This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Almost finished?

This morning (Saturday) the men from the R&T Fencing of Akron, Indiana were working on finishing the railing on the Talbert Bridge.
Around noontime they seemed to have pretty much finished the railing on the bridge, and were working on the rails along the concrete ramps. For that they had to drill some holes and fill them with concrete to anchor the posts, so it may be a day or two before the bridge will be open.
I had hoped that the bridge would be finished before the swimming pool opened, but it looks like it will at least make it before the pool closes. I think I heard that the last weekday it will be open is August 17.

Last night

Tonight will be the last performance of the Carnegie Players' "Red, Hot, and Cole," a play featuring the music of Cole Porter (born in Peru, Indiana) and set in an overview of his life.
I like the costumes and set. The musical accompaniment was limited to piano, percussion, and guitar, but was well done. The play itself was largely a vehicle to showcase the music, and was not all that interesting. The problem with community and school theaters doing musicals with many singing roles is that usually the talent pool is not deep enough to bring it off given that we are so used to professional performances from television and the movies. I thought the Carnegie Players bit off a bit more than they could chew. But check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Adventures of a misconnect

Before we left Galesburg I asked the coach attendant how often they bussed passengers to Indianapolis. She said that they had been doing it every night for about the past month because the flooding had messed up the train schedules so badly. (Another tidbit from the train personnel--if the temperatures get up to 100 degrees, the trains slow down to twenty miles per hour--there is concern about the integrity of the track welds because of the expansion of the rails.)

The trip from Galesburg to Chicago was uneventful. There were no further delays, and it was now clear that we would not make train to Rensselaer. When we finally stopped at Union Station in Chicago, we were the first to find the passenger services office. It helped that we were nearest the exit on the car nearest the station. We walked in and announced that the Zephyr had arrived. Within a few minutes, the line of other Zephyr passengers was out the door and fifty feet long.

This may have been novel territory for us and the other passengers who had missed connections, but it was routine for passenger services. However, our Amtrak representative got very flustered when a heavy-set young man barged to the front of the line and demanded satisfaction. He apparently did not realize that everyone else in the line was in exactly the same situation as he was in. A manager soon arrived to calm him down.

The routine of the people in passenger services was to see if there was another train or bus that could get the person to his or her destination. Since there is no Greyhound service to Rensselaer and the train runs only once a day, that was not an option. Instead Amtrak would pay for a hotel room for us and we would take the train the next day. We had assumed that the hotel might be in the downtown, and that might allow us to visit some relatives the next day. That changed when we were told that the hotel that we would be staying in was in Homewood, Illinois. Homewood is south of Chicago, along the Tri-State, near the huge limestone quarry that the Tri-State goes over.

We were given a piece of paper for the hotel and a voucher which we took to the ticket agent who was across the way in one of the spots on the wonderful Art Deco ticket counter. She tried to give us new train tickets but the system was not accepting her request. She did, however, give us $60 for meals. (Different people got different amounts--I do not know how the amount was determined.)
Then it was time to go upstairs and find the van that was to take us to the hotel. The van turned out to be a bus and it already had quite a few people in it, some of whom had been waiting for quite a while. To my right was a young man who was 17 or 18 years old, not yet out of high school, whose train from Michigan had been late. Ahead of me was a sadder story--some passengers who had been at the station in plenty of time, but who watched the departure menu keep displaying a "delayed" message, and missed their train because it was never announced. Over the next forty five minutes or hour the bus gradually filled up with Zephyr passengers.
Then it was off to the hotel. We arrived and the clerk knew exactly what do to do because this is a nightly occurrence for her. Every night there are misconnects, and every night they end up here. We filled out a short form with our names and addresses, gave the clerk the piece of paper that the lady at Amtrak had given us, and got our room key. Since she had the people in the line fill out the forms while they waited, the whole check-in took less than fifteen minutes.

The hotel was probably built when the Tri-State was built, and I am guessing that that was in the 1960s or at the latest the early 1970s. In its early years it must have been quite the place. However, it probably never attracted as much business as the developers hoped it would, and there seemed to have been few changes in the fifty years it had been there.

The intense heat of the previous week was still in evidence inside the hotel, and since hot air rises, our rooms on the fifth floor were hot. There was air conditioning, but it could not cope with the heat when everyone turned on their units. Our bathtub drained very slowly, and though the hotel had wi-fi, the signal was very weak, only one bar in our room, and my computer would not connect until the next morning.  But at least it did finally connect.
The room did cool down enough to allow us to sleep, and the bed sure was a lot more comfortable than sleeping in a train seat. The next morning we got up for the free breakfast. Maybe they had more earlier, but all that was there when we got there were some muffins and glazed donuts that were melting.

