Train journey through the Rockies & Sierra Nevada, 4th - 6th June 2010
Wow, wow, wow. The best part about this was that it was completely unexpected. We were told we would see some nice scenery as would pass through the Rocky Mountains, but I only expected it to be for a few hours or so, and then pretty much a lot of nothing whilst passing from town to town. The train journey was for a total of 2 days and 6 hours, was non-stop scenery - as once we were through the Rockies we then entered the Sierra Nevada (we had no idea that was on the itinerary) - and we even passed through 2 time zones!
We got on the train at 2pm in Chicago.We were both pretty happy to be leaving as we're really looking forward to the West Coast. The train left an hour late as there was a malfunction with the cafe car - we thought not again, it was a nightmare having no food on an 18 hour journey, let alone one that's over 2 days! But it was soon fixed and off we went.This train was different to the rest we'd been on as it had an observation car (car = carriage, don't know why maybe they just be bothered to say the whole word?) where the windows go up into the roof - very cool :)
We went for dinner in the dining car both nights, as more than anything it helped to kill a couple of hours.The first night we ended up sitting opposite a girl called Cheryl who was travelling to Denver to see her fiancé. Cheryl gave us the heads up for San Diego, Santa Monica (LA) and Las Vegas. We've been told to check out "Thunder From Down Under" whilst in Vegas - girls you may just want to Google that! ;) LMAO, and fear not pics will follow! The three of us then spent the rest of the evening chatting, laughing and drinking rosé & white wine spritzers in the observation car.
Selena and I tend to take it in turns for getting a decent night's kip on the train. Friday night was her bad night, whilst I slept ok - well as good as you can in a chair, whilst curled up in a ball as there's not enough leg room. It's times like these I kinda wish I was short!
The next morning we were woken by a screeching tannoy that obviously thought it was a fog horn in its previous life "This is Tony, you Dining Car attendant". I wasn't best pleased as it was 7.10am and everyone knows I am not a morning person. However, there was no stopping the man and Tony liked to make an announcement every 5 minutes, sometimes he wouldn't even leave 30 seconds in between announcements. He became known as our daily alarm call.
The plus side of being awake this early was that we went to find some seats in the Observation car, just as we were pulling into Denver. We could already see the Rockies on the horizon and had prime seats for when the show really got on the road.We took loads of pics - and I soon realised I have a natural ability for taking a picture just when the only pole / bridge / tree within a 2 mile radius comes into view.Needless to say I spent a lot of this trip short listing the pics too. :)
A lot of the scenery we saw was only accessible by rail, so most of it was completely untouched. We were told that 42 tunnels were made for this train route and one of them was over 6 miles long, which takes 15 minutes to vent all the fumes from each train, and we'd be in a pretty bad place if we actually broke down in it - nice! Anyhow, the scenery was never ending.At first it was towns and cities, but then changed to grassy Plaines. It was still grassy Plaines when I woke up on Saturday morning, and it was so pretty I felt like I was in a dream. I even saw Bambi bouncing across the grass. :) The scenery then changed to tree covered mountains, then snowy mountains, lots of Gorges, and we followed a river nearly the whole way. As we moved into the Sierra Nevada the Earth changed colour to a burnt red and there was an abundance of red Canyons, Gorges and sandy Plaines.
I just kept thinking about how much people pay for this, and the fact that we booked this route by chance and was included in the cost of our pass. Very, very lucky girls.
We also met Ross & Tony who work for Amtrak. Tony the very loud dining car attendant and Ross in the cafe car. Tony the joker; we'd say cheers instead of thanks & at first he was attempting the accent...by the end of the train journey he was saying cheers instead of thanks over the tannoy, after every announcement. Weird but very funny (or maybe that's the cabin fever starting to set in?!) By the time we got off the train I reckon half the train knew the joke and we had all of them saying it to.
We also took over the cafe car & invaded Ross' space, he was glad for the company & we sat there chatting, telling him about our journey so far & what we have yet to come. Ross gave us loads of little freebies including mini Haagen Dazs - chocolate flavour. Legend! :)
There were also the complete wierdos including some old guy, ladies man wannabe, who kept butting into our conversation with Cheryl. This guy was old enough to be a granddad, with a Mohican and covered in Tattoos. All of a sudden "Granddad" comes over & decides to show us one of his tattoos - a rose with Texas written underneath. He then says "I have another tattoo but I'm not sure whether to show you girls?!" We all looked at each other thinking, how bad can it be?! He lifts up the sleeve of his shirt to reveal his tattoo... OMG, it was of a woman's genitalia (to put it politely) with a rose bush around it & Texas written underneath! As I'm sure you can imagine our faces weren't very amused & we all looked slightly sick! Nutter.
So like I said I had an ok night's sleep the first night, which meant the second night would be terrible. And sure enough, it was. First of all I think whoever was in charge of the AC was a sadist, because even wrapped up in my sleeping bag it was like being in a fridge! Then the next nutter appeared at 4am and had to be taken off the train by the Amtrak staff and the Police called to meet us at the next station. The first I knew about it, some Religious lunatic starts marching up & down the walkway shouting his head off - "God will have his vengeance, you shall feel his furry". Seriously dude - It's 4am, I'm going to have my vengence in a minute and you sure as hell don't want to feel my fury!!! Thankfully he wasn't around too long, but then everyone around decided to have full on conversations about it for half an hour!
We both started to get cabin fever on the last day as we'd been on the train for so long, and neither of us was able to construct sentences anymore.We also started getting off the train at every 'smoke stop' possible just to walk around and get some fresh air. If they don't announce it as a smoke stop you're not allowed off the train, and sometimes there wouldn't be one for up to 6 hours. Normal stops are real quick, and smoke stops tend to be at larger stations with more people getting on and off and can be up to 30 minutes, but as they always say "if you decide to go walk about please remember, you left the train, the train did not leave you!"
We are now in the Pacific Time Zone so are -8 hours behind the UK. So when you all finish work for the day we'll just be starting our day of well quite frankly - dossing! :)