Originally Published 26 July 2021
Today was (is) my only full on-the-train day. I woke up far too short a time after I fell asleep while we were stopped in a siding just outside Sandpoint, ID. As it turns out, we had been sitting there for about two-and-a-half hours (it would be three before were moving again) due to a disabled freight train on single track ahead of us. Deciding there wasn’t really anything to do but get on with my day, I waited 40 minutes for the shower and went to breakfast.
After my three-egg omelet, potatoes, and croissant, I wandered to the observation lounge, decided my room was really just as good, returned to it, and hunkered down with my camera. One benefit of the delay is it meant we got all of the Bitterroots and Glacier fully in the daytime. The scenery was, as expected, spectacular, and really to say anything more on the subject would be a disservice to it. I look forward to going through my photos from the good camera.
Lunch was timed nicely for me to enjoy the views in the dining car just as we were going through the central and eastern parts of the park. My chicken Caesar was… well, a chicken Caesar, but at least it also came with dessert. While my breakfast table-mates had been your standard upper-middle-class folks from Edmonds who were acceptable conversationalists, my lunch company was more interesting if less talkative. It seemed to be a young lady, her Spanish-speaking grandmother, and her English-speaking boyfriend. There was some across-the-table talk, more talk between her and her grandmother, and a lot of quietly eating together while looking at hills and valleys.
I tried the sightseer lounge again, again decided it just wasn’t better enough than my room to make me want to give up the ability to close my door on the world, and again sat a photographer’s vigil at my own seat. Shortly after I determined we were definitely out of the mountains and into the “endless” portion of Montana (near Shelby), I set up the bed and went down for a nap. I woke up a couple hours later as we were coming through Havre, MT, much refreshed and unable to tell the difference in scenery. Just saying: adults like to be rocked to sleep too, we just have to get more creative about it. The room was again reconfigured and I proceeded to watch the world go by.
My dinner reservation came and I was sat with a very traditional retired couple from Des Moines, IA and one of the fellows from dinner the night before. This couple just could not understand how “young folks” (the other guy is probably in his late 30s) could take the time to do a trip like this; after all, hadn’t they worked their whole life so they could retire to things like long train journeys? After disabusing them of their antiquated work-life notions and watching Mrs. Traditional order a well-done steak (this was the moment I truly knew I had nothing in common with her) then complain that it was both too tough and not done enough, Mr. Married Gay and I waited them out until they excused themselves. Then we caught up, talked about the scenery, our cats, failed old relationships, and the like until, again by whatever strange magnetism had attracted us the first time, Mr. Freelance Gay showed up as well and joined us! He came seeking refuge from his own dinner company who, upon learning he was from Portland, proceeded to tell him about how terrible the People’s Socialist Anarchy of the Willamette was. They, after all, didn’t watch the lame-stream media and so knew all about the truth of the Antifa-riddled hellscape that used to be the Rose City. We commiserated. A wonderfully half-discreet conversation about the Cult of 45 ensued. #AmtrakActivism.
Perhaps the most sublime part of today was that I had no great, deep thoughts. There were no revelations, epiphanies, or ekphrastic moments. I simply existed and enjoyed. I listened to my audio book, I ate good food, I drank good wine, I saw pretty things. It was peaceful. And that was enough.
We are now almost four hours delayed as we zip across North Dakota. For some reason, the app expects us to make up about three hours of time between here and Chicago, arriving only 45 minutes late. We’ll see how true that turns out to be. For now, enough to call it a night and set up my bed again; it’s dark, and there really wouldn’t be much to see anyway. But I do get to be rocked to sleep again.