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The Reverse Routing Trip

by Chris Guenzler

For my spring break of 1998. I decided to head back east and cover all but three of the routes I had ridden in the opposite direction. This would start at Chicago and end in New Orleans and would allow me to see more of some routes in the daylight. To and from my end points would be east on the Southwest Chief and west on the Sunset Limited. In January I called Amtrak and paid for it with Julie in Solana Beach. I waited three months and did my usual train riding of a night until departure day.

San Diegan 583 4/9/1998

My San Diegan arrived in Santa and right on time and whisked me off to Los Angeles. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, Joseph who was going to be my car attendant, I know him from him being an LSA on the San Diegan greets me before I walk down the platform to the mail cars where I find my old assistant conductor off of San Diegan 587 and good friend Lawrence Dixon. We shot the breeze for a few minutes before Joseph had me board and gave me a full window seat on the left hand side of the train for a change.

Southwest Chief 4/9/1998

We departed Los Angeles on time, pull up and then back to connect onto nine cars of express and left the City of Angels. With no interest in the movie title and feeling pretty tired, I turned in at Fullerton and mostly slept until Williams, AZ.

4/10/1998 With snow on the ground we are running right on time and passing the fleet of BNSF freights, with us meeting seven freights just within 25 miles of Dalies. Business is booming for the BNSF. We arrived in Albuquerque 25 minutes early, allowing me time to walk over to the Greyhound Depot store to buy some batteries and then a ring from an Indian vendor on the platform. Earlier in the morning I started reading John Grisham's "The Partner" and like "Runaway Jury" I couldn't put it down. So reading is taking up most of the time onboard on this trip. North of Albuquerque, we continued to meet freights as we crossed Glorieta Pass on a beautiful clear day. Dinner came around Las Vegas (Prime Rib) followed by cartoons and the movie "The Old Man" as we crossed Raton Pass and entered Colorado. Bedtime started at La Junta and ended at Kansas City.

4/11/1998 It was a cloudy day, with a gloomy sky as the train rolled across Missouri and the corner of Iowa, where I got a picture of the Southwest Chief crossing the Mississippi River.

I finished the book in western Illinois before I just sat back and enjoyed the on-time ride into Chicago. Prior to arrival, we cut off the express cars on the wye before backing into Union Station right on time. I headed upstairs for a post card, two "Char Dogs" and next the mail box downstairs on my way to the Metra Train to Elgin on a round trip designed to kill the layover before my next leg of this Amtrak adventure.

The Lakeshore Limited 48/448 4/11/1998

This was my first trip east on the Lakeshore Limited and following the usual Chicago boarding chaos, I walked past the rear road railer into the rear Amfleet II coach and took a left hand large window seat. I did that so I would be on the same side as the trees that I took pictures of this last Fall so I could see them in their pre spring characteristics. We left Chicago thirty two minutes late, travelled by a dark Comisky Park and made out stop at Hammond-Whiting before I called it a night.

4/12/1998 Following another night of restful slumber. I awoke east of Buffalo and learned that there had been a major snow storm less than three weeks ago and the trees had yet to start their spring cycle. The countryside is no less beautiful and without the leaves to hide everything is exposed

East of Utica, I tried to photograph the same trees so I could compare them to their Fall state. I must say that I enjoyed the rock strata and small waterfalls that are normally hidden by the leaves of the trees. If one only looks, one never knows what one might see. We arrived at Albany-Rensselaer on time where my Boston section was dropped off while the New York section headed to the Big Apple. They cut off the road railer and added a cafe car to the rear of our train.

We departed on time and left town via the Post Road Cutoff to reach the Conrail Albany-Boston mainline. The train made the twisting climb up the grades of the Berkshire Mountains before plunging through State Line Tunnel and into the state of Massachusetts. As the Lakeshore descended the eastern flank of the mountains, the train passed a zone where the trees appeared as giant sticks giving a most interesting view. East of Springfield, the Lakeshore Limited passed numerous lakes on its way to Boston. It makes me wonder if the train's name came from its route passing the two Great Lakes of Erie and Michigan or all of the lakes on this segment of the route? We passed through Palmer with no delays which reminded me of my trip on the Vermonter when we sat there for a while. We took the siding for our westbound counterpart before we stopped at Worcester and Farmingham prior to arriving at my stop at Back Bay. The zipper on my bag broke and I had to create a way of closing it to allow me to carry it to my hotel. I detrained at Back Bay and now I could add that station to the list of stations that I had been in.

