Friday, October 29, 2010

East Coast Outfitters

First of all, please accept my sincerest apologies for not diverting you with more rail-lore and Californiana over the past few days- I got the flu and have been lying motionless, receiving herbal tea transfusions for the past 72 hours. Through the feverish haze I clung to the abstract deadline of noon, October 30th for me to be in top form, outfitted, and with my most trusted traveling companion, Richard Markuson, in order to board the California Zephyr headed "back east"* to Washington, D.C.

Back in the old days when some hearty, daring, or desperate soul would set out in search of their fortune on the wild frontier they would have to get "outfitted" with all of the most necessary vittles that they would need to survive for up to a year's time. One list of provisions that I particularly liked, meant for a party headed on an eight day trek in the Sierras, reads as follows:

8 lbs potatoes.
1 bottle whiskey.
1 bottle pepper sauce.
1 bottle whiskey.
1 box tea.
9 lbs onions.
2 bottles whiskey.
1 ham.
11 lbs crackers.
1 bottle whiskey.
1/2 doz. sardines.
2 bottles brandy, (4th proof.)
6 lbs sugar.
1 bottle brandy, (4th proof.)
1 bottle pepper.
5 gallons whiskey.
4 bottles whiskey. (old Bourbon)
1 small keg whiskey.
1 bottle of cocktails , (designed for a "starter.")

Notice that every third or forth item on the list is some type of alcohol. Oh, our ancestors!

Now, my father and I will only be on the train for four days, but planned, strategic outfitting is still crucial, if not a life-or-death situation. Amtrak provides three square meals per day with our ├╝ber classy Superliner bedroom, so we will be packing more for entertainment than nourishment. Here are some of the highlights of our accouterments:

4 novels
1 bottle cabernet sauvignon
3 travel books
1 deck of playing cards
1 harmonica (someone please teach me to play harmonica!)
1 package of earplugs (apparently ol' dad is a snorer)
Various electronics
1 bottle pinot noir
2 lbs fresh fruits and vegetables (against scurvy)
1 deck of French vintage tarot cards
1 bottle port

So, thusly outfitted, the entire family, including our dog, escorted us to the station, the interior wall of which is covered with a mural dramatizing the January 8th, 1863 groundbreaking ceremony for the first Transcontinental Railroad. Note that this epic event occurred in my hometown, a mere two days after January 6th, when, 124 years later, I would be born. This can hardly be attributed to mere coincidence.

Three brilliant lights foretold the 11:59am arrival of the California Zephyr over the I Street bridge, and our journey had begun.


*I love how, hundreds of years after Manifest Destiny, the Oregon Trail, the Gold Rush, and the Transcontinental Railroad, my family still refers to anything east of the Sierra Nevadas as "back east," like a place we all came from at some time. If not our relatives, then at least our national historic narrative.

1 comment:

  1. I love that mural - and a cool station too. I took the Zephyr about, wow, 20 years ago now. We had a roomette and traveled from SLC to Sacramento. As we crossed the Great Salt Lake, a thunder and lightning storm filled our window. It was amazing.

    I hope you both have a fun and rewarding trip!

    Till next time,