On Valentine’s Day, I drove to Kansas City with my older daughter to help her move into her new apartment. The ride down was eventful, as blowing and drifting snow made the roads very slick from Des Moines on. We saw at least 30 cars off the road, including several in which people were still sitting. Our car slipped a few times, but we were never in any danger.
Several of my daughter’s friends came over and helped carry boxes and furniture, so my role was mostly one of moral support. We started unpacking, but gave up around midnight and went to bed.
On Monday morning, My daughter drove me into downtown Kansas City and dropped me off at Union Station. I had a ticket for the Amtrak Southwest Chief back to Chicago. The Southwest Chief runs between Los Angeles and Chicago, through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. I have a strong feeling that the portion of the trip I didn’t take is much more interesting than the portion I took, although much of it would be at night.
I had about half an hour until boarding time, so I roamed the station and found the Harvey House Diner.
I’ve heard of Harvey Houses and knew of their history, so I decided to give it a try. I sat down at the counter and ordered a blueberry muffin and orange juice for breakfast.
My waitress (who was neither young nor wore a black and white uniform) called me Deary and left the room as soon as she’d given me my food. When I finished eating, I had to go search her out in the supply room so I could pay before I missed my train.
Union Station has been restored and contains shops and museums and a train station. The lobby is huge and ornate.
I still had about 15 minutes before boarding. There were perhaps 50 people in line and in the small waiting room.
At 7:30, we were called to board. We walked down a long covered sidewalk, then down a set of steps to the train.
I was very much looking forward to roaming the train and taking a lot of photos, so I was disappointed when the Coach Attendant assigned me a seat as I boarded. I was even more disappointed when I discovered I’d been given an aisle seat. My seat-mate was elsewhere when I found my seat, but his (or her — I never did see the person) stuff was spread all around.
I leaned over his belongings and took a photo of Kansas City as the sun came up.
The train began to move, and I continued taking awkward photos.
This would be a good time to mention that, from this point on, the vast majority of photos taken on this trip were shot through a double-paned window from a shaky vehicle going 90 mph or so. Not only did I have to deal with reflections from inside the car and from the windows on the other side, but I had only seconds to frame and take my photos. Objects in the distance generally are in focus, but objects closer to the train are not. (All of the smaller photos can be enlarged, in case you find it within yourself to care.)
A Conductor came through the car handing out pillows. I stopped him and asked if there were any available seats near windows. He talked with the Coach Attendant and then moved me about four rows back on the other side of the car where I had a double seat to myself. The only drawback was that I was now on the south side of the train, looking into the sun. I took these photos as we made our way through Kansas City and environs.
The sun kept dipping in and out of the clouds. The train was kicking up a storm of snow from the rails, and the tracks kept dropping and climbing in and out of gullies. I realized that photography would be tricky, but I decided right then to get what I could and not agonize over the shots I didn’t get.
Here’s the best shot I managed all day of the engine from inside the train as we went around a bend.
I heard the Cafe Attendant announce a last call for breakfast before she took her break. I headed up and purchased a $2.00 can of Diet Pepsi. And that’s when I discovered the Lounge Car. I went back to get my bag and never returned to my seat or even my car for the rest of the journey.
To be continued …