Boston 4/12/1998

I picked up a "T" commuter train ticket and some timetables but after checking in at the Midtown Hotel I learned that my train was scheduled to leave before the first "T" commuter train would arrive at South Station. I took a hot shower that sure felt good before I wrote and mailed fourteen post cards mainly to people back home. I worked on fixing my bag with limited success before calling home and by the phone was a subway guide which gave me a way to get to South Station first thing in the morning. I went to bed thinking I would sleep the night away.

4/13/1998 At 1:48 A.M. the fire alarm went off in the hotel and the PA which you could not understand a word of what it was saying. As I evacuated my room a voice said, "Stay in your room!" I went down the stairs to the lobby where there was the fire department and police who told me to go back to bed. Back in the room I had "Fire" on my mind which took me a little while before I could fall asleep until the wakeup call came. I showered, packed and checked out before I walked to the Green Line station which I took to Park Station where I transferred to the Red Line to South Station. I had a McDonald's breakfast and waited for my next departure.

Northeast Direct 95 The Old Dominion 4/13/1998

I was finally going to get to see the section of rail from Boston to New Haven in daylight as my only other trip over that section was on the Night Owl. This trip will also let me see the progress of the electrification project on the last diesel hauled portion over the Northeast Corridor. The Old Dominion left Boston twelve minutes late with the timetable and books saying it is only a mile to Back Bay Station but I would have to say it is longer than that. The train then made the quick sprint to Route 128 Station passing several of the "T" commuter trains. In some places the poles are up, in other places just the foundations were in the ground and in other places along the track the foundations were waiting to be installed. The Train crossed the Canton Viaduct and entered Rhode Island and a few minutes later the capitol building of that state came into view prior to the Old Dominion's stop at Providence. West of the town the centenary wire had already been strung. The Old Dominion ran almost as an express train bypassing Kingston, Westerly, RI and Mystic, CN before it made its next stop at New London mainly due to Foxwood Casino for its early risers. The train reached the shores of Block Island Sound before it ran along Long Island Sound for most of the rest of the trip to New York City. Every few miles the train passed through a small town which with almost each one separated by a bridge over a river and wetland. Right before New Haven, the train crossed over the largest bridge of the trip so far over the Connecticut River which drains a four state area. The run from Boston to New Haven has a charm of its own unique, to any other part of the Amtrak system. At New Haven our train switched from electric power to that of diesel power for the rest of the trip to New York. The train ran nonstop the rest of the way to New York City dodging Metro North commuter trains and track work projects. At Bridgeport the bridge project was completed since my last visit here in June other than that, everything else is the same except that the commuter train station billboards do not have the Lost in Space Robot pictured anymore. I shot some pictures from the Hells Gate Bridge the largest bridge on the entire Northeast Corridor of the Manhattan Skyline which is an awesome sight from the World Trade Center in the south, with the Empire State Building in the center to the very north end of the island standing tall as only New York City can. The train passed Amtrak's Sunnyside Yard before the train plunged into the East River Tunnel and arrived at Penn Station right on time.

