Monday, April 24, 2006

Train 5: Into the first sunset

If I can confess something between you (dear readers) and I (pooped James), but I must admit to being a bit disappointed with the atmosphere on train 5. On an evening sojourn to the cafe below the Sightseer car, the attendant admits that it's a very 'light load' today. We're between the first holiday weekends of the season and the next big jump in traffic as the summer begins. I had hoped, by now, to have been acosted by numerous holiday makers, backpackers and elegant single female travellers with lots of money. Better luck next time, I guess.

In the evenings, long distance Amtrak trains treat their passengers to a film or two in the Sightseer car. However, due to the mixed load of passengers, the choice of films from which Amtrak can pick is limited to the family friendly muck the Hollywood churns out to keep the sprogs happy. What little of the two films I saw has already mushed by brain to the extent that I can't remember what they were called. But, it was a nice touch and kept a number of families entertained. The 'special' experience of traveling by train has been eroded over time with the gradual disappearance of many of the little luxuries, but even in coach class this kind of long distance trip is perfect for a family. No stressed out highway moments, no need for rest breaks, and there's no need for everyone to be strapped in all the time (although I understand that many parents may be laughing out loud at my naive assumption that this is a good thing...)

I drink a beer and watch the sun set to the western horizon that we speeding towards. At no point so far have we slipped below a fairly rapid pace, and we seem to be keeping good time. But somewhat dulled by the lack of conversation and banter in the lounge car (which was very lively on the shorter distance Lake Shore Limited to Chicago).

Around ten o'clock, I retire to the coach car, and find a pillow has been left for me by the crew. Many of the passengers in the car are already asleep. The lady immediately behind me is already snoring. Smug James digs out his ear plugs in preparation, but passes a while listening to some BBC Radio 4 podcasts that I downloaded before leaving Montreal. Start The Week with Andrew Marr and invited guests is about conquerers... or something like that. Normally I'd be engaged and thinking at the same pace as the conversation, but I'm soon dozing and finding the topic of discussion has changed completely in what seems like a few seconds. I unplug myself, assume the sleeping posture (shoes off, leg rest up, pillow next to waist, inflatable pillow under neck and arms anywhere they don't get in the way). I pull the mask down, and I begin to rock back and forth into sleep.



chicagogirl said...

Oh, I don't know. I think you had some pretty good company and conversation on that train but "weren't arsed" to initiate any conversation. Could that be it? ;-)

James said...

Maybe. Not enough alcohol that's all :)