Trip Leg #4: Denver to Chicago. 1,038 miles. 26 hours (give or take 8).
I should have known it was going to be a weird trip when there was a guy in the station wearing an old-fashioned top hat and a girl who loudly declared to anyone who would listen that she was "leaving a bad relationship" and had an arm in a sling to prove it.
This was again the California Zephyr, just the second half of the route. And, as it turns out, the awesome Zephyr's evil twin.
7:45 p.m. Finally boarded after a brief delay and ended up sitting next to a not-unattractive guy who was unfortunately wearing strange, lederhosen-esque shorts. Surprisingly, he was not traveling with the two German guys who sat in the lounge car and talked at the top of their lungs, secure in the anonymity of a foreign language.
8:00 p.m. There was already a little kid crying.
8:01 p.m. to midnight. More crying.
12:01 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Yep, still crying.
5:00 a.m. We pulled into Omaha where, due to bridge construction ahead, everyone except the Chicago-bound people had to get off and board buses to their destinations in between. The conductor promised the rest of us "non-stop service" to Chicago, with the caveat that we were being rerouted to a Union Pacific line. This meant, of course, that we would need a Union Pacific locomotive and a Union Pacific engineer, so we sat stalled while these changes took place for a good two hours. I stared out my window with sleepy eyes at a skinny blonde dude and his girlfriend, who engaged in an hour-long, intermittent makeout session during their farewells.
7:00 a.m. It was about this time that the high-maintenance chick sitting across the aisle from me snapped, having been forced to listen to yet another terrible snorer behind us. She stood up and yelled, "Who's DOING that? Shut UP!" Uh, newsflash, genius: when people are snoring, that usually means they're asleep, and therefore unable to hear you.
8:00 a.m. I headed to the dining car for breakfast and got seated with Jennifer and Tom from Manchester. (I know what you're thinking. Was Amtrak just an international cavalcade of fun? Yes. Yes, it was.) Oh, plus Nancy from Madison, Wisconsin. We had a very pleasant conversation, during which Tom actually used the word "gobsmacked" and Jennifer instructed me on how to travel cheaply in London, Italy, and Venice. They'd started their trip in San Francisco and were off to New York before heading home on the Queen Mary.
9:00 a.m. to noon. I napped a bit but still managed to overhear the man behind me state that "Ain't no white person in their right mind," and that he wanted to "slap erry one of 'em." Another woman behind me was hacking so loudly that I was convinced she had black lung and needed immediate medical attention. During this period, we were stopping about every 10 minutes waiting for maintenance crews to get off the track.
12:15 p.m. Did I mention that the kid was still crying?
12:30 p.m. When someone asked the car attendant how far behind schedule we were, he simply replied, "I on't know. But it ain't gonna be no 2:50." You, sir, are a prophet.
To be continued.