New Jersey Transit 4339, 3239 4/13/1998

I took the early morning train from Boston so I could go and see what was in Bay Head, New Jersey. For fourteen dollars I purchased a round trip to Bay Head which would involve four different trains. I boarded the five seat across Bombardier coach with three tickets to get me to my destination. The Conductor took only two as the third would be needed for the shuttle train from Long Branch to Bay Head. We left Penn Station on time with an electric engine pulling us through the Hudson River Tunnel and across the New Jersey Meadowlands on the Northeast Corridor. We made the corridor stops at Newark, Elizabeth, Linden and Rahway before we ducked under the corridors track and out onto new trackage for me. South of Woodbridge the train ran along the shore of the Raritan River to Perth Amboy. The name of this route is the New Jersey Shore Line and we crossed numerous waterways as we made our way to Bay Head. At Long Branch I made the across the platform transfer to the diesel powered shuttle train to Bay Head. We traveled south with stops at Asbury Park, Bradley Beach and Point Pleasant before we arrived at Bay Head where I was dropped off in the middle of a street before the crew pulled down to switch ends to return to Hoboken. While in Bay Head on a nice warm day, I worked on my bag and had help from six very friendly Bay Head residents who could not believe that I had come from California to here by train. My new found friends did their best to fix my bag but had no luck and while I repacked everything they told me everything and more that I wanted to know about Bay Head.

New Jersey Transit 2312 and 3260 4/13/1998

My train for Long Branch arrived to start my trip back to the Big Apple with me doing everything in reverse order than I did getting here. I changed trains at Long Branch and had a very enjoyable ride back to Penn Station. I accomplished all that I had planned to do today and saw a new part of New Jersey where I met some very nice people. Once back in Penn Station I had a Boerhead roast beef sandwich with a special thanks to Peter McNamara, my conductor on San Diegan 587 who told me about it before I waited for my next train.

The Silver Meteor 97 4/13/1998

I played my favorite game in New York City which is watching the departure board flip over and watch my train name climb to the top with the track number later displayed. I waited for that information and won the game again being the first one to board the train taking a left hand side window seat after I made sure all of the features worked before I helped two other passengers do the same. The Meteor left on time and my ticket was collected but no hat check was put up to reserve my seat and to let the crews down line know where I was going. The Meteor popped out of the Hudson River Tunnel in the last light of day before it sped across the New Jersey Meadowlands to Newark where I got my first seat mate of the trip as a mother sat next to me with her two daughters across the aisle from us. Like me they were also going to Winter Park. The TV monitors came on but our side of the train did not have any audio making watching the movie a waste of time. I turned in after Philadelphia and slept all the way to South Carolina with the exception of being woken up twice by train crews who wanted to know where I was going.

4/14/1998 I woke up to the twilight as the Meteor was traveling along the Atlantic Coastal Plain so it was pine trees, sandy soil and water anyplace where it was low as the order of the day. This is the start of all new daylight mileage for me. The Silver Meteor made brief stops at Florence and Kingstree stations before an extended stop at Charleston due to heavy baggage loads. At Yemassee there was a marine who had boarded last night in Washington, DC detraining after he took a whole thirty minutes preparing himself for his duties of the day. Several passengers were complaining to the conductor about being woken up during the night and I added my two cents about had the crew used hat checks none of this would have happened. I went to the lounge car for some cookies and juice for breakfast in what was supposed to be a nonsmoking period where several people were smoking away and I made a mistake of making a comment. They responded with, "What are they going to do, throw me off of the train?" I just shook my head and walked away instead of putting my foot in my mouth. At Savannah, the train made a lengthy servicing stop which cost us twenty eight minutes which would not be made up. On the move once more, I purchased a chicken meal for an early lunch and sat back watching Georgia turn into Florida after a brief stop at Jessup. At Jacksonville we made another extended stop and my car attendant bought a coffee mug for me while I took a few pictures of the train along with three road railers.

We left Jacksonville one hour late as my seat mates from Newark finally were alive so much so that they were very entertaining and kept me laughing all the rest of my trip to Winter Park where I detrained on a nice warm Spring day. I sent a lady friend a post card with the Winter Park station on it, walked to the post office to mail it before working on my sun tan and took a few pictures of a CSX freight, deadhead move of the Sunset Limited from Orlando and my next train as it pulled in, the Silver Star.

