We board our first train (California Zephyr to Chicago) in Denver... arriving late to the station with 30 seconds to convince the baggage guys to accept our bikes, considering they are already boxed and we are ready to pay in cash and all (they were literally about to close check-in as I walked in). Thank you, baggage guys! It seems everything went smoothly, so our bikes ought to be waiting for us in Richmond when we get there. Here's to hopin'.
Sleep is fitful in the rattling coach for the night, but on a train you have plenty of room to stretch out at least. I'm in an aisle seat next to a stranger, however, which can make it a bit awkward and create unique aches and pains due to leaning on one side only. I did acquire a little pillow, at least, which makes things easier.
We reach Nebraska in the wee hours of the morning and Iowa in the afternoon. The fields rolling by are green as anything, wooded, rivered, beautiful. I love riding on trains. Even if it takes a touch too long to reach one's destination and even if other methods of travel would technically be cheaper, I still love it. Maybe it has to do with my childhood in Japan. I dunno. I hate planes and I hate driving so I guess it's my only other option? (besides cycling, of course! which we'll get to)
Turns out the lady sitting next to me is really cool. We have a lovely conversation about all sorts of things while she sews a little "mug rug" as a graduation gift for a friend, whom she is going to visit in St. Louis. She also does a bit of independent publishing--y'all should check out her and her husband's e-book "Rail Tales" (by Brian Green), a collection of funny and charming facebook statuses written whilst on public transportation and collected later into book form. She also talks about her goal of learning 7 languages on her lifetime... cool stuff like that. I think she's working on number 4?
We land in Chicago in the afternoon, where we have to transfer to another train. We have two hours to kill before that, tho', so we walk down to see Lake Michigan and a few fountains and gardens, then pop into a liquor store to get some wine, as well as pick up some strongbow cider and candy (well, in my case, freeze-dried fruit) for our next long train ride. From what little I saw of it Chicago seems like a pretty cool city--certainly had a decent amount of public transportation in the form of aboveground trains. As I have friends who live here, I'm going to come back to visit Chicago someday with a few days to kill instead of a few hours. It's on my list of cities to possibly move to just-for-the-hell-of-it so I should scope it out at least. Could even take the same train there from Denver next time. Jenn is sad because we walked too much and now she doesn't have time to get a proper Chicago-style pizza *in Chicago*. The locker we put our stuff in for walking costs $10 'cause we're a few minutes later than an hour back.
Back on the train to D.C. (to union station from union station thru union station...). Whoever did the assigned seating was a little confused 'cause mine's already taken so I sit next to a guy holding a teddy bear 'cause he seems cool. Turns out he totally is! He's on his way to a feminist conference in D.C. and we get to talking about feminism and gender issues and intersectionality and families and embarrassing stories and just about everything really. We hang out, the four of us, in the cafe lounge car and drink our cider and wine and eat dinner and sugar snap peas until something like midnight. What good luck with seat partners! (Btw he writes for a blog called Queereka; you should check it out if you're into that kinda bloggin'.)
Time for sleep in another rattling metal tube shooting eastward. Tomorrow we'll have a layover in D.C. -- then, Richmond ho!
p.s. our group has dubbed ourselves the HandleBarbarians. Meet our mascot:
(thus follows a picture of a viking-like man with his mouth open, shouting; backdrop is a bike shop)