Waking up in the middle of darkness. Soon we’d get there. Soon.
La Junta, Colorado
I woke up in La Junta a bit before falling into deep sleep. Not much here.
If the train was on track, it would have been 1:55 am when it stopped here. This stop was so bright because of the lamps, accentuating the red building.
Garden City, Kansas
The Southwest Chief followed the Arkansas River. By now, we were half way there and into the Midwest states.
The train rolled into Dodge City at 3:32am and two hours for the time change adjustment (compared to 12: 27am expected time). Maybe we lost some hours, but we won’t know until our arrival.
It was completely dark except what looks like an area that stores large box trucks. It seemed like the middle of nowhere, but the Snapchat filters showed otherwise with three different “Dodge City” signs for this wild frontier town in the Old West.
Would it be worth visiting here? Maybe?
At the current 6AM time, I started seeing a very interesting sight as I drifted in and out of sleep. There were thousands of lights blinking. What were they? Some kind of signal?
I soon discovered that those were wind turbines in Spearville, KS. In that very darkness, bolts of lightning started flashing.
In forty minutes, we were in Saint John, Kansas, a country town. The sky lightened, but it was all grey with darker grays and very much like night.
By the time we were in Stafford, the sky had cleared immensely, but it was still dark in the farmlands as no sunlight broke through the thick clouds.
I kept videotaping, trying to capture the lightening. I captured a big one during the time it flashed about five times in the same area. Powerful.
To me, Kansas would be known as the “lightning state.” Lightning haunted the prairies. It was like a scene from The Wizard of Oz.
Later, we passed by a beautiful blue pond. Lightning continued into Partridge. I could not but help wonder if the dark swirly clouds far away were tornadoes.
We arrived in the middle of Kansas. The Hutchinson stop was old with a brick wall in front of a red building and a sign that said, “Cool Beans at the Depot.” After that, we passed by some antiquated homes that had peeling paint.
The light shone through the clouds like a godly sight. It shone over a large puddle magnificently.
The conductor confirmed then and there that we were five hours behind schedule. The delay surprised us since we expected to catch up at night.
With one delay, the train experienced another delay because of crossing trains, and at night, it must had experienced another delay.
The next stop was Newton, which had a white building that looked like a lighthouse.
Far away into the field, I spotted rolls of something that looked like barrels…
“What do you think it is?” I asked my friend.
We took guesses until we could distinguish that they were rolls of hay and not barrels.
On the way to Topeka, we saw the Heartland Park, but instead of race tracks, I thought of horses. Here, we also saw the Kansas Air National Guard and a plane that said U.S. Air Force.
Trees after trees and soon, we were near a bridge over the Kansas River in Kansas City, Kansas. We passed the Old Santa Fe freight train and the river we followed became a part of the Missouri River.
Kansas City, Missouri
So we left Kansas City for Kansas City.
“We left Kansas for Kansas City,” I joked.
My joke fell through though, since I didn’t realize we were still in Kansas, and that there were two Kansas Cities .
Kansas City, KS was lush green even in the late summer, and it was super humid!
Their Union Station was grand, with glass walls, but it was also old. Here, we had a small stop and noticed the Northern Sky Charter car that was added.
Since we were on the train for nearly two days, most of us got off the train, including an Amish family and their kids.
We didn’t notice when they got on the train, but we noticed them when we saw them carrying a large black phone instead of a cellphone.
This subculture of America was kind of rare, especially in the West Coast. We had never seen Amish people before–or Amish people clothed in their garments, the white bonnets for the girls and plan neutral dresses. The men had beard and black overalls.
What had brought them outside of where they lived? They looked as I would have imagined from stories, and it showed the diversity within Caucasians. They have meandered to different parts of America, and no one bothered them.
In the cities before La Plata, like Independence, the Missouri River was in full view. We enjoyed it in the busy Sightseer Lounge, where the windows were the walls of the car.
We passed over the Missouri River as it rained a bit. Since it was pass noon, we went to the lunch car to savor their food.
My friend got some kind of salad and I got their special, which was ribs and mash potatoes. My body craved for cooked food so much that the food was simply delicious.
The La Plata station wasn’t really remarkable. It had a low white building with a red roof and an American flag on the side.
Fort Madison, Iowa (3:34pm)
As we entered another state after our hearty lunch, we saw more picturesque views of the river, particularly near Farmington, Iowa. Everything was so serene with birds flying across the river surrounded by the lushest trees.
I was tired but still cheery for Chicago. Finally, we were at Fort Madison, looking at the algae filled lake as the Amish family tried to call with their telephone. How it worked was confusing, but it worked…
That algae-filled lake? That was part of the Mississippi River. So on that stop, one side was the Mississippi River and the other side was the Ft. Madison Amtrak building, which looked like a light olive-green paneled, two story warehouse.
The river was big and beautiful and it was a momentous moment for us. It went almost forever. It was really as big as they say. After crossing this river, we would still see a hint of some river until we entered farmland in Illinois.
We were supposed to arrive at Galesburg by noon, and this worried the other passengers. We should have caught up during the night, but did we with the time change? The Amish, in particular, had a connecting train to their destination in Chicago. It was supposedly scheduled for 4:50pm.
Along the way, I recognized that they used white llamas to watch over the herds. There are also rows and rows of corns, which height you would not had recognize until a car drove pass.
Then we passed by Knox College, which looked fancy and polished as an adobe red building hidden by evergreens.
It was an interesting short stop. A mural was showcased next to a pitch-black freight train on display.
It was a small stop in the corn land.
It was six when Mendota appeared with its Railroad Museum.
After more fields and water tanks (which I couldn’t figure out back then) with names of the cities, came a small stop with a parking lot in Naperville.
Depending on how you saw it, riding the train built up a lot of anticipation. It tested our patience, we learned to appreciate the landscape, and we learned to be creative with what we had.
During lunch time, we were seated next to a couple who were from Albuquerque, who claimed that the train had never been this late. In fact, the last train before us was on time, so we probably just lucked out.
After entering our eighth state, the train rolled to an excruciating slower speed for the last time.
We had visited deserts, mountains, and even seen storms in the middle of August. We had seen spectacular red rocks, lakes, the Mississippi River, the cornfields of the Midwest, and finally, this city.
Surprisingly, it was still bright outside with the sunset barely setting as if it was 6pm, but it was 7:38pm when we arrived in the big city with looming skyscrapers. We were finally here in the Midwest!
I was so stunned by its immensity that my camera remained hanging.
*(Featured photo was taken inside the train station.)