Traveling through Desert; Passing by Elk

dsc01583I’ve seen a lot of beautiful scenery on this train journey, but today I saw my first wildlife. A herd of elk grazed in the meadow near the track as we were about to leave northeast New Mexico for Colorado. Not just a handful of elk, but perhaps 40 or 50.

LA to KC fixedThis segment on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief started at 6 p.m. in Los Angeles at Union Station. The dining car was ready to feed us as soon as we boarded, and most people retired fairly early to their roomettes for the night. I did not sleep as well as on previous legs of the trip. Either this track or this train car was at fault – the entire journey was notably jerkier than my previous segments.

We passed through much of California and Arizona during the night. In the morning we were in the desert Southwest.

The train stopped in Albuquerque for almost an hour to take on more fuel. It was a good opportunity to get off and stretch my legs. After taking a photo of some interesting characters, I walked over to the adobe transportation building and did a quick sketch. I’m not very good, but I like to practice. It’s impossible for me to sketch on the moving train.

The afternoon was leisurely, and I alternated between watching the desert scenery change into more hills and trees and watching some Netflix videos. At one point we pulled over to allow the Southwest Chief traveling in the opposite direction to pass. We both were going slow enough to actually see into the other train.

During my meals, I met more interesting passengers. I’ve been collecting their stories about why they are taking the train, especially the long trips across the American west. On this trip, one retired architect from Chicago said he has developed asthma and his doctor suggested he not fly. So he had taken the train to visit family in California and his wife flew. He enjoyed the train, he said. A woman said she was traveling by train for medical reasons as well – she couldn’t “pop” her ears to compensate for air pressure changes when flying.

One passenger said he didn’t want to fly – or rather he didn’t want to crash. He figured a train accident was less likely to be fatal than an airplane. But some people were like me and decided to take a train vacation across the country. Stops to visit friends in Chicago, Denver and Kansas City are interrupting my trip. Others are just connecting and immediately moving on.

dsc01589We approached the New Mexico-Colorado state line at dusk, and the conductor told us to watch for wildlife. I had my nose glued to the roomette window, and suddenly saw the large herd. Initially I couldn’t tell if they were horses or elk, but the conductor confirmed the elk identification. I quickly snapped off several photos – the elk were spread through the meadow as if to help give me time to take the shots. They ignored the train as it passed. By bedtime, we had crossed into Kansas.

The train arrived into Kansas City before 7 a.m., and I gathered my belongings and left to visit friends in town and eat at some of my favorite restaurants. I’ll be here three days and then leave on the last of my journey, to St. Louis and the connection back home to Dallas.