Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Long and Winding Road - Amtrak - Sunset Line

Day 37 and 38 - Amtrak -Sunset Limited - New Orleans, Louisiana to Los Angeles, California

We arrived at the Amtrak station excited to be crossing the southern states by train.  We all know the saying...."the best laid plans...."  Well, never a truer word has been spoken.  Last night, there was a train derailment and a bridge had been damaged near Beaumont,  which meant our travel across the Bayou by train, was now an exciting 7 hour bus ride to Houston, Texas.  To say people were NOT happy is an understatement.

Our bike boxes loaded onto the bus....this side up?

We loaded our buses and were delighted to discover that an older lady on our bus had taken control.  Miss Carol, as she liked to be called,  was a tiny, little thing with a POWERFUL spirit and quickly set down the ground rules, and I quote:

You are now MY people so here are the rules:

-No one gets off the bus.  We ain't losing anyone.
-No number twos in the bathroom.  Only number ones.  We ain't having a stinky bus.
-Keep my floor clean
-If you are a smoker, this is a good time to quit because NO ONE GETS OFF THE BUS!!!!!

We arrived at the Amtrak station in Houston and several passengers had to handle more bad news.  The air conditioner in the First Class cabins was broken and passengers with these tickets were being downgraded to coach.  Tempers flared and the 3 hour wait to board the train became a study in human nature.  The majority of people handled the bus situation and wait well and we shared laughs with numerous fellow passengers, but there are always a few that adversity seems to bring out the worst in.  I was glad that we were able to see the humour and enjoy the wait.

Passengers disembark bus and wait for train in Houston

At last - we board the train!
The day ended on a high as we arrived early in San Antonio....GO SPURS!  Our fanastic Amtrak attendant Cindy encouraged us to head over to the River Walk.  We had a 3 hour rest stop, so we spent the time exploring downtown San Antonio.  It was a beautiful midnight walk and a terrific way to stretch out before heading back to the train.

Sunset Station - San Antonia, Texas
It was fun to watch the landscape change as we began to cross Texas, New Mexico and venture in to California.  This train line has been running for 125 years, and we learned about the history of the Wild West and how often this train had been robbed.  We spent time in the observation car, which has been coined the schoolhouse, as people in the car share their knowledge (real and imagined knowledge) about the area.

Word in the schoolhouse was that if you were quick, you could get off the train in El Paso and find a lady who sold the best burritos in the State.  Sure enough...there she was and we swear almost every passenger disembarked the train to purchase the homemade burritos.

Brisk Burrito sales in El Paso
 As we continued on the route followed the Rio Grande along the Mexican border.  We laughed as kids on the train were so excited to see Mexico. 

View of Mexico from the train
Our stop in Tucson gave us enough time to venture in to town.  We found a little sports bar and enjoyed a nibble while watching the first half of the Spurs - Heat NBA final.

The Ritchey Hotel

Before heading to bed we visited the observation car and enjoyed a cocktail as we watched the sun set.  Our last morning treated us to views of countless windmill farms in the Palm Desert area.  

Wind Farm
We are several hours behind schedule and our fingers are crossed that our connection to the Starlight line will be successful!......if not, we may need a couple of days in Disneyland to regroup? 

Union Station - Los Angeles

Giggle of the day:

Our bus sergeant major, Miss Carol, finished her rules speech with this line:  "I don't want any complaining, you just thank The Lord for what you got!".....and we DID!

Miss Carol delivers lunch

We thought riding a bike 80 miles, uphill, against a head wind, without water was hard......ironically our muscles were stiffer when we got off the  bus!

AMTRAK New Orleans to Los Angeles

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