Have you ever heard of a word so often that you finally decide to see what it was? I did. I kept seeing “Chicago” everywhere that I knew I’d have to take a leap of faith and jump into the Big Onion one day, no matter how it might smell to see the “Heart of America.”
My ten-day Chicago trip will change my life forever. Up until this summer, I have never travelled with a friend on a schedule I created to somewhere so far away.
I also decided that the Southwest Chief train would be my first Amtrak experience.
Union Station, Los Angeles
It was 5:30 p.m. in late August when we arrived at the Union Station with just enough time to obtain our tickets. My travel companion and I waited a few minutes before the first call. It’s hard to imagine how anyone can do a check-in on social media when you don’t want to miss your flight- um, train!
We meandered to the Southwest Chief’s boarding station. Soon, the Amtrak arrived, and the Coach and Lounge cars rolled in. We walked to the very back to car number 14. Within minutes, the attendants had put up colorful, numbered flags on the side of each car.
After the lady attendant checked us in and marked our ticket with “CHI”, the train closed and started moving. But suddenly, it stopped. There’s a delay because they’re adding a private car.
In Los Angeles, one of the best views besides the Union Station with its Californian palm trees was the dam. It wasn’t filled, but it was the perfect mix of green vegetation and tan architecture. Another bridge was being built. Later, we passed by less spectacular views of graffiti-drawn warehouses.
By now we had seen the Sightseer Lounge, the best place for viewing the scenery, and the small cafe downstairs. We generally carried our valuables in a smaller bag to keep our things in sight. The best view is the sunset—the pinkish, yellow color in the light blue sky.
We arrived at Riverside very late. Darkness fell quickly. We were 1 hr late already. Soon, we head north again, into the rural area with the city far away. Dim yellow lights in the distance flashed from the city .
Large mountains loomed over. Most of the passengers are asleep and I’m beginning to drift into sleep.
I must have slept through this. There were times when I felt like the train just stopped but I didn’t bother to look out.
Barstow, 11:31 pm
Dark mountains and the city lights glowed, twinkled like dots of stars. There’s not much to photograph. In fact, only a small yellow glimmer in the darkness showed when I tried to Snapchat the awe of the scenery.
I fell asleep. Needles is in California, near the Arizona border.
This was the train’s first stop in Arizona.
At 4 AM, we went through a place called Hackberry, traveling 52.4 miles per hour. It was too dark to see anything. That’s when you know to just keep sleeping…