The next day was another two day train ride which brought me into Emeryville, California, across from San Francisco. This ride was great, and we went through the Sierras.
I met some great people on this stretch – some musicians, a woman and her daughter visiting family, a guy heading back to school at Berkeley, a Native American named Yellow Horse, and a New Zealander who lived in Ireland and was vacationing in the States.
I spent a lot of time in the observation car talking with people, learning a couple card games, and making my way back and forth through the train cars. This two-day stretch was pretty special, and as we all talked and told stories, we got to know some of the people working on the train. The engineer was L.A. Walker, the conductor's name was D.C. Cannon though he went by Daryl, and the diner car guys nametags said "Curly" and "Johnny Rivers." I swear I couldn't have come up with better names had I written this part into a movie.
Heather and Kendall (the little one) behind me having a good time, and this nervous guy next to me was moving across country to go to school. It was interesting to learn everyone's story, and how they were all very different.
Lots of people just hung out in their regular train car seats, keeping to themselves and watching movies, reading a book, doing crossword puzzles, or just trying to get comfortable while sleeping. I was glad to have hung out in the lounge car instead. The girl in the green shirt was named "Cloud" (Claudia, but called Cloud since she was five,) and was heading home to Berkeley where she had a jewelry and hair wrap stand on Telegraph Ave.
This girl, Lea, was moving from Denver to the west coast. She was a singer/songwriter/guitarist and had a voice that could knock you down flat and pick you right back up again. She was travelling with another guitar player, and they were just sort of enjoying being transient for the moment and deciding where to stay for a while.
I don't remember this little guy's name, but he was a nice sort of fellow, though somewhat reserved.
The guy that was going back to school at Berkeley looked like kind of a jerk at first glance. Collared light pink shirt, strategically tattered jeans, club shoes, and a half frown on his face. Turns out he was exceptionally nice once I started talking with him, and he was in the middle of trying to get Amtrak to utilize a better recycling program. He was an environmental law student and one night after a few drinks it came up that he played accordion pretty well and had one with him.
Turned into a fun late night with him, Lea, and the other musician all trading off playing songs and entertaining about 6 of us on the lounge car. At night, on the train with guitars, and songs, and even one harmonica. It's either cheesy or pretty amazing, and I'm definitely siding with amazing on this one.
Look at all that country back there. There's just so much of it.
Three-plus days on the train put me into Emeryville five hours late, and I'd missed my transfers by that point. Decided to take a bus into San Francisco with a few others and figure something out, though it was a Friday night, and I soon found that all the hostels were full. Finally found a hotel and a shower, and spent the next day in San Francisco before taking an overnight bus to see Janice.
On the train, there was this girl in one of the back cars who was travelling alone with just a backpack and this oversized panda bear. She never seemed to leave her seat, and when I'd pass by at night, she'd be peacefully resting against his large expressionless head.
After several days on the train we all dragged ourselves onto the bus, a short distance from our final destination. I hadn't slept well since leaving Chicago, and I was exhausted, sore, and delirious. I collapsed into my seat and stared out the window for a while. When I looked up, I saw this silly little grin beaming back at me, and I just started to laugh.