The bus was scheduled to arrive at 11:00 to take us back to Union Station, but the driver had told everyone to be in the lobby by 10:30. Most were; we were going to spend a lot of time waiting one place or another. It was raining when we boarded the bus, and someone in the seat behind me discovered that there was some water leaking from a vent on the roof when we got underway. What else could go wrong?

When we got back to the station, most of us got in the ticket line because we had to exchange tickets. Our tickets were for the train the previous day and we needed tickets for today's train. The line was long and slow moving for at least an hour. One of our fellow misconnects commented that the Chicago station is the busiest in the Amtrak system and also the most disorganized. Maybe it is the most disorganized because it is the busiest, or maybe because it is Chicago.
A few of our fellow misconnects had to get on a 12:15 train, so they were treated separately and were soon on their way. Others of us had late afternoon trains to catch. We found the food court and checked out all the menus, finally ordering. There was no need to hurry. After we had eaten, we found another group of misconnects, a couple from Virginia with their two sons, and spent several hours talking to them. They were delightful people, and their fifth grader son was a lot of fun. He loved his skateboard and the military channel on television, and knew an amazing amount of military history for a person his age.
About an hour before our train was scheduled to leave, we went downstairs to the Amtrak waiting area. Amtrak boards seniors, those over 62, first, so we had only a short wait before we were let into another waiting area, and then after a few minutes there, we were sent to our train. It had a bunch of cars on it, but only the last two cars, coach cars that only had one level, were used. Each car held almost 70 passengers, which was ten to fifteen less than the cars on the California Zephyr. After all the passengers had boarded, it looked like all the seats were filled.
If you have ever taken the Amtrak from Chicago, the chances are good that you had some delays as your train waited for the traffic on the tracks ahead to clear. We had no delays, and as a result, we had an experience that was a first for our Amtrak adventures--we arrived at our first stop, Dyer, Indiana, ahead of schedule. In fact we were so far ahead of schedule that the conductor told the passengers that they could get out of the train and walk around for almost fifteen minutes. Several of the passengers spotted a Subway restaurant next to the station and ran over to get food. All of them made it back to the train with time to spare.
Dyer is like Rensselaer in that it has a small Amshack station, though it is slightly larger than ours. It also has nicer chairs, though they have had some vandalism.
I was happy to get back on the train and head home. One thing that struck me as we rode though Newton and Jasper county was how many trees were along the route as compared to what we saw in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. I think of our area as mainly corn and soybean fields, but compared to what we saw in those other states, considerably more of our land is non-agricultural.

This trip re-enforced the conclusion that travel by train is not primarily for those who want to get to a destination with as little trouble as possible (though it may be for older people who do not want to drive). Travel by train is attractive when you want the trip to be part of the adventure.

It was interesting to see how various people reacted to the interruptions in their schedule. Some were very upset and a number were promising to send nasty letters to Amtrak. Others took it in stride and tried to make the best of the situation.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the extra day was the way that complete strangers met and talked and helped each other as if they were old friends. These people we enjoyed interacting with will drop out of our lives and we will never see or hear from them again. However, I sure did enjoy meeting some of them. (Maybe the day was life sped up--we get to know people who then move on and drop out of our life, but the process usually takes years. We saw the process compressed into a day.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amtrak Adventure (part 2)

After almost a week in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, it was time to take the train back to Rensselaer. We checked the train schedule and found that the train was running about three hours late. It turned out that that particular train had ended in Reno, NV, and the passengers had been bussed the rest of the way. Hence, it had started from Reno. I never did learn what the story was there.