The Silver Star 92 4/14/1998

After going south on the Silver Meteor route it became time to go north on the Silver Star route for the first time. I tried for a window seat but had to settle for a car body seat, one which offered me no view but rode in the middle of the car. I then figured after sitting there a few minutes I could just ride in the lounge car with a view until sundown. I went to the dining car for dinner and had a grilled Prime Rib and Key Lime Pie. The Prime was poor but the Key Lime was excellent. After dinner I met a college student going home from Spring Break to Buffalo which killed the time to Jacksonville where I bought another coffee mug. I worked three word search puzzles before calling it a night as the train sped through Georgia and I retired for the night. At five fifteen in the morning, the conductor woke me up for my stop at Raleigh and after a twenty minute trip awake, the Silver Star arrived fifteen minutes early into Raleigh. Is not padding in the schedule a nice feature!

The Piedmont 73 4/15/1998

As I waited patiently in the Amtrak Raleigh Station, I changed clothes, shaved and bought another coffee mug followed by reading the entire USA Today. At 7:00 A.M. I walked outside and sat on a bench waiting for my three car train to pull in with its own North Carolina engine pulling the train. I boarded the middle coach, the Longleaf Pine and took a seat in the middle of that car on the right side. Before my car was another coach named the Cardinal and ahead was an unnamed lounge car. These cars were rebuilt for this service by the Delaware Car Company in February 1993 and are cleaned and polished after every round trip. The state of North Carolina takes a lot of pride in the service and I commend them with my highest praise on the service they provide. The cars are perhaps the nicest cars I have ever ridden in on the entire Amtrak system. The Piedmont left Raleigh ten minutes late and started off on the same route as I came in on the Silver Star before it branched off onto the North Carolina Railroad right before Cary which was the first stop. The Piedmont headed west and climbed through Morrisville, by the Triangle Research Center before we paused at Durham. The train continued on through Bennet Place, crossed the Eno River then passed through Hillsbourgh, Mebane, crossed the Haw River prior to arriving at Burlington where no one boarded. The train next passed through Elon College, Gibsonville, McCleansville before we turned south onto the NS mainline towards Charlotte and our next station stop at Greensboro. Traveling down the NS mainline at a much higher rate of speed we passed through Jamestown before stopping at High Point. Next the train sped through Thomasville which has the world's largest Duncan Phyfe Chair, Lexington, Linwood, by the NS yard, crossed the Yankin River, by the former Southern Railway Shops at Spencer before The Piedmont arrived at Salisbury. We ran through China Grove with the Doobie Brothers song playing in my head, Landis before we stopped at Kannapolis. The Piedmont made its final sprint towards Charlotte passing through Concord and Harrisburg before a red signal at Newell brought the train to a stop. Ten minutes later after getting a green signal we preceded to our last station stop of the trip Charlotte, North Carolina. It had been a great train trip on a very special train, the Piedmont, and once again I would like to thank the state of North Carolina for providing me with a very unique and special train riding experience.

Charlotte 4/15/1998

I walked straight out the station's front door and across the street to a bus stop to wait for a bus to take me into town. I was joined by eight other people waiting for the same thing when a taxi station wagon pulled up and offered to take all of us into town for a dollar a piece. All but one took him up on it and four minutes later I was the first one dropped off at the Day's Inn getting my room for my sixteen hour layover in Charlotte. I walked three blocks to a drug store for post cards then sat on the sidewalk with my back against the building filling them out as I also watched all the pretty women who walked by. It took me a lot longer time than normal to fill out those cards before I got a hot dog from a street vendor prior to returning to my room for a well deserved nap. At Four in the afternoon I walked around town before I found a food court with a Steak and Bake. Returning to my room I watched the Phantom then Sports Center before I crashed until that two thirty A.M. wake call, showered and taxied back to the Amtrak Station for my next train.

