November 14, 2008

Vol. 5 – The California Zephyr @ Denver, CO

Denver, at speed

I awoke this morning to a horizon of blue and gray and white pressing itself hazily into the ochre and brown earth, dusting it with new snow that continues to fall softly. This snow is the kind that children hope for… large fluffy flakes, slightly wet, perfect for packing and building into dream structures (or weapons). Miles distant the mountains form a backdrop, in places only visible as a line where the clouds wait on high peaks before sliding down the eastern faces into the Denver plateau.

The snowfall strengthens as we get closer, confining the visible world further. Near by, we pass clusters of dilapidated, slant roofed structures, not much more than shanties, with small horses fenced in behind and beside. There’s still some empty space out here, if not much of it, and the muted colors are broken only by the occasional splash of bloodred scrub brush. A cemetery fills the view on the right and it’s even more ghostly in the dim early morning and snow than it’d be in the middle of a clear night. Nearest the track are rows and rows of small, identical white markers with little American flags stuck into the ground next to them — a miniature echo at Arlington.

Denver itself comes out of nowhere, or, I guess, out of increasingly dense clusters of cattle yards and small factories until we’re rolling past the Rockies’ baseball stadium, then rolling backwards into the platform. The train empties a good deal, and while a large number of people get back on, not nearly as many as left, and no one at all sits in our now very quiet car. Early though it is, I hope I’ll get back the double seat I lost in Omaha to a whiny kid and his worn down mother last night.