Glenwood Springs has a very attractive train station, one that is still in use.
It is manned, with a ticket counter. It only has two trains a day, one going east and the other going west, but quite a few people arrive and depart on most days.
One one side of the ticket counter is a railroad museum open a few days a week. On the other side is a waiting room that has preserved the look and feel of the old waiting rooms. Notice the benches that are designed so that people cannot sleep in them.
We got on the train and started up the Colorado River canyon. I had seen most of it before, so did not take many pictures. I watched for rafters after we left the Interstate behind, but saw very few, probably because it was late in the day. On the way in, we had seen several rafters give the train a "Zephyr salute," but it was raining and I could not get a decent picture of them. But then suddenly the Amish in front of the cabin saw something and got quite excited. I was able to take a quick, poorly-focused snapshot. Maybe you can figure out what they are doing, but if not, do not worry about it.
One of the cars that we had not used was the dining car, immediately behind the lounge car. I did visit it to see what it was like. We got mixed reports on the food. Some people thought it was very good and reasonably priced. Others thought the food was substandard and too expensive.
The Rocky Mountains do not have foothills that lead up to the mountains. They just erupt in full majesty to the west of Denver. As we reached the end of the mountains, we could see Denver still illuminated by the setting sun. There was a patch of rain and a rainbow, but I could not get a good picture. By the time we backed into the temporary station (the main station is undergoing renovation and will not be available for a couple years), darkness was settling over the city. We were still about three hours behind schedule, but one of the train people said that there was some slack in the schedule and we might make it up overnight.

We had seen eastern Colorado in the morning on the way west, but it was dark on the way east. I regret not having brought some maps with me to follow track the route. When the sun rose, we were speeding through the cornfields of eastern Nebraska in the area around Hastings. It looked a bit like Indiana, but there were not nearly as many trees.

When we got to Lincoln, we were about five hours behind schedule. Normally the train stops about 3:30 in the morning, but now it was now late enough for a farmers or craft market to be open in the station area. This was a longer stop at which passengers could leave the train and smoke or walk, and some of the passengers dared to go to the market and find food. I was not quite daring enough to search for food. I went and snapped a few pictures.
While some passengers roamed the market, a few of the market visitors came over to examine the train. The conductor let a few of the kids get on the train and look into the passenger cars.

The roof over the platform had some age to it. There were a number of stations with very similar platforms. There were also several stations that featured old steam locomotives on display.
What looked like an old water tank for steam engines was actually a fountain. The water poured out the spigot into a basin. It was a rather clever idea for a fountain. (Rensselaer could use a fountain or two in its parks. Kids love fountains.)
The next memorable sight was the Missouri River. We had not seen it on the way west because it was dark, so even though we had heard repeatedly that there was flooding along this river, it was still something of a shock to see it.
The tracks were only a foot or two above the water line. Below you can see some sort of plant that is partly under water, along with a truck that is mostly under water, with only a little of the cab still dry.
After we crossed the river, there were sandbags along the track stretching for a mile or two.
The train schedule said that the Zephyr was supposed to get into Union Station in Chicago three hours before the Cardinal/Hoosier State left, but we were now about five hour behind schedule. After we crossed into Iowa, perhaps it was after we stopped at Crestor with its magnificent station, the train came to a halt and the conductor said that there were four freight trains ahead of us. The dispatchers in Texas who control all train movement on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks were trying to see if they could maneuver us around them. So for a while we had some stop and go movement. Eventually the conductor said that we had passed the freight trains. However, we were now six hours behind schedule.
The coach attendant told us that Amtrak would take care of us if we missed the connection, but I still worried. I realized that if we were late, we would have some sort of adventure and it might be fun to write about it, but even that possibility was not enough to make me stop worrying. I had been away from home for a week and had had enough adventures, I was ready to return home.

After we got into Illinois, the conductor announced that passengers who were taking the train east to Indianapolis, our train, would be getting off at Galesburg, Illinois and taking a bus to Indianapolis. But there was an exception. Passenger Robert S and companion heading for Rensselaer were not invited to that bus. We were to stay on the train. I got my fifteen seconds of Amtrak fame and did not enjoy it, though I did find it funny that I became Roger as the announcement was repeated later.

So it was quite clear that we would not be making the connection to the Hoosier State or Cardinal, whichever train was running the route that day. We did not know what would happen to us, though I thought a limo ride from Chicago to Rensselaer would be a good idea. We were about to enter the world of Amtrak misconnects and have an unexpected adventure.

Maybe tomorrow I will be able to tell you about life among the misconnects, the term that the Amtrak personal used for people like us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Into the Rockies

Even though we had taken the train to Glenwood Springs, we had access to a vehicle and could venture out to the surrounding area. Our first little field trip was to some hot springs along the Crystal River (which feeds into the Roaring Fork River, which joins the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs). Son Tertius discovered these springs on the Internet and we eventually found them in the real world--they were not marked with any signage. They were across the river from a USGS river gaging station.

