ē and just canít seem to find a comfortable position to sleep in.The first night is especially rough.

 

Thursday morning I awoke in Flagstaff AZ.The last time I took this trip we hit Flagstaff in the dark both ways so I was relieved that I was able to see it in the daylight this time.I joined Jonathon in the lounge car and waited for the dining car to open for breakfast.We finally got into the dining car and I enjoyed a tasty breakfast consisting of French Toast and coffee.Most of us congregated in the lounge car after breakfast and continued our way through Arizona and into New Mexico.We had lost some time during the evening but we were making it up at a fast clip.In what seemed like no time we arrived in Albuquerque.

At Albuquerque we made our usual run to Cold Stone for a little ice cream.I was hoping to sample a burrito from the local vendor who is usually on the platform but I was not in luck this day since he was not there.We hung out on the platform for a bit before I decided to go back to my coach seat for a nap.Before long Jonathon joined me looking a bit tired. I went forward to the lounge car to check out Lamy and Las Vegas and didnít see Jonathon for several more hours.He was out! He finally made his way forward as we went through Apache Canyon and we made a 5:15 dinner reservation in the dining car.We were seated with a couple from the central valley in California.Like us they too enjoyed riding trains.They had noticed the t-shirts that most of us were wearing for the trip and were wondering what kind of group we had.We explained about the trip and Chrisí million rail miles and they were very impressed.

 

After dinner we headed back to our coach seats and Jonathon showed me the train simulator on his laptop computer.I then pulled out my laptop and subjected him to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.Itís always fun to expose a Monty Python virgin to this film.After the movie I was beat so I dozed off for a bit.Somewhere in Kansas we picked up a group of about 10 that were seated in our car that were headed to Kansas City.When I awoke we were pulling into Kansas City.In the large railyard you go through before reaching the station I saw parts of airplane fusilages sitting on railcars.Iím guessing these were heading to to the local Boeing plant.At the station, Jonathon and I went inside. This was my second visit to Union Station in Kansas City and it was just as enjoyable as the first.This is a beautiful station and harkins back to the grand days of railroad travel.We met up with Chris out on the platform to get the plans for the moment he would hit one million miles.The location would be just past the station while crossing over the Missouri river.I went back to my seat to get my cameras and the jersey that Chris would be putting on to celebrate the event.We all met in the employee lounge of the transition sleeper.As we crossed the million mile point, Chris donned the jersey, held up his signature can of Coke and made a number one sign with his finger (not the middle one!) to signify the passing of this milestone.After the celebration I went back to my seat to ride out the rest of the journey.Chris joined Jonathon and I back in coach and rode with us to La Plata.Since the platform isnít that big in La Plata yet, they have to make two stops Ė the first for the sleeping car passengers and the second for the coach passengers.Chris decided it would be better to detrain from coach so we would all be able to enjoy the ceremonies at the station.Once the train made the second stop, Jonathon and I quickly got off and got our cameras ready for Chrisí detraining.There was a band playing and the press was there too!After the band ran out of steam and the pictures were taken we loaded up our luggage and ourselves into the transportation provided by the Depot Inn and Suites.Or so we thought!

 

It seemed like we were headed to the hotel but then we passed it and turned onto the old Wabash right of way.In actuality we were going to the dedication of the new Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout.Again more press and Chris was soaking it up!The lookout point was an open but covered observation platform which has since been enclosed (it gets kinda cold in La Plata!) and had a heater installed .It also has a radio tuned into the railroad frequencies so you know what trains will be passing.Itís located on the west abutment of the old Wabash line bridge over the Santa Fe main line.Itís a great vantage point so if youíre a train fan youíll definatly have to check it out.Speaches were given by Tom Marshall (owner of the Depot Inn and Suites), Mark Magliari of Amtrak, Missouri Representative Tom Shively, keynote speakerMissouri Senator Bill Stouffer and the City Manager of La Plata,Larry Herron.There were even two really cute TV reporters covering the story.Chris received a placque from Amtrak and had a song dedicated to him that was recorded and performed by Tom Marshallís brother.They really went all out.

 

We got to the hotel and checked in.This is a wonderful place to stay.The rooms are fantastic, large and comfy.The hotel provides free WiFi, has a free continental breakfast and fun indoor pool which I didnít get to try.There is plenty of railroad memorabilia around the hotel and a laundry facilities which Chris and I put to use before the second leg of our journey. The staff is very friendly and attentive.We were then treated to a BBQ in back of the hotel.Those hotdogs really hit the spot.Did I mention I really like hot dogs?Following lunch I went back to the room for a quick nap but was back up shortly for a trip around La Plata.We drove down the Amish store and met some the local Amish folk.This small town feel is something really special for a big city boy like me.Everyone was so friendly.I got some fantastic photos of the surrounding scenery then it was back to the hotel.Dinner was at the Red Rooster and then we went back to the hotel to check out the local news and see the stories about the event that were recorded earlier in the day.Did I mention the two cute TV reporters?†††

 

The following morning we met up with Jonathon, Anton, Chris Parker, Dutch and Larry and did some railfanning.We drove down to Marceline which is the hometown of Walt Disney.In the town square there is a park with some railroad equipment on display.Main Street in Disneyland is based off of Main Street in Marceline.The old train station is now a museum but wasnít open while we were there.After taking pictures of some BNSF freight trains and the north bound Southwest Chief we headed back.Along the way we stopped in Bevier to look at a steam locomotive that Jonathon saw a sign for.After that we stopped in Macon to check out the old Wabash right of way.

 

From there we headed back to the Depot Inn so Chris could do his interview on Letís Talk Trains.We had another fine dinner at the Red Rooster and got back to the hotel to check on the Ducks march to the Stanley Cup.