Sunday, October 05, 2008


Trains are a lot of fun. Taking a train out west may be one of the best ways to see the countryside. At least that's what I've heard, and although I've never driven through, seeing as you can't really sail through and the fact that you don't see much from 35,000 feet, I'd say that a train ride is definitely in the top two ways to see the left half of the country.

I've never been on a real train before, so I was a little anxious and excited when I got to the station, wondering where everyone was going, who they were visiting, and what sorts of things might be coming up.

I saw one young woman struggling with two suitcases, a large bag, a backpack, and a bicycle. In fact, many people had ridiculous amounts of luggage. While waiting in line to board, I heard someone say my name, and it turns out that the girl with the bike was Sonia (David Morley's girlfriend,) and she was heading to California to visit family.

We shared the ride until I got to Glenwood Springs, my first stop, roughly 28 hours later. It was fun sharing the experience with someone I knew, and as it was her first time going out by train as well, we had a lot of fun together and spent a lot of time in the lounge car.

We shared snacks and stories, met some fun people, and ate in the diner car. A lot of the time we just spent staring out the windows, watching the scenery go by. We went through Illinois and most of southern Iowa the first night, and slept through most of Nebraska. The scenery wasn't as boring as I expected. It was refreshing to see patches of farmland, old homes and ranches, and small towns that sort of ran themselves.

We went past general stores, and people waved. Some stations looked like they had been there for a hundred years. Some were just slabs of concrete next to the rails. One was completely bare except for an elderly woman and an old yellow lab.

One thing I was drawn to once we were in a rural area was the old telephone poles. They were rickety looking, crooked, and chewed up. The lines were thin, and the crossbars all had the old-style glass insulators on top of them which the wires wrapped around. The insulators were different colors and all seemed to catch the sunlight, spilling out rays of green or red light. I wish I could have gotten a good photo of one of them, but it was tough to catch.

Colorado is incredibly picturesque, and I wish we had slowed down a bit once we got into the mountains along the river. It was more than a little humbling, seeing these massive natural structures jutting out of the ground at dramatic angles, scraping the clouds, with trees and other wildlife barely able to cling to the sides. I just wanted to sit and stare all day.

The town of Glenwood Springs is home to some amazing natural hot springs, and since they're visited by tens of thousands of people each year, periodically they will be closed for maintenance or cleaning. It was one of those days when I was there. At least there was a big red mountain.


Maiasaura said...

beautiful pictures, jay!

marthamatters said...

That's awesome. You've inspired me to try to organize a similar trip for myself, so I may be asking for some tips. I'm happy for you!

hey-sus said...

as one who has driven across the western half of this country twice there and once back, i must say that while you may have gotten to see some cooler, less-inhabited areas of the country, i was at my leisure to stop and slow whenever i felt like exploring a bit. top two indeed! i would like to try the train method for sure some day.

Caleb said...

Looks awesome. When's the followup coming?