Climbing through the mountains near Santa Fe we ran into snow flurries so I didn’t get great view out the window for the prettiest part of the trip, but the falling snow was a treat in itself. One thing I’ve really come to appreciate about train travel is the quiet. In my compartment with the door shut, it’s quite peaceful. Unlike an airline, there’s no engine noise and unless you’re moving between cars you don’t even hear the “clackety-clack” of the tracks. Even though I bring stuff to read and typically make plans to use all that time on the train to get work done, I usually end up just sitting, staring out the window, watching the world go by. Before I realized it, we had crossed over Raton Pass and into Colorado. It was already getting dark again.
After dinner I retired to my roomette, worked a little more on my presentation then found Rene to get the room ready for sleeping again. Knowing I would lose another hour overnight I set the clock on my Blackberry ahead to Central time and turned in.
The tracks were a bit rough through Kansas overnight. As I rocked in my bunk I dreamed I was riding the luge down the Olympic course at Whistler. After breakfast we stopped in Kansas City for about 40 minutes. I had time to walk around and take a few pictures inside the beautiful Kansas City Union Station. If you’ve ever been to Union Station in Washington DC, it’s a bit smaller, but similar. As I stepped out front to get a few exterior pictures I saw Barb. Her trip was over and she was waiting for her ride. I told her it was a pleasure traveling with her, wished her a safe journey home, and made my way back to the platform.
Leaving Kansas City we crossed the Missouri River. The rest of the way to Chicago, I saw a lot of snow. It was everywhere - on the ground, in the trees. It blew past my window as the engine stirred up whatever was lying on the tracks. We passed countless farms and rolled through several small towns as we made our way across Missouri. At one stop in La Plata, MO I noted that you know you’re in rural America when the only vehicle waiting at the railroad crossing is a John Deere.
At Fort Madison, Iowa we crossed the mighty Mississippi into Illinois. My last meal on the train was with a couple from Kansas on their way to Chicago for a little vacation. She was a retired Kindergarten teacher. Funny how I keep running into teachers. We shared school experiences and I talked about ways education has changed over the years (and how it hasn’t). I also explained some of the things I planned to teach in my ICE presentations.
Passing through Princeton & Mendota, I knew my journey on the Southwest Chief would soon be coming to an end. As I gathered my things Rene came by to help. Naperville was the last stop before downtown Chicago. Since my conference was in St. Charles, it made sense to arrange for transportation from there. I found my way downstairs as the train slowed to a stop. Rene opened the door and placed my bags on the platform and I thanked him for making the trip an enjoyable one.
As the train pulled out of the station on it’s way downtown, I meandered toward the front of the station where my friend Anne was waiting for me. My 42 hour Amtrak trip to Chicago was now officially over.
The train arrived in Naperville, Illinois 15 minutes early. My flight back to California the next Saturday was over 2 1/2 hours late due to mechanical problems. As I stood in the security line at O’Hare with my shoes off, laptop out, and carry-on ready for inspection, I noticed ads for Amtrak pasted to the bottom of those plastic bins at the x-ray. The modern day equivalent of “Next time, take the train.” You don’t have to tell me that.