Monday, June 28, 2010

Across the Sierras!!

As we crossed from Colorado into Utah, there was a lot of Indian Paintbrush.  It seemed to be the only thing growing in places. By the time we had entered into Utah very far, it became dark.  Daylight  was at Winnemucca, Nevada so we had slept through the night from Provo, Utah to Nevada.

There is a dressing room on the lower floor of each coach car, and I used it to brush my teeth, comb my hair, make-up, etc. etc.  It also had a toilet room attached and I found out that it was not used as much as the other two (also on that level).

My friend and I had a wonderful breakfast.  I had the omelet and coffee and I think it was about $8.00.  I found the meals in the dining car to be very nice and while expensive, they were not unreasonably overpriced.  I really enjoyed the fact that as only two people, the Amtrak Dining car waiters would seat us with other passengers.  We met some very interesting people.

Near Reno, Nevada
We finished breakfast about the time we hit Reno so we went to observation car so we could see the views we knew were coming up!  Unfortunately, it was foggy the day we crossed so it limited our views somewhat and interfered with great picture taking.
Truckee, California on the Eastern Slope of the Sierra Nevadas
Vintage Gas Station in Truckee that they are making into a Museum.
Donner Lake (yes named after THAT Donner Party)  Interesting note from the Trails to Rails narrative; the men of the Donner party died while the women and children lived.  Why? Because women and children have an extra layer of fat.
Another view of  Donner Lake

Meeting the Eastbound California Zephyr in the Sierras - reflection of passengers in the Observation car.

We saw a lot of snow still in the Sierras in early June.   One of the places we passed was a former town that had snow sheds over all the streets as they NORMALLY got 30 FEET of snow every year.  I believe that Union Pacific had employees at that town up to the 1970's when they abandoned it.  There were quite a few tunnels and snow sheds we passed through going over the Sierras.
Looking down on the American River as we come down the Sierras.  The track had been cut out of the hillside by Chinese coolies who had been lowered down the side of the hill on 'chairs' to place blasting caps.

And all too soon, we began to pull into our destination Colfax, California where our friend was meeting us.
The conductors waiting to signal the engineer to stop the train so we can get off.

Adios to the California Zephyr!

Merideth, dang girl, PACK lighter!!!  Look at all the stuff you took!
As we drove away, we could see the tracks above the American River where we had just been!

Next blog -- what I saw in Calfornia, the Redwoods, the Beach, Morgan Horses and my friends!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

She'll Be Comin' DOWN the Mountain Boys!

And when a train goes DOWN a grade, it goes like the wind!  No train robbers on the downslope!!

After we crossed the Continental Divide in the Rockies, we were headed down to Glenwood Springs, a resort town known for it's hot springs!
Glenwood Springs Canyon alongside I-70

The Glenwood Springs Hotel
Once we left Glenwood Springs, we left the mountain scenery and things started to dry up pretty fast.

We have followed the Colorado River off the Rockies and through Glenwood Springs and are now following it into Grand Junction, Colorado.  See the peaks to the east of us?
Still following the Colorado River  and I-70 to the north of the River.
Red Hills just to the West of Grand Junction.  The country looked very similar to where I grew up - Ten Sleep, Wyoming.

The old Grand Junction Union Station which had a FOR Sale sign on it.

Front of the old Grand Junction Station
What a grand piece of Americana.  Imagine you are five years old, hanging onto the hand of your momma and you are about to take your First train ride!  I do hope someone buys and preserves this grand old lady.  It would be a shame for it to deteriorate until it had to be torn down.  Buy It!   Someone!  Please!  Restore it!  Please!

A vineyard at the base of the Grand Mesa just outside of Grand Junction, Colorado. (Internet search just confirmed this IS the Grand Mesa.) Grand Junction has a lot of fruit orchards of peaches, pears, bing cherries and vineyards.  It's a huge agricultural region in Colorado. (Note to DayPhoto - Hey I wasn't too far from YOU was I!! I recognized Grand Mesa from your blog!)

As we left Colorado, headed into Utah we passed through the Ruby Canyon which was formations of red rock.  Spectacular way to end the day!

After we entered the flat prairies of Utah, The Night She Fell -- and day break was in Winnemucca, Nevada.