The Crescent 19 4/16/1998

My brother Bruce the Amtrak agent once said, "A train has to stop some place in the middle of the night," and tonight it is in Charlotte. The Crescent arrived twenty minutes late and I was assigned a right hand side window seat. I stretched out across both seats and napped until Gastonia where passengers know they are supposed to detrain but the attendant thinks that Gastonia is after Spartan, SC and tells them to go back to sleep. I had to take out my Amtrak national timetable to prove that the passengers were right. I walked up to the lounge car for a few cups of tea as I waited for the dining car open where I had my best pancakes and sausage ever on Amtrak. On the way back to my seat I bought a Crescent Polo Shirt before I returned to my seat watching the Moon and clouds play a little hide and seek. The NS mainline was extremely busy and we stopped at Tarber to let one freight train pass on the mainline. We crossed Lake Keowee just west of Clemson before we crossed the Tugaloo River into Georgia. We had been traveling all morning on a layer of the Appalachian Mountains as the railroad runs across fills and through rock cuts. My car attendant asked me to move up and over to the other side of the car as she had a large group boarding in Atlanta. I was happy to do that as now I would have audio for the rest of the trip. I knew that Atlanta was close as we had a Marta heavy rail commuter train running alongside of us into town. We arrived in Atlanta and I detrained to inspect another station's interior.

It was a cloudy dark overcast day, one on which my camera was not getting enough light for picture taking. It was getting down right gloomy as the Crescent left Atlanta forty six minutes late. They started the morning off with Bugs Bunny Cartoons as the train crossed the Chattahoochee River. We got into the Kennesaw Mountains as the movie "Fairy Tales" started. The mountain line section allowed for many views of both ends of the train. We reached Breman which is the highest point on the Atlanta-New Orleans mainline. We crossed into Alabama at the Tallaposa River. A few minutes later off to the south was the highest point in the state of Alabama, Cheaha Mountain before the Crescent arrived at Anniston. West of town we passed the Anniston Army Depot with tanks and other military hardware out on display. The car attendant started the movie "Seven Years in Tibet" and fifteen minutes into it stopped because the tour group wanted to see it but had gone to lunch. If you were the car attendant would you keep the movie going for the passengers who were watching it or turn it off and let the group come back to their seats before starting it again? The Crescent crossed the Coosa River and later passed through the 500 foot long Crooks Springs Tunnel. After a few miles of downgrade we left the Appalachian Mountains and passed through Leeds then Irondale where NS has a large yard. Coming into Birmingham a trivia question was asked. "What are the three minerals needed to make steel?" I thought of the old Kaiser Steel plant out in Fontana, CA, coal from York Canyon in New Mexico, Iron Ore from Eagle Mountain, CA. and Limestone from Crushenbury, CA. I had the answer now I had to find the Train Chief and I won a Crescent Coffee Mug. All of these materials were found within five miles of Birmingham. The former steel mill owned by Solon stood out against the backdrop of a very modern skyline. The steel industry here was put out of business by oversea steel production plus the tighter US pollution standards. Someone finally answered my question about the aggressive green vine that covered everything from the ground up. Trees, telephone poles and buildings were all covered by Kudzu. At Birmingham I entered my 100th Amtrak station building before the Crescent left town thirty minutes late.

The Crescent started the crossing of the Black Belt, a narrow strip of prairie where most of Alabama's cotton plantations were. As the train stopped at Tuscaloosa there was a sign which proudly read "NS AGS South 55 Days since last injury!" The Crescent next passed the Moundville Archeological Park, one of the largest of Native Mississippian Culture which was seen after crossing miles of swamp with a quick hard look. The train crossed the Black Warrior River on a drawbridge, passed miles of Catfish farms before crossing the Tambigbee River with its limestone banks before the Crescent entered Mississippi. The train made a brief stop at Meridian before stopping at Laurel. Here we left the red soil for the light sandy soil of the middle region of the state. We traveled though the miles of Longleaf Pines. Funny, did not I ride in a car with that name yesterday on the Piedmont before we crossed the Leaf River? We arrived at Hattiesburg, then Picayune before passing through the sandy red hills and crossed the Pearl River into Louisiana as twilight took hold through the marshes and swamps to our next to last station stop of Sidell. Right before the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway my attendant and I walked back through two cars to the rear platform to enjoy the crossing of Lake Pontchartrain. It is a causeway with six miles of concrete bridges and sixteen miles of fill on the western end. Even in the dark it's still an impressive crossing of Lake Pontchartrain. I listened to the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge Concert tape I had the New Orleans's show as the train approached the Crescent City. On final approach I met Jeff, a marine who would be on the Sunset with me tomorrow and was heading back to duty on the base outside of Yuma. The Crescent backed into New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal twenty two minutes late.

