Monday, June 13, 2005

Day 2

Awoke at 7:00 Mountain Time after very restful sleep, to fabulous view of snowed covered peaks in Utah. Gorgeous morning!

Took a shower, dressed and made breakfast reservation, then sat in the lounge car waiting to be called.

I happened to sit with a very interesting 75 year old woman, who worked for the National Park Service for 27 years. Yosemite was her assignment for a lengthy period of time, but she also worked at several other parks in the West. Kate still goes hiking and skiing, traveling all over the country to do so. We did not run out of things to talk about, especially since I am quite familiar with most areas of the country we were discussing. Everything from elevations, to wildflowers, birds (she's a bird watcher - especially raptors), past experiences in all kinds of weather. Fascinating woman! We continued our conversation for a lengthy period after lunch, also.

"Do you know what those yellow flowers are?" she asked. She admitted she is not a real expert in wildflowers.

"No, but my son could tell us. I always liked hiking with him. He would tell me the scientific name of everything."

At breakfast, I sat with an African American woman and her granddaughter from Mississippi. She had just visited her mother, a stroke patient at the nursing home on the corner from where I live. Before she moved to Mississippi 2 years ago, she lived in Sacramento for 20 years, and before that in Richmond, where her other family members still live.

In Mississippi, she was fortunate enough to buy a restored house that is on the National Register, for just a fraction of the cost in the worst areas in Richmond.

She is a lovely, sensitive person, and was telling me how distressed she is about her whole family situation. Her family is much more dysfunctional than my family.

The Colorado is high this year, a result of the heavy snow pack. Up until now, the area has suffered through several years of drought. The white water areas are quite spectacular, giving rafters a real run for their money. It is quite wonderful, sitting in the lounge car with a "picture window" on the river and its wildlife, and the towering cliffs which dwarf the train in the constricted canyon areas. Everything is green and there are many wild flowers sprinkled around. I should try this trip in the winter for a complete change of atmosphere.

Lunch was shared with a Lakota Sioux young woman, (and another couple). She is studying for her Master's in Regional and Urban Planning in Honolulu. I had seen her in the lounge with her mother yesterday, waiting for lunch. Her mother is not well, and didn't make it to lunch today. She is recovering from pleurisy at the moment.

They are going to a sister's home and then traveling to Montana and South Dakota to a Pow Wow. They left the train in Denver and I spoke with them on the platform before they were whisked away by shuttle cart to the station.

After saying goodbye to them, I turned to be close to the crew car for boarding, and a gentleman and I started speaking. He is from South Africa and is traveling with his wife and son. They came to the States to visit a son and grandchildren in Milwaukee - are doing a bit of traveling around the country. He was describing the area where he lives in South Africa, near Johannesburg, how much he loves it. He also told me they speak Afrikaans and I would not be able to understand them. (I love all the interesting people.)

There are quite a few people on the train from England, but then there usually are.

I ate dinner with a family of three from Chicago. They are older people and of course, all of us old folks have tales to tell. The guy said he had moved to California at one point but decided to move back to Chicago, he loves it so much.

I was telling him about my sight-seeing ventures between trains whenever I am westbound and there are several hours to kill. I mentioned the Art Institute and he said he started a fire there. He was refinishing woodwork in an exhibit from the old Chicago Stock Exchange and left his supplies sitting over night. They caught on fire. The damage was $20,000, which was not a real big deal. The big deal could have been that there was a big Rembrandt exhibit right outside the door and if the fire wasn't extinguished when it was, it would have been a total disaster.


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