Thursday, December 5, 2013

Highlights of our trip to the Midwest

The past two weeks have passed quite quickly.  Five of those days were spent traveling to the Midwest, and then returning to California all via Amtrak.  We have always enjoyed traveling by train, and this time was no exception.  What made this time on the train even more interesting was the fact that we are now so much more familiar with many cities and small towns because of our recent travels around the United States in our motor home. 
We left Los Angeles late at night and awoke the next morning to the familiar sights of the Arizona desert which include lots of sage brush and flat, sandy dry land.  Occasionally the landscape would be broken up by fascinating large red rock formations.  And it was in the Southwestern Desert that we saw a large field of solar panels, which was a first for us in our travels!  Tucson, Arizona held special memories for us as well as El Paso, Texas where we saw the Rio Grand River once again. In that town we saw a familiar sight- border patrol trucks.  From our train windows we could look over the border into Juarez, Mexico. 
Early Sunday morning we had a strange experience- the train which pulled our sleeping car and one coach car disconnected from us and went east to New Orleans- the two cars left behind were hooked up to another train (the Texas Eagle) heading north through Texas and into Missouri.  Until we got to Missouri the weather had been sunny and quite warm (we knew that because occasionally the train would have a stop of at least 30 minutes and we were allowed to wander around outside).   Monday morning we had to face what we had been dreading; grey overcast skies and a landscape largely devoid of anything green!   However, it was great seeing family and friends again so the winter-like weather was not too difficult to endure.  We had a great Thanksgiving with our daughter Melissa and her husband Spencer.
Our return trip was on different railroad routes than previously.  We traveled through Kansas and into Colorado.  We awoke the first morning to relatively flat land, so I was surprised later, in the observation car, when the conductor came in and announced that we were getting the first sightings of Pikes Peak!  Slowly that mountain with its snow covered peaks came into our view.  For most of that day we enjoyed beautiful sights of forests, canyons and mountains.  Our highest elevation was 7,000 feet at Raton Pass.  From there we traveled through New Mexico, a land dominated by many ranches, pueblos and missions.  A highlight of that day for us was in Albuquerque where the view of the Sandia Mountains at sunset was very spectacular.  They were bathed in a brilliant pink color under the rays of the setting sun.  And when we could no longer see the mountains, a beautiful sunset could still be seen across the horizon.  The last day of our trip we awoke to a green landscape with flowering bouganville, hibiscus, and bird of paradise.  California at last!
It was good to get back home.  Before concluding this I want to mention one other experience of our train trip, which is an important part of traveling by train.  In the dining car we had community meals- John and I were usually paired up with another couple during our meals.  On this trip we had the pleasure of getting acquainted with a couple from Australia, who happily stated that they were in our country for a “look about”.  We also got to know the executive director of a Humane Humane Society in an Arizona town.  John once worked for that agency so those two had a lot to share with each other.

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