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vagabonds3 "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness." Mark Twain

California Zephyr

USA | Thursday, 4 July 2019 | Views [63]

Leaving Union Station — 4 hours late!

Leaving Union Station — 4 hours late!

IT SEEMS LIKE BOBBY BURNS WAS THINKING of us the past few days when he wrote  “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.”  After driving 400 miles from Denver to Rapid City to renew our drivers licenses — they will expire before we return from this trip — we were told they must be within 6 months of expiration before they can be renewed.  Oh, well, we had to be somewhere and the trip was surprisingly beautiful.


    Haystacks in South Dakota

Yesterday we checked in at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, had a nice lunch at Humboldt Farm, Fish, Wine and returned the rental.  So far so good.  After a good night’s sleep we walked the kilometer to Union Station, arriving in plenty of time for our 8:05 departure.  A check of our emails showed three messages from Amtrak.


    The California Zephyr, late and later

  5:05AM — We wanted to let you know that train #0005, originating in Chicago and scheduled to depart Denver Union Station on Thursday, July 4th, has been delayed. The estimated arrival time is now 9:13am, but trains can make up time during travel.  6:05AM — the estimated arrival time is now 9:23am, 7:05 — the estimated arrival time is now 9:37am, 8:30 — the estimated arrival time is now 9:55am, but trains can make up time during travel.  After a couple of false starts we eventually left Denver at 11:45, which, the “Amtrak host” told us was considered “on-time” what with the Mississippi flooding, track repairs and all.

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   Finally it's arrived                             All Aboard!

We are pretty low on the learning curve when it comes to Amtrak.  Flo, our car attendant, filled us in on the essentials and it’s up to us to fill in the blanks.  Take dining, for instance.  The dining car holds 56 people, four to a table, and there were  300 on-board when we started.  Breakfast and lunch are first-come, first-served and dinner is by reservation.  Meals are included for those of us with roomettes so we will all eat in the dining car.  Those in coach may opt for the cheaper snack bar option.  Either way, you must be on your toes to get seated and you can’t choose your table mates.

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   Our "roomette"                               Flo teaches us the ropes

Likewise, there is limited seating in the observation car.  We have lived in Colorado long enough not to feel slighted, so we aren’t too concerned.  But some families have camped out in the observation car, depriving others of a chance for a view.


     The Rockies near Winter Park

It took three hours to reach Frasier, home of Winter Park/MaryJane ski area, and our first, albeit short, stop — 3½ minutes.  On the way we negotiated Ten Loop, a nearly 360° curve with views of Denver and the Prairie to the east.  Then we passed through a series of tunnels culminating in the 100+ year-old Moffit Tunnel, also our highest elevation of the trip at 9400 feet.  Incidentally, Rollins pass, where we have back-country skied, lies 3000 feet above the tunnel.  We continued on at a snail’s pace along the Frasier River to our next — and even shorter —  stop at Granby due, we were told to “sun kinks” in the rails.  Evidently, the summer sun, causes the steel rails to expand and twist, making high speed travel dangerous.  Who knew?


             Colorado River through dirty windows            

The Frasier River gave way to the Colorado River, which would be our companion for the next 500-or so miles.  Almost immediately we pulled onto a siding to let our “sister” train, Amtrak #6, pass on its way to Denver.  On time, we wonder?  The river is running high with Category 5 rapids, so the rafters were staying mainly in the slower water.  Most rafters waved paddles at us in greeting but more than a few flashed us a moon.  All in good sport, we’re sure.



        Holiday rafters — but no moons

It would have been a long trip even if we had been on shcedule.  Glenwood Springs at dinner-time followed by "good-nights" at Grand Junction.  Utah passed in the dark — not a problems since we were north of the National Parks — with a longish stop in Salt Lake around 3am.  Elko, Reno and the Great Basin finally finished up Nevada.  We started climbing again at Tahoe, reaching our highest point in the Sierra Nevadas, 7400 feet, once again inside a tunnel, this time near Truckee.  With all the resort development and vacation homes, I can see how wildfires can cause so many millions of dollars of damage.


     Glenwood Springs, penultimate Colorado stop

We somehow picked up a half-hour plus the Mountain/Pacific time change and arrived in Sacramento around five in the afternoon.  I picked the Vagabond Inn because of its location, directly across from Sacramento Valley Station.  The rooms were nothing special but it turned out to be convenient to some fast food joints too.  Score another one for booking.com.


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John and Connie, Sheikh Zayad Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

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