When we entered our cabin we decided to find it amusing, not frustrating, that the only storage space in the room consisted of a notebook-sized shelf and a half closet that perfectly fit our two overcoats and nothing more. Luckily, my father and I are both strict believers in famed 1920s adventurer Richard Halliburton's baggage ratio: the amount of luggage that you insist on carting about with you is inversely proportional to the amount of fun you have while traveling. Thusly, our super sleek, light-packing prowess helped us narrowly avoid 51 hours of drowning in various cases and satchels.
Once situated, our first stop was the dining car, where we were seated with two mildly off-putting middle aged spinster types whose relationship I still could not determine after an entire meal. When they retired to their separate roomettes, I looked at my dad, intrused.*
"What do you think their relationship is?"
A perceptive and succinct man, he does not mince words.
From Sacramento to Reno we were chaperoned by two volunteer historic narrators provided by the illustrious California Railroad Museum. They genuinely meant well, but seemed to have severe stage fright, or perhaps speech impediments, or it could have been that they had just written their notes so small that they were difficult to read, but for whatever reason eavesdropping on fellow passengers and gawking at the passing scenery proved to be a more fulfilling pastime for me than listening to their commentary.
Two parties were of particular interest to me, spying on the various inhabitants of the Lounge. First, an elderly Amish couple, who sat silently munching on that traditional Amish snack, Flamin' Hot Cheetos. When I caught a glimpse of them later, they had not moved an inch, but the man had traced his hand on a napkin and was staring glumly at it while the woman glared angrily down at a tiny leather bound book in front of her. It would be a long trip back to Pennsylvania for those two.
The other was a very odd cowboy type gentlemen (who, as I typed the word cowboy in reference to him, drunkenly proclaimed to the rest of the lounge car that he was in fact a cowboy and because of his cowboy status he had certain extra privileges on train rides such as these) started calling out that he had seen a bear in the forest outside. Then, once he had our attention, he proceeded to also claim that he had seen a wooly mammoth and a tyrannosaurus rex. Later he graced us with impressions of the typical noises of various locomotives.
Of the scenery for this leg of the journey, I can say that I was duly impressed, the Sierra Nevada Mountains providing dramatic and changing vistas at every turn. The unbelievably quaint town of Colfax, California was of particular interest to me. It was founded in 1865 as Railroad Camp 20 as a living quarters for workers with the recently started T.R.*** When Speaker of the House and good friend to the late Abraham Lincoln, Schuyler Colfax, went to visit the site to see how the endeavor was progressing, the people there were so taken with his charisma and oratory that they named the town after him. I am still fully expecting this to happen at some small hamlet that I pass through.
Also, to my unending delight, I sighted numerous llama farms throughout the afternoon. Seeing those happy, insanely proportioned furry monsters frolicking through green pastures was almost as pleasing to me as the BUFFALO MEATLOAF we dined on that evening.
We ended the evening with the fabulous 1952 noir film, The Narrow Margin****, and yes, a bit of wine. The next morning we would awake to the blinding, infinitely expansive vistas of a distant Utahan desert.
*Intrused is a new word I have invented combining intrigued and confused, which, because of the way I have expertly fused them, foreshadows the eminent intrusion into other peoples lives which will inevitably follow when I succumb to such a sensation.
** Through which the railroad's highest point is at the old railroad colony of Norden, clocking in at 6939 feet above sea level.
***I decided that, due to my fondness for and intimacy with the Transcontinental Railroad, it was time for me to dub it with a catchy acronym nickname like T.R.
****Number 18 on my list of the top 100 greatest train movies of all time.
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