People who had previously visited the area had built little rock-enclosed pools to mix the hot water from the springs (and it was quite hot, but far from boiling) with the very cold water in the river. However, the mixing was very uneven. It was a strange sensation to stand in a shallow pool and have one side of your leg uncomfortably hot and the other uncomfortably cold. We spent about an hour playing in them, and several people stopped while we were there and came down to see what we were doing. We will be in vacation photos of several of them. However, I think the picture below, which shows the people who came to the springs as we were leaving, is much more interesting than any pictures of us.
The flow of hot water to the little pool above the people in the picture was slight, and the better pools were the ones at the low right corner.

On the morning we were scheduled to leave we took a longer trip away from Glenwood Springs. Our first stop was the Maroon Bells, a view of mountains over a small lake that is supposed to be the most photographed scene in Colorado. Below is one more. The light was great, but the lake had waves so that there was not a good reflection of the mountains.
I found two things somewhat depressing about the visit. First, there were many bikers heading up the road to this destination. The road was several miles long and uphill the whole way, rising from about 8500 feet above sea level to about 9500 feet above sea level. Some of those bikers looked almost as old as I am. I could not possibly do that ride. I did ride up a small hill that rose between 50 and 100 feet earlier on the trip, and I was exhausted. And after I did a mile-long hike to the end of the lake and back, I had an unpleasant feeling that I was not getting enough air. My heart beat was OK, but I felt out of breath. It was only 9500 feet--I did not think I should be so adversely affected by altitude.

We then drove through Aspen, home away from home for a whole lot of people who have a whole lot of money. I did not see houses that were all that awesome, but the money of the area was obvious as we drove past the Aspen airport. I have never seen so many small and medium sized jet airplanes in one place. The view from the highway did not let me get a good picture, but you can see how impressive this collection of aircraft is from the aerial view from google maps. Scrolling around the map, I counted about 100 jets at the airport, plus a smaller number of prop planes. I wonder what the total value of those planes is. I thought it was a bit strange that Michelle Obama was scheduled to arrive at Aspen a few days after we left on a fund-raising trip given that her husband had been making frequent references to how private jet owners were undertaxed. But Aspen loves the Obamas--a newspaper article I read said that the county that Aspen is in gave him 70% of the vote in 2008.

Our driver decided that since we were already at Aspen, we really should continue down the road a bit further and quite a bit higher to visit the second highest mountain pass in Colorado. So we did. I think that the mountain that you see in the background is Mount Elbert, which at 14431 is the highest point in Colorado.
The pass itself is an impressive 12095 feet. And there were bikers who were riding up to the pass. They were part of some group because they had a support vehicle that was providing them with refreshments when they got there.
We got back to Glenwood Springs in time to do a bit of final packing and get on the train, which was about three hours late, and begin our trip home. You will have to wait until tomorrow to get that bit of the trip. (For a different view of this family adventure, see Desert Survivor's account.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Glenwood Springs

Yesterday we traveled from Rensselaer to Glenwood Springs, CO. One of the attractions of Glenwood Springs is its hot springs. They are used to fill a huge swimming pool just north of the Colorado River and the Interstate.
Glenwood Springs was the final home of Doc Holliday, a notable gunslinger of the old west. He was born in the east, went west because he had tuberculosis, left his profession of dentistry to become a gambler because he could earn more money that way, became famous as a participant in the shootout at the OK Corral in Kansas, and died from tuberculosis before he was 40.
We were in Glenwood Springs because of a convention of the National Speleological Society. I am not a member, but a family member is, and we were willing babysitters for that family member. Some of the 1000+ people who attended the convention camped. Below is the "quiet" (no alcohol) camp on school property.
The "loud" camp was much bigger. It featured a shower area that had three entrances: his, hers, and theirs. It also had a hot tub that was clothing optional, and I heard reports that people took the optional seriously. On the night of their big party, the police told the loud camp to shut down the music at 11:00 pm; the neighbors were complaining.
The only part of the convention I saw was a bit of the rope climbing competition. There are several ways to climb rope, and each way has records. They are able to climb 30 meters or 120 meters in a building that has a ceiling of less than ten meters because the rope is lowered as the climber goes up.
We mostly avoided the cavers. Glenwood Springs has lots of fun activities, and one of the most popular is white water rafting. There are many places to put in and to take out. A few of the rafters came right through Glenwood Springs, passing under the pedestrian bridge that spanned the railroad, the river, and the Interstate highway.
We spent some time on the hiking/biking trail that followed the river and the Interstate highway. Going away from town it was mostly uphill.
From the trail we could see the freight trains on the Union Pacific tracks. This one, as most of the freight trains, was hauling coal. Usually there would be two or three engines in front, another two in the middle, and one or two additional engines at the end of the train. It takes a low of power to get these heavy loads up and over the mountains.
At one point the bike trail is in the median strip, but both sections of the highway are elevated.
Below you can see the bike bridge over the Interstate that is just outside of Glenwood Springs. From here it is a fun ride downhill back to the town.
According to the census figures, Glenwood Springs has about twice the population of Rensselaer, about 9000, but it feels much bigger. Because they are a tourist destination, they have a temporary population that is almost always several thousand people, and these are people who are spending money. The hotel and food industries are far bigger than what Rensselaer has. The town also has much more shopping. There is an older mall that has an enclosed courtyard, plus a newer on that does not. The town is also much more spread out because the mountains are very steep, and development follows the valleys.