New Orleans 4/15/1998

I was first off the train and into the first taxi cab which took me to the Maison St. Charles Hotel for another night's rest. I called home and talked to Duane who told me that my Dad had gotten dizzy, hit his head when he fell and was taken to the hospital. I watched the end of a Chicago-New Jersey hockey game before calling it a night after another great train trip this time on the Crescent.

Sunset Limited 1 4/16/1098

Following a good night's rest and ride on the St Charles Street Car line, I taxied back to Union Station to wait for the same Sunset Limited equipment set I had seen in Winter Park. I wrote and mailed post cards, ate a Subway roast beef sandwich and talked to Jeff for over an hour waiting for the late running Sunset Limited to arrive in New Orleans. We started the line to board the train at Gate B and soon all the other passengers had lined up behind us. We all had to wait until the City of New Orleans boarded and left before we could board the Sunset Limited. Alex P. once of San Diegan service is our conductor as far as Houston and we exchanged greetings in the process. Departure time had come and gone by the time I was in my usual window seat when a man going to Tucson was seated next to me. He had started his trip in Oakland and had been traveling around the country just like I was. It was announced that we were going to be here a while longer and we could detrain if we wished. I noticed that tracks three and four were ballasted with sea shells and learned that they are used in concrete and highways. Following a short walk I was convinced that they made good ballast as well. Jeff joined me outside and I taught him about Superliners. They were building a new hockey arena next to the Superdome so I suspect New Orleans may be in the market for a hockey team. I hope if they get one they will support it better than they did the NBA team they had now in Utah still known as the Jazz. After our locomotives were finally assembled and put on our train, the Sunset Limited departed New Orleans two hours and nine minutes late and I thought to myself, "That is really not too bad!"

I was not sitting in the lounge car for two minutes when a boy named Alex came running through so I put my arm out in the aisle and stopped him explained the dangers of his actions with Alex saying he was sorry, would not run again on the train and thanked me for looking out for his safety. The train climbed the grade to the Huey P Long Bridge with me taking pictures in spite of the freight train blocking the view of downtown New Orleans. We headed west out into bayou country, playing a little Amtrak trivia and just enjoying the countryside we passed through. Jeff found me and we got a dinner reservation and then met Josie, Jesse the older sister, who was fourteen, who with their mother Billy Joe who were all moving to California. Jeff and I excused ourselves to the dining car for an excellent meal of Filet Mignon with a peppercorn sauce plus dessert. We went back to the lounge car to watch "Mr McGoo" followed by the "Old Man" again. "Mr McGoo" was simply a bad movie. I finally met Billy Jo, a very attractive woman of thirty four moving from Bay St Louis, MS. with the two kids to California. asked her the origin of the names of her children and she told me they were all named after outlaws. Jesse Ray is for Jesse James, Josie is really Josie Wales and Billy Jo is named after Billy the Kid. I nicknamed them the Outlaws. They called it a night when the train passed through a series of thunderstorms. Jeff and I watched the end of the movies and agreed the ending of the "Old Man" could have been better. We crossed into Texas an hour and forty six minutes late and decided to call it a night as tomorrow would be the long day crossing of West Texas. I slept most of the night away in my coach seat except the last two hours where I went to the lounge car to stretch out which worked perfectly.

4/17/1998 We arrived at San Antonio twenty minutes after we were supposed to leave. I detrained to buy a newspaper on this rainy morning and for a look at our train which included the American Orient Express cars deadheading to Seattle on the rear of our train. We departed an hour late and I was having a cup of tea in the lounge car when here came a little girl running down the aisle. I put out my arm like I always stop children from running and stopped her. The mother following behind her explodes, "No one touches my child except me!" and when I tried to explain I did it for her child's safety she just continued to rave. I said, "I am sorry! Just trying to protect your child." She stormed off hot and mad. I tried to forget the whole incident and finally the dining car opened up and I had a very good breakfast. As the train headed further west, the clouds lifted and by Del Rio we had lost them all. I started to write the story of this trip and took a break to go downstairs and photographed the Pecos River off of the High Bridge when we crossed it.

