December 1st 2008
Update from the Sunset Limited
I am riding the Sunset Limited across Texas today. Out the windows to the left and right, scrubby desert spreads out to meet grassy mountains. Occasionally there is a house, or a fence, or a cluster of cows. The sky is a dusty blue. This stretch of land along the Mexican border, between El Paso and Alpine, has probably looked the same since long before trains and white people began passing through.
I have nothing to do today except watch this landscape drift by. In fact that is all I have been doing since I left Seattle – sitting back, comfortably relaxed, with snacks and books nearby, watching the great American countryside slide past.
From Seattle I rode the Coast Starlight through Washington and Oregon, passing through the Cascade Range during the night and waking to a foggy morning in California. From the train window I saw six or seven Great Blue Herons, a flock of Tundra Swans, and the World’s Largest Egg – and that was all before I left Washington! Later, as the sun burned the fog away from California, the train crawled up into the Coast Range and came rattling down the other side of the mountains, making horseshoe curves and clipping palm trees. A magnificent sun went down over the Pacific Ocean as the train rode the cliff edges on the way to Santa Barbara.
My biggest effort while riding the train has been getting bounced along to the cafe car, and finding a seat in the observation car. This mode of travel is so pleasant – you literally have nothing to do except enjoy it. Even sleeping has been easy enough for me. There is always something to see and plenty of people willing to chat should you want company.
The first leg of my train trip took me to L.A. where a friend of mine picked me up at the station and put me up for the night. I spent a very interesting 16 hours with her, went to my first club, and even got a hike in before my next train left at 2:30 p.m.
I have now been riding the Sunset Limited for about 22 hours. Yesterday afternoon we passed through a lovely southern Californian landscape, complete with orange groves and grassy mountains. The night carried us through AZ and NM, and I woke in El Paso, TX. We won’t arrive in New Orleans until 4 in the afternoon tomorrow.
For now I can only sit back and watch bald eagles circle high above the desert, count volcanic craters, make sketches in my journal, and munch on dried mango. This is traveling in style, my friends, without worries or time constraints. Don’t mind me, I’m just passing through.