Below is the sign of a store that you would not find in Rensselaer. Medical marijuana is legal in Colorado.
Something else that I have not seen in Rensselaer is bicycle polo being played in one of the parks.

Biking is much more popular in their area than it is in our area. In a way that is surprising because flat land is much more conducive to biking than the steep terrain that they have. However, most of the biking there seems to be tourist driven and recreational. I wonder if there is much more purely utilitarian bike use.

A few changes

While I was out of town last week, a new shelter appeared in Bicentennial Park. The roof appears to be finished, and a worker was putting down crushed stone to get ready for a concrete pour.
In the background you can see the Talbert Bridge, which is still not finished.
Chistopher Louck has left the Clinic of Family Medicine and now is practicing from the offices formerly used by Dr. Nelson in the College Square Mall. He has been there several weeks. I have heard a rumor that the Clinic of Family Medicine may become affiliated with a Lafayette medical practice. All the original partners seem to have retired or died.
At SJC I found men at heights, fixing brickwork on the Science Building.
And in the Core Building, several classrooms are now carpeted, a project that no one seems to want to take credit for. One of my former colleagues told me that the carpet came from the Indianapolis Convention Center. I am sure that there is an interesting story here, but I probably will never hear it, or if I do, I probably will not be able to write about it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Amtrak Adventure (Part 1)

On another site I have a list of things to do in Rensselaer and surrounding area, a list I would update if I found the time and motivation. Riding Amtrak is number three on that list. About a week ago I took an Amtrak adventure.

We hopped the Amtrak going north to Chicago. Amtrak wants you to buy your tickets before you travel, and you can do that on their website. You need a credit card, and after you purchase your tickets, they will be mailed to you.

The trip to Chicago was uneventful. The daily trains through Rensselaer are either the Cardinal, which originates on the east coast, or the Hoosier State, which is a smaller train that starts from Indianapolis. However, recently all the trains had been the Hoosier State because a train derailment between Cincinnati and Indianapolis had damaged a bridge, and Amtrak could not do that portion of the route.

I was impressed with how many of the rural crossings had lights and gates. Based on the crossings near Rensselaer, I expected far fewer.

We arrived in Chicago roughly on time and had some time to kill before the second stage of our journey, on the California Zephyr all the way to Colorado.

That train started on time, leaving Chicago heading west. It ran almost the entire route to Denver on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks, and for a considerable portion of the route, the track was double track. It passed through many little and medium sized towns, but only stopped in a few. One thing I noticed is that quite a few of the towns it bypassed still had their old train depots. I know some Rensselaerians who are still upset that Rensselaer lost its old depot, but which is worse, to have lost the depot or to have lost passenger service? The reality is that so few people board at the small stops and the time that each stop adds to the schedule makes it impractical to have more than a few stops on a route like the Zephyr, which takes more than two days to get to its destination near San Franciso, CA.

We crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa on an old metal bridge.

We had a number of fellow Hoosiers on the train from us, a group of Amish from Shipshewana, and they were on their way to the same destination as we were, Glenwood Springs, CO. One of them was in the furniture business because we heard him talking on his cell phone to a customer or potential customer, quoting prices. This group (we saw quite a few groups of Amish on our travels because Glenwood Springs is a popular vacation destination for them) was gong to spend some time in Colorado before heading further west to California, then north to Oregon or Washington, and then back home. If you have the impression that the Amish are poor farmers struggling to make a living, reconsider. Hard work is rewarded in America, and the Amish are hard workers. I asked an older Amish fellow on the return trip, a trip he was taking with eight of his grown children and their spouses (but not with any of his 60 grandchildren or 30+ greatgrandchildren) how many Amish there were in the Shipshewana area. He said that spread out over an area of thirty miles by forty miles, there were about 30000.

