Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My mother and I travel across America by train...

By the time T arrived in Santa Fe we were more than ready to turn over the moving process to someone else.

I managed to pack 35 boxes of books, and generally between my mother and I, we'd made an enormous mess of her two bedroom apartment- which- of course, we had to walk around all the time to get to other things.  (It always comes as such a surprise when you are moving- you know you do have to remove things from their place and put them in boxes or group them for future packing up... but when you actually DO it you  feel overwhelmed!)

And there were pieces of furniture my mother was leaving behind in Santa Fe that needed to be picked up by interested parties but, of course, for most of the time of my packing, they were underfoot and in the way!

Still we organized and sorted and packed and "pre-packed", so that when the movers came T would be able to orchestrate it as best as possible.

We had a lovely meal in Taos (see previous post) as well as a gentle "farewell tour" of Santa Fe (for being the state capitol, it's a pretty small town when you come right down to it!)

My mother's friends were sad to see her go.  One of her best friends had a lovely party for her before we left.  Benedicta went all out to make sure my mother felt loved and appreciated.

I decided that we would take the train trip across the country for several reasons, the predominant one being that my mother always had wanted to travel by train across the United States.  As the movers were coming the day after we left, it would take them at least a week to show up in Chicago, so we had plenty of time.  Plus we brought some extra luggage which would have been expensive on an airplane. Last of course was the cost... it was MUCH less expensive to take the train.  The cost for the two of us on the train in a room was approximately the same as for one standard air ticket ONE WAY.

The train leaves from Lamy (just outside of Santa Fe, where the train station is... actually seems like the middle of nowhere!) I knew that T or friends or the train shuttle service could get us out there, comfortably.

We arrived with plenty of time to have a little picnic in the shade.
plenty of room to swing a cat... if we'd had a cat

My mother's arthritis is bad enough so stairs and walking can be a bit difficult. I booked a Superliner Accessible Bedroom (2 beds) on Amtrak. Since it was on the lower level I knew it would be easier for her to access. Our train arrived in Lamy around 1:50 PM. We boarded and we were away before 2!

view to the other side of the room
 The room was small but very efficient.

On one side was a little bathroom/powder room (Note: with its own window!) with a little pull across curtain for privacy.  This seemed like a good idea until I realized that the window pretty much gave things away at most of the train stops.

And the other side of the room was versatile enough to function as a bar, dining room, and with some shuffling about, two berths - bottom and top. (guess who got the top bunk?)

Henry taking some evening air in Colorado
There was a special attendant for the Accessible rooms, and Henry took our food orders, brought us our meals, made up the beds, brought us fresh water and hot coffee, and generally made himself invaluable to us.

As early on in the trip I visited the canteen car and cleverly purchased 4 small bottles of Dewars Scotch, our first day of travel passed quite pleasantly all around.

The gathering storm!
We saw some spectacular scenery, and some really spectacular weather as there was a series of lightening storms and rain all night long.

The sound of the train and the sound of the rain beating on the windows made for a strange but successful lullaby.  Still every time I woke up to help my mother, the flashes of lightening and low rumbles of thunder were continuous.

The only drawback was the beds were narrow.  Very narrow.  The top bunk had a built in safety belt net, which I was grateful for on two occasions.  The first was when I first got into the bed and realized I had to turn around and promptly "fell" over the side (and into the safely belt net), the second more sinister time was in the middle of the night when I "thought" I was more in the middle of the bed than I was, rolled over and ended up hanging like a bat from the safety net.

This caused both my mother and I to laugh uncontrollably and not go back to sleep for the rest of the night.  As it was about 5 AM we just decided to turn on our lights and read from that point on.

crossing the Mississippi
We had a lovely breakfast, delivered by Henry, and then we read and looked out the window at the changing landscapes.

We had traveled from the dry Southwest through the mountains (lots of wild elk and deer!) to the high plains (horse grazing lands) to the prairie (cattle and sheep). Then we crossed to the rich growing lands of America, as we approached the Mississippi. (this link  is for the detailed Route Guide pdf file- very well done!- from AMTRAK for the whole of the route of the Southwest Chief Train from Chicago to Los Angeles).

Every time I cross the United States, I marvel at its vastness and beauty.

Union Station, Chicago
We skipped lunch (well except for two ice cream sundaes) and dozed a bit of the afternoon away with the rocking of the train.

We rolled into Union Station at around 4 in the afternoon, and with the disembarking, finding Andrew (favorite son who picks us up from train stations) and the gathering of luggage by excellent porter who drove my mother and the luggage through the whole terminal to the curbside to await Andrew and the car, it was around 5 pm (rush hour!) by the time we left the loop.

We took my mother to her new home- Lincolnwood Place- where they had a "guest apartment" all ready for her to stay in until her things arrived and her apartment was able to be moved into.

I returned to Andrew's apartment where he generously let me settle to await T's arrival for the Memorial Day weekend. (yes, it's still May...)

Life continued from there and I'll try and organize my thoughts well enough to give you a taste of the rest of the visit in my next post.

MEANWHILE... it would appear that T managed (fingers crossed) to stem the leak in the swimming pool.  He's now pretty much convinced that it was mostly a slow but steady leak from two of the valves, as they wouldn't close properly. (but we watch the "λούκι" or overflow drain with jaundiced eye...)

T also spoke with the municipality and hopefully by the end of the week, we will be getting our own Municipal water connection "sort of" (it trickles out and takes most of the night to refill the tank) for a small consideration: 230 Euros. (the water of course costs LOTS more)

If we wanted to connect to the pressurized water station, it would be necessary for T to dig a trench across two roads and alongside our neighbors land to connect to the new small pumping station that is about 70 meters from our house.  That would cost us another 600 euros in materials and T's free labor.  (this is the same pressurized water station we suspect of tapping into our well.)

Just a little FYI... Greece is short of water, but Corfu is not, Corfu sends a goodly amount of water to the mainland.  The water rates everywhere in Greece are the same - municipal water is democratically high priced, even if they get it from your backyard!


  1. Oh I've been so looking forward to this post. What a wonderful journey which I'm sure delighted your mother. I would give anything to make the same trip. I'm so envious!

    I laughed out loud at you getting caught in the safety net...sorry but it's so funny..just the kind of thing that would happen to me.

  2. Fantastic journey, and fascinating the way you've described it!

  3. yes dear Ayak,

    It was pretty funny, but I can tell you- getting untangled when you are laughing hard enough to cry, is VERY difficult.

    Still in all, it was a marvelous trip and we had a very special and good time doing it together.

    It occurred to me that it had been years since she and I took a trip together just the two of us, and it was nice doing it again.

    Dear Gaelikaa,

    I really didn't do the trip justice, as there was so much to see and philosophize over.

    The train trip was approximately 29 hours long- we went through two different timezones! We, of course, stopped to pick up people along the way and to drop them off- as well as just speeding through so many small towns, waving at people sitting in their backyards or in their cars waiting for the safety bands to go back up to let the traffic through.

    It was a wonderful journey and I am lucky to have been able to do it with my mother.

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. What a wonderful memory the two of you made! You write so well...I so enjoyed your trip and funny happenings. A few years before my mother's passing, all the family took a small train(old steam engine) excursion from one local town to another, only a 1/2 hour trip, but it was something we all hold dear.

    I enjoyed the inside photos of a modern train!


  5. Scotch, good views, and tiny berths, what more is there? Sounds like it was a great trip!



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