And when the Night She Fell, We Tried to Sleep Coach!!  It's do-able but it ain't real fun.  The coach seats are spacious to be sure, with leg rests and a foot rest.  They also recline somewhat.  The pillows are a joke (well NOT at 2 a.m.! They are Not).  So if you have to go Coach, take a small blanket and your own travel pillow.  Better yet, when you get on the train, ask the Conductor if there are any roomettes left.  You can get one for 1/2 price if there are.  Your meals in the dining car come with the sleeper for you & your roomate.

And remember my friend Mr. Smudge Face from the first blog?  He starts complaining right about 11 pm and would NOT be quiet.  Someone had insulted him and requested a change of seating so we ALL HEARD ALL about it.  But after he decided to go sleep things were relatively quiet except when people got on/off the train at a stop.  (See what happens if you make me cranky? You wind up on my blog!!!)

If you can get the roomette, it's WORTH it.  Trust me.

  Next blog Over the Sierras!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Climbing the Rockies Aboard the California Zephyr

And away we go!

Just starting the climb out of Denver.   One of the really nice things was as we left Denver, Trails to Rails Narrators got on and rode in the Observation Car to Grand Junction, Colorado.  They pointed out the history of building the Moffat Tunnel, showed us what pine beetle kill was, and were very enjoyable.  They added a lot to the trip! At one point we passed a long row of old coal cars filled with dirt and they said they were there as wind-breaks for the trains as in that particular area the wind would gust to 100 mph and blow the train off the track!
Looking back at Denver as we start to climb higher.  This was pretty close to where we encountered the coal car windbreaks.

Getting Higher!!  See the Windmills in the distance?

Slide Wires
As we started into the steeper parts of the mountains we began to notice telegraph-looking wires running along side the train on the uphill side.  Sometimes there was only one, sometimes two like in the picture, and sometimes a whole fence of them with wires even over the top of the train.  The Trails to Rails narrators told us they were slide detection wires.  If an avalanche breaks a wire, or disturbs it, it signals dispatch that there was a possible avalanche (rocks or snow) in the area and the tracks need to be checked before the train goes over them.  That is how they prevent the train from derailing and going over the side of the mountain.  
When the signal is received, dispatch notifies the train and the locomotive stops before they get to that area and the engineer (or somebody) gets off and walks several miles to make sure the railroad track is okay.  And sure enough, we had to stop for a while so they could check the track.  We were okay but in May of 2010 they had a major rockslide and the train had to back all the way to Denver, where the passengers were put on buses and taken to Glenwood Springs to get back on a train.

There were a LOT of tunnels going over the continental divide.  Something like 43 of them with the six mile Moffat Tunnel being the largest at six miles.  Course when you are IN a Tunnel it's DARK so NO PHOTOS. HA  The Moffat Tunnel was built in the late 1800's and before that all the trains had to go through southern Wyoming on the Union Pacific and over the much more gentle grade where I-80 runs now.

Speaking of grades, have you ever wondered how Butch Cassidy and his gang could rob a train from horseback?  It's simple, a train cannot pull a very steep grade and when it encounters one it goes really slow.  REALLY SLOW.  My grandmother could have robbed one.

Snow on the peaks as we approach the Continental Divide.

Another spectacular View!
We rode over the Rockies in the Observation Car and you can really see out from those cars but the view out your own coach window is not bad either.      Next installment, we head down the Rockies to Glenwood Springs Canyon, and on to Grand Junction and the Ruby Valley.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


And yes, they really do yell that!
7:10 a.m and we arrive at Union Station in Denver for our 'BIG' Adventure.

Front Door of Union Station.  You just don't see details/architecture like this anymore!  Isn't it beautiful!
Interior of Union Station with the old high-backed benches.

The Ticket Counter at Union Station.  We had our choice of using the Quik Trak or the counter and we chose the counter because then we did not have to show our ID again to get on the train.  Curiously, since I had booked our tickets on-line; I was the only one who had to have a photo id.  

Really, I booked COACH, Mr. Conductor? Oh drat, I'm sure the computer made a mistake.  It did not, huh?  No Roomette for us...drat.  (Actually I DID book coach as the roomette (ie sleeper) was $348 extra).