Among themselves the Amish would often speak a language I recognized as Germanic but which I could not understand. Again, I pried and asked still another Amish fellow about that. He said it was Pennsylanian Dutch corrupted with English.

The stop in Ottumwa, by the way, was a smoking stop. That meant that any passenger could get off the train and walk around for a few minutes. I tried always to take advantage of those opportunities.

There was a lot of freight traffic on our route, and that that traffic had been increased because of flooding along the Missouri River. As a result of that flooding, many freight trains had been rerouted. In fact, the Zephyr was bypassing Omaha, a major stop, because of flooding. The Omaha passengers had to use the Lincoln, NE stop, and then Amtrak bussed them to and from Omaha. More than half the freight traffic was coal.

Our train, by the way, was a large passenger train. After the two engines, there was a baggage car and then a sleeper car that I eventually learned was the crew car, where members of the train crew could relax and sleep when they were not on duty. Then there were three coach cars, each holding about 80 passengers, then the lounge car and the dining car, then three sleeper cars for passengers. Passengers who were traveling by coach were not supposed to go into the sleeper cars, so I never did see what they were like.

 Below is the train from the lounge car to the back.
Also on the train was a group of almost fifty people from Akron, Ohio on a canned tour. They were headed for Provo, Utah. From there they would travel by bus to several national parks: the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and finally Glacier. From Glacier they planned to take another Amtrak train, the Empire Builder, back to Chicago. We met and talked to several of them, most of them retired and all friendly. We also talked to a couple who had the last name Cocain and learned the humor and travails of having that surname.

Evening came before we left Iowa so we did not see the Missouri River on the trip out. The train did not make its scheduled stop at Omaha because of the high water along the Missouri. Rather those going to and from Omaha got on the train at Lincoln, NE. Amtrak bused them to and from Omaha.

We had chosen to travel by coach because it was cheaper. If you are older and used to sleeping in a bed, you probably will not get as much sleep as you normally do. I was under the impression that the train had traveled at high speed all night long because when I was awake, it was zipping, passing the rare cars that we saw on the highways. I guess that I slept best when the train was stopped or going slowly because by the next morning as the sun rose over western Nebraska, we were a bit behind schedule.

The train stopover in Denver is quite long. Lots of people leave and a lot of new ones get on the train. There is also some servicing of the train. The man below is supplying our car with water as one of the Amish passengers watches.
Traveling by Amtrak may be the most social way to travel. People on airplanes or busses and most especially in cars do not interact a lot with those traveling with or along side of them. You can do the same thing on Amtrak if you choose to simply stay in your seat, put on our earphones, and block out the world. But if you go to the lounge car or the dining car, you often can meet and visit with fellow passengers. When the scenery is farmland, a lot of people use the lounge car to play cards. Near meal times, a lot use it to wait to be called for meals. (Meals are by reservation--you must schedule a time.) But after we left Denver and entered the mountains, most of the people in the lounge car were watching out the windows.
The route from Denver to Glenwood Springs is considered to be the best part of the route of the Zephyr. The train starts climbing almost immediately after leaving the station in Denver. It goes north of the Interstate, going through many short tunnels until it gets to the continental divide, where it crosses in the six-mile long Moffit tunnel.

Can you tell what is happening in the picture below?
After a couple stops at high mountain resort communities, the train finds the Colorado River and follows it to Glenwood Springs. The scenery is spectacular, and the engineering feat to putting a railroad though this rugged country is impressive. (Taking pictures through the windows often results in some reflections that are more distracting in the photo than they are when you are on the train.)

As we got closer to Glenwood Springs, the Interstate joined the train in the Colorado River gorge. To meet the challenge of putting a four lane road into a narrow canyon, the road designers gave each of the two sections different paths. Sometimes one part of the highway goes through a tunnel while the other does not, and sometimes on flow of traffic is directly above the other lane.

Next to the Interstate a bike path runs along the river for miles. The bike path was closed six miles above Glenwood Springs because of high water and also damage to the path, which you can see below.

We arrived in Glenwood Springs on a couple hours behind schedule. The heat in the Midwest and the rerouted freight traffic was playing havoc with the train schedule, and one of the trains a few days before ours arrived in Denver eleven hours late. We would get to experience that havoc on the return trip.

By the way, if you ever travel by Amtrak, you might find this site useful. It shows roughly where all the Amtrak trains are, and if you click on one, you will get both the scheduled and actual times of its stops and learn how late (or early--which can happen) the train is.

More later.