What’s Better than the Train? Seeing Friends!

My host in Kansas City for three days, Ginzy, isn’t a morning person, so I grabbed an Uber to Union Station to begin my shortest Amtrak journey of the trip – the Missouri River Runner. It travels between Kansas City and St. Louis, where I will join the Texas Eagle tonight for the final leg home to Dallas.

I’ve interrupted this two-and-a-half week trip with three stops of three days each. I’ve met fellow train travelers who are connecting with as few layovers as possible, circling the American west in six days. I wanted to break up this trip and visit friends along the way.

First I stopped in Chicago for three days after the overnight Texas Eagle from Dallas. My sister Elaine flew up to meet me and to see her son (my nephew) who attends the University of Illinois – Chicago. Sometime next week I will drive back to Chicago to spend the summer in an apartment I have rented there, but it was nice to spend a few days in the city to begin the trip.

Next it was on the California Zephyr overnight to Denver. My friend Martha moved to Castle Rock, a suburb south of town, last year, and I got to see her and her new house. We explored the area, had dinner with another friend, Timi, and day-tripped to Colorado Springs and to Red Rocks and Evergreen. I also made use of Martha’s laundry.

The Zephyr leaves Denver early, but we got to Union Station early enough to have another breakfast at Snooze in the station. Their blueberry Danish pancakes were worth the early alarm. And the Zephyr from Denver to California was the most scenic train journey I have taken.

I didn’t plan any visits while in California – just spent one night in Emeryville outside San Francisco and another in Los Angeles (read about it here). Then it was a two-night train journey on the Southwest Chief to Kansas City, where I lived during high school and in my 20s.

Three days was not enough to visit all my friends there, but I saw several and went to some fun restaurants. We even caught a good movie, Finding Your Feet, and visited the Truman Library. I hadn’t been there in decades, since I was editor of the Independence Examiner. And of course I did another load of laundry.

The Missouri River Runner leaves Kansas City twice a day and takes about six hours to cross the state. The first part of the journey is through farmland. We joined the Missouri River in Jefferson City as we passed just in front of the capital and the state penitentiary. Then we followed the river almost all the way to St. Louis, where we arrived in early afternoon.

The Texas Eagle wasn’t scheduled to leave St. Louis until nearly 8 p.m., so I spent a couple of hours relaxing in the first-class lounge of the St. Louis Gateway Terminal. It is pretty basic, but was quiet and offered bottled water. Friends Arthur and Gayla picked me up for nice tour through the city before we had an early dinner. They dropped me back at the station before going on to a St. Louis Symphony performance. Alas, the Texas Eagle was running a couple of hours late, but the time passed quickly in the lounge.

One more day and my journey will end. It’s been great fun to mix such a scenic trip with great visits with good friends.