Damn, who is going to haul all this blipping luggage onto the train?  ME!!!  (Note to self, pack lighter.  Pack MUCH LIGHTER).

Wow, made the long ramp UP with all that Luggage and am ready to huck it on the train!  (Note to self - Pack Lighter!!!)  Please note the guy ahead of me has had his face smudged out on my photo editor.  Because he is the type who would sue my rear off for publishing this so he can be identified and because before the first night was over, I wanted to desperately choke him to death!!!

 Coach Class, the train was FULL and there were a lot of cars.  Now where were our seats, upstairs of course.  But thankfully the BIG luggage goes on a rack downstairs.  That helps.   A lot (Tip put everything you need for overnight in a small bag so it's easy to get to and if you want to sleep in coach, bring your own travel sized pillow.  Amtrak's are the size of a kleenex.  Well okay maybe a Maxi-pad.  Hey we'll give credit where credit is due.)  Now where in the Sam Hill is SEAT 39A and 39B??????????
Oh thank Goodness Chestine is a Teacher.  She Can Read and She Found 39A & B right there in front of her!  (Note to self:  Next time travel with a University Professor because they would probably be smart enough to make you get a SLEEPER.  An elementary teacher doesn't have any more clues than I did! But really we had a blast in spite of our ineptness!)

Okay - next blog we actually go somewhere on the train instead of just sitting in the station!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When You Take the Train

The Trip is the Thing!!

I'm back from Vacation and let me tell you it was a Corker!  I had so much fun.  So I'll give you some glimpses over the next few blogs and share some Train Tips I learned with you.
Porch of Gregory Inn.-- Our room was directly behind my friend.

First, my friend Chestine & I met in Denver.  We stayed at this lovely Bed & Breakfast near the Lo Do District (lower downtown).  The Gregory Inn --  our host Steve was a great host and the cook, Tracy, was very engaging and a great cook!  I do recommend it the next time you visit Denver!

We met at the airport DIA and then took the Denver public transportation into Lower Downtown.  Now that was an experience for two country girls, let me tell you.  I think the Shuttle driver was trying to tell us we needed to get off at 30th & Something which was a transfer station to get another bus to get closer, but instead we jumped off EIGHT blocks from the Inn and drug our suitcases the whole way.  WHEW!  I gotta learn more about this RTD system!! in Denver.  Worked out okay.  Turns out we walked through a district with a lot of homeless persons so we fit in :) (note to self: Pack Lighter! Much Lighter!!!)

We spent a day touring Denver.  First we saw the Molly Brown House.  Interesting story, she never went by Molly.  That was a Hollywood fabrication.  She was always Margaret.  The house was beautiful, victorian and too small to be declared a MANSION at a mere 7,000 sq feet!!!  I guess it takes 10,000 sq feet to be a Mansion. This is the front of her house near the State Capitol building.  My friend Chestine took this photo because I stupidly left my digital camera on my desk!!!  So I had to make do with Funsavers but I do have some photos also I will post.

Next we went to the Byers Evans Museum and Home.  They had a display of lovely hand-woven southwest rugs. I have always wanted to do a quilt in one of these patterns.  I believe these are Hopi patterns.

The Byers Evan Mansion was lovely and interesting.  It was added onto several times throughout the years to accomodate various family members and several generations lived in the home.  Here is a shot of the front of this home.

The Byers Evans house from the street.  And one of my photos!  Some of the photos will be Chestine's and some are ones I took.

Then we spent the rest of the day at the 16th Street Mall which is a long street in Lower Downtown Denver with many many shops, restaurants, you name it.   They have a shuttle system running the entire length of 16th street and there is a shuttle on each corner every minute or so--really!   They only run on 16th Street (finally, a public transportation system I can UNDERSTAND!)

Okay, call the Taxi Guy.  Get me a Starbucks while I wait. I am shopped out, financially and physically! (Have I ever told you guys I REALLY REALLY hate to shop?  True story)
I'm beat and ready to go back to the Bed & Breakfast!!  Okay, Chestine, ONE MORE trip to Rockmount's Western Store and THEN we are going back!!

Tomorrow -- Union Station & We Get ON the Train.  (next blog in a few days)