I’m making my way across the country on a dare from our son.
“Amtrak has a special,” he told us. “And you’re both retired now.”
And so for three-hundred dollars each, my husband and I are making a big loop—from Chicago to Denver to San Francisco to Crater Lake to Glacier National Park to Minneapolis and back to Chicago again.
It’s not a trip for the faint-of-heart—sleeping in coach, pulling luggage up narrow Amtrak steps to the top deck of superliners, brushing teeth while the train lurches in restrooms so small you have to decide how to turn around, and reading the news about a derailment and a shooting.
But . . . what a trip!
We just completed our longest stretch of almost 40 hours between Denver and San Francisco. But I was sitting by my husband and on a heating pad with a shawl around my shoulders. I had my computer and a bag of crocheting and an acrostic puzzle book and a Kindle full of hundreds of books.
And through seat-to-ceiling windows I watched as the California Zephyr cut through the center of the country. We saw harvest in the Midwest and climbed to the mile-high city. After Denver, we forgot about reading as the train chugged through precarious mountain switchbacks and through tunnel after tunnel.
“Most of you will never reach an altitude higher than this,” the conductor said as we entered the Moffat Tunnel.
Before the tunnel was built in the 1920s, it took six hours of switchbacks over Rollins Pass to cross the continental divide. But we tunneled through in six minutes and worked our way down through narrow canyons where rivers, rails, roads and bike paths all share close space.
We watched sunlight playing on sandstone cliffs in the Sierra Nevada mountains and descended still further through the infamous Donner Pass. And after that, we just kept going down, down, down.
We’re glad to have some time off the train, to walk instead of ride—up and down the streets of San Francisco, around Fisherman’s Wharf, and across the Golden Gate Bridge.
But I’m looking forward to getting back on the train. I like moving while I’m sitting still.