Whew, I've just spent my first day in Colorado after exactly 40 hours on the train...and I am happy. A few words to the wise about the train...
1) Don't take the train if you feel you have a schedule to keep. The train will NEVER arrive ANYWHERE on time. It is not for people who want to hurry up and get there so they can start having fun. I don't know anybody like that, so I think we're in good shape, but just a precautionary note.
2) Don't take the train if you like paying less than $15 dollars for a meal. Or just bring your own food, because you will be broke whenever you get to wherever you'e going if you eat on the train.
3) Don't take the train if you have a problem seeing other peoples' asses. There is some kind of nation-wide mooning ritual known as the "Amtrak Salute," and the land-bound just LOVE to introduce us unsuspecting passengers to it.
4) Don't take the train if you are scared of meeting people. They will put you at a table in the dining car with a bunch of strangers and you will be expected to deal. Now, I LOVED this, but some are horrified at stuff like that, so that's just another warning.
Okay, so all that out of the way, let me just say that I had so much fun!!!!!!!!! For anybody who's never been on the train, there are three basic places you can go. You can stay at your seat like a nerd (but there are people to meet there too, so that's cool), you can go to the observation car where the seats face the windows and you can watch the world go by, or you can go to the dining car. You can also go to the bathroom, of course, or the smoking car, or the snack bar/lounge downstairs from the observation car, but those are kind of secondary thoughts. Going any combination of these places will undoubtedly allow you to meet a whole bunch of cool people who you will most likely never see again, but it's an awesome way to spend the time. Actually, I take that back because I met a woman on the train that had met her husband (of nine years) on the train, so how's that?
Just a few things I have to mention in case any readers happen to ever take the train as far as Reno (from the Bay Area). In Sacramento the train picks up a couple of volunteers from the train museum there. These volunteers do narration all the way through the Sierras. They tell a lot of interesting stories and, overall, it's pretty cool (though kind of refreshing, too, when they get off the train in Reno and leave you to formulate your own thoughts about what you're seeing). I was a little concerned, I have to say, when I heard the narrator say that the Chinese workers that helped to build the railroads were paid as much as the white workers. This was a total lie! It is well known that there was a white wage, a black wage, a Mexican wage, and a Chinese wage, and you can all guess who got the most. He DID mention that the Chinese workers bought their own food, but it was made to sound like they did this by choice because surviving on rice alone improved their efficiency or something like that. The other weird thing was, when we went through Donner Pass, he was telling the story of the Donner Party. At the end of the tale, he said, "in the end, of the 89 people who started out, only 47 survived the winter." He cunningly left out any mention of a little thing know as cannibalism, which I was admittedly impressed with. The glossing-over was unmatched. Do they think that we just couldn't handle it if we knew what really went on? I mean, it's not like these things are secrets, and it just works to ruin their credibility. This would be a great time to recommend James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, both great myth-dispelling reads, and user-friendly to boot.
So, now that I'm back on unmoving ground, I have to start thinking about a job and the fact of it is incredibly depressing to me. How I would LOVE to just relax and talk to my parents and my dog and write and read and lie around in the sun. Oh well, que sera sera.
Just one last note, cuz my pops wants to use the computer now...I read my horoscope today in the Denver weekly publication that's like San Jose's "Metro." These were the first couple of lines: "I think it's high time you dreamed up a few new vices. The old ones barely tweak your guilty conscience any more, and they certainly don't pack the educational punch they once had." So don't blame me when I take up crack-smoking and whatever else you can let your mind imagine. :)