November 13, 2008

Vol. 4 — The California Zephyr @ somewhere in Iowa

Iowa, as i saw it

Somewhat unexpectedly, riding the train has become kind of surreal. A function of the timing I think, for the most part… with the days so short, and most of my train time so far having been at night, I feel almost no sense of motion, despite having walked around a Chicago (a little) during the day today.

Mostly I’ve been sliding smoothly through a typically unbroken blackness, interrupted only by brief stops at rural platforms, much smaller even than Rhinecliff and not half as pretty… cinderblock and clapboard buildings with bare bulbs, an old and clattering (I assume) Coke machine, a few random folks milling under an awning to escape the light drizzle.

Perhaps it’s a kindness, the dark… I suppose Nebraska and Kansas will provide me my fill of the wide open spaces of brown fields.

Shortly I’ll have my first train dinner, largely just for the experience… I still have some food packed away that I can eat to save money, and will rely on that as much as possible, but it’s worth a shot to try the dinner at least once. I’ll get the chance, it seems, to do so on a becalmed train, as the conductor has just announced a stop so they can look into a mechanical issue. The lights are dimmed and the air conditioners off, their fairly substantial noise more noticeable now that it’s gone, and the train is filled with that stillness that comes of sudden quiet and dark.