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On the road again Canada and the US Dec 2011-Feb 2012 - Observations, musings and random thoughts jotted down mostly during loooong train and bus trips.

FLAGSTAFF ARIZONA TO SANTA FE NEW MEXICO/THE SOUTHWEST CHIEF

USA | Monday, 23 January 2012 | Views [2284]

Flagstaff station, New Mexico

Flagstaff station, New Mexico

I left the hostel at 5am and walked the icy block and a half to the Amtrak station for the 5.41 train to Santa Fe (peculiar how precise the timetable is when the trains are invariably up to 2 hours late). Several goods trains rattled past - over 130 per day pass through this station - before the Southwest Chief from LA en route to Chicago pulled into the station.

The air outside was freezing in the early morning darkness and the small group of passengers - myself ,a Sikh man in a faded blue turban, another Australian backpacker, several American women and a young Amish couple - the man chatty and smiling, the woman quiet and reserved -  were glad to finally board the train. The Amish woman double-bonneted, putting her stiff black travelling hat over the identical white one she had worn in the waiting room. They were obviously blessed in the kitchen department too, as her husband's bowl cut was slightly longer and more even than usual.

Having had little sleep the night before I attempted to doze until I gave in to the incessant announcements and went to the dining car for breakfast. I was seated opposite a man and woman from close to my destination of Santa Fe - he not particularly friendly and she raising her voice every time she spoke to me as soon as she heard I was Australian,  Like almost all food in America, the breakfast was unnecessarily sweet and I would have loved a dab of David's emergency vegemite from the hostel in Flagstaff.

Leaving the hamlet of Gallup, we rode through endless  vistas of valleys leavened by pleated mesas - snow-covered to the south and clear to the north save for patches of frozen melt.  Just after Milan the train ran alongside a band of jet black volcanic rock, fissured and broken like the ugly mouth of some Hadean monster.

Every journey needs some drama and in this case it was supplied by all the toilets running out of water and backing up. The only exception was the one in the cafe car. The observed American unwillingness to get involved in unpleasant situations meant that the train staff  were initially unaware of the problem (which doesn't say much for their sense of smell).

 The ‘rear’ guard informed me tartly that "this always happens in New Mexico" and proceeded to lock off all the restrooms - considering there was another 14 hours or so until Chicago, I was glad I was de-training in Lamy.

Lamy is another story. Originally I was scheduled to have a two-hour wait here for my twenty minute shuttle to Santa Fe, but Amtrak had thoughtfully reduced this to only one hour by holding the train back.

(c)FMPDH 2012

Tags: amtrak, flagstaff, new mexico, southwest chief

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