So, last weekend…
A trip from Emeryville to Reno and back aboard a private rail car. Not all that unusual. Nice weather, good people, good food and beverage, good times.
The out of the ordinary was that I was a passenger this time. Even a paying one. After some recent surgeries to one of my feet, it was a better idea that working the trip. As chef, bartender, waiter or even steward, I often manage to spend a good amount of time standing in those 7 hours between the Golden Gate and the Silver State.
But not this trip. Instead, I sat (for the most part) and took in the scenery as well as the hospitality. I won’t lie to you, Marge. I enjoyed it. Yes, I wanted to jump in and do my part. Always plenty to do from tidying up to down right cleaning. Instead, I restrained my self and let others handle those duties.
All in all, the group aboard was just about perfect. The right size. The lucky 13. We have had more aboard, filling all the seats to be found and a few more. But not this trip. And for some of the journey, it was an even smaller group. Exclusive if one wishes.
The route the train (Amtrak’s California Zephyr) travels is for the most part away from that taken by the parallel Interstate 80. Even when it was the smaller and more intimate highway US-40, the rails still took passengers off the beaten path. Some of the views along the way are simply spectacular and well worth the time taken. Being honest, the train trip takes almost twice as long as it does to travel the same distance by automobile. Add in an extra hour’s delay for some work to the railroad over the Hill and you might think that time would just drag.
Oddly, it does not. Out West, Amtrak trains usually top out at 79 miles per hour. Over the Donner route, 30 miles per hour is the norm. So when we crawl along, following a slow freight train ahead of us, time can seem to stand still. On a nice day like this, with all the above mentioned goodies to pass the time, these delays don’t make for great concerns. Unlike other days on other trips where a six or eight or more hour delay bring a night crossing of the Sierra and make for a very long day for passengers and crew alike. This is not one of those times.
I can hear you asking, “If you have traveled this way so many times before, why go again?” Good question. I can’t say that I have a good answer beyond I just wanted to. Sure, I can look out a window and know where the train is, telling you how much longer before we arrive at our destination. Call that a blessing or a curse if you like.
Some one once said that “The journey is the reward.” I guess that explains part of my reason for traveling. Each trip has something that makes it new. Could be the people making the trip or something that happens along the way. Could be the meals or the beverages. Even a good cigar enjoyed in the vestibule as the scenery passes by can be different from one trip to another.
A tale makes it way down the years of a dowager socialite, who upon arriving in New York was encountered by members of the press. One of them asked her he she found traveling by private rail car. Allegedly, she answered that it was something that one could easily become accustomed to.
For me, that just describes travel in general. Given the chance to go somewhere, I am all for it. Of course, by private rail car doesn’t hurt, either.