Just as I was about to shot the northbound view Billy Jo exited the bathroom and we shared the open window view together. She was really quite impressed with it just as I was, a fantastic sight in the middle of nowhere. I returned to my coach seat and my writing when the conductor came by wanting to talk to me. We went to the dining car and we sat down as he explained that the mother was saying that I had hit her child repeatedly with my fist. He then asked for my side of the story and after hearing it was convinced that I did not do anything wrong and said he would go back to see her to smooth everything out. He told me to lay low, sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of my trip. About twenty minutes later he came back and said everything was alright as he walked by. I then told Billy Jo what had happened with her telling me not to worry about it. Jeff came by telling me not to worry about it either as that lady was a crazy marine from Oceanside and if I wanted he would have a talk with her. I said, "Let's just live and let die," which he thought was a good idea. Sanderson came next with my mood slowly returning to normal. With Annie blaring from the speakers and since you can't see the video monitors in the bright daylight I returned to my seat and continued to write as I many antelope were seen as we climbed into the mountains of West Texas and we neared our next station stop of Alpine.

West of Alpine, the train reached Paisano Pass, the highest point on the former Southern Pacific's Sunset Route even higher than the fabled snowy Donner Pass. Josie returned telling me that the mother is telling everyone who would listen to her lies about me. I told her not to worry about it because I am not. The rest of the "Outlaws" and Jeff returned just as the Steward was taking dinner reservations which Billy Jo got four for us as Jesse is eating in the lounge car. We played trivia again and I won winning a Sunset Limited Baseball Cap. My Empire Builder Cap went into the bag for a long deserved rest. The Sunset reached El Paso where I showed people where the phone was inside the station before I visited the mail box in front of the station. I returned to train side for a little West Texas sun before the "All aboard" was sounded and the Sunset Limited headed west. I took pictures as the train crossed the Rio Grande River into New Mexico and along the border with Mexico!

Our foursome headed to the dining car where the three of them had the Catalina Chicken, which Josie picks out the spinach piece by piece as I had the Filet Mignon again. We enjoyed our meal as Billy Jo who does not normally drink had two bottles of wine with her meal over dinner with the second one making her giddy. At the next table over the mother was seated with her party whose members turned around to look at me but almost got whiplash from turning their heads back around when they saw me looking at them. The mother on the other hand kept her face from my view maybe finally ashamed of all of the lies she had made up about me. My dinner was excellent for the last dining car meal of the trip. The movies were a repeat performance of last night so Billy Jo had a couple of Tequila Sunrises and I watched the effect they had on her as it related to my sobriety on a positive note. Just what the effects of alcohol can have on a person and it was a great reminder of the total control that alcohol had on my life. I am totally grateful for my 1186 days of sobriety. I continued writing as the train sped west into Arizona with the first decent sunset of the trip. No wonder why this train is called the Sunset limited. Jeff and I said our goodbyes at Tucson as we both detrained for some fresh air before I called it a night.

4/19/1998 During my sleep the Sunset lost all sort of time as we followed a freight train from Frink all the way to Thermal because every siding in between was stuffed full of Union Pacific freight trains whose crews had died on the hours of service law. I woke up in West Colton and had an orange juice which was far better than what I used to have in the morning on the train in the old days. We got held out of Los Angeles Union Station across the LA River as I got to wave goodbye to train San Diegan 560 which I could have connected with to Santa Ana. We finally arrived into Union Station only twenty minutes late, not bad considering our start out of New Orleans late.

San Diegan 562 4/19/1998

I am the last passenger to detrain after returning all of the seats to their upright position before I got a luggage cart for the "Outlaws" and we said our goodbyes and wished each other good luck in the future. I walked down to the end of the platform to wait for San Diegan 562 to come in from Chatsworth and while I waited both the Southwest Chief and Coast Starlight entered the station. Train 562 came in next and after loading, we left Union Station ten minutes late yet arrived at Santa Ana on time. I enjoyed my sunny California morning as I walked home ending my reverse routing Amtrak trip.