If you don’t like seafood and hate trains, skip this one!
After saying goodbye to Louise and the grandchildren at the crack of dawn in San Antonio, we slept for a while, and then headed for the Gulf of Mexico. Rockport to be exact, which is famous for oysters … one of our favourites is deep-fried, with freshly broiled gulf shrimp and scallops on the side.
We had a fine visit for a few days with our friends Chick and Juanita, and while the Scrabble games were fun, personally I would have enjoyed them more had Juanita and I won. But it was bad luck that did us in (after all, one cannot blame old age, can one?)
Chick and Juanita were great company as always, and we manage to meet up with these cheerful full-timers nearly every year. Sorry no pictures … somehow we did not put our glasses down long enough to take any this time!
Onward then to Canada, since it was time for a minimum of 24 hours in Ontario to revive our emergency health coverage. Tiresome, but we make the best of these side trips.
Again we chose the train, which has the advantage of being comfortable, and meals where the dining car waiter asks you “How do you like your steak, sir?” instead of dispensing nuts and cookies while sitting in an aluminum cigar tube. The Amtrak overnight cabin is snug, but there is something magical about sleeping for hundreds of miles as the train plays its mournful tune to the passing towns and villages. In the daylight hours, one can snooze on the sofa, or sit watching the countryside unfold as one travels from warm brown landscapes, through the green of early Spring, and back to winter. Better the other way though.
American trains have inspiring names, like the California Zephyr, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, and ours … Texas Eagle and the Bluewater. The staff are “old fashioned”, and many love their jobs … often being railroaders for several generations. Best of all, we do not have to drive!
Taylor, Texas is not the centre of Western Civilization. It was formerly a cotton and railroad town, but the downtown area is not what it was. The attraction was the Amtrak Texas Eagle, which stops briefly in Taylor at the civilized hour of 10.20 a.m.
We waited by the picnic shelter which passed for the station, and the train was dead on time.
No staff, no real platform — just the tracks which came up from San Antonio.
It stopped, both briefly and lengthily, at towns that we knew, like Fort Worth and Dallas, and some we did not know.
We were impressed with the electric commuter trains to the Fort Worth/Dallas airport.
You know … the ones they have been studying for 50 years in Toronto!
Darkness fell as we left Texas at Texakana and headed for dinner and bed in our little sleeping cabin. Elaine has to negotiate a precarious ladder to the top bunk, but there are good reasons for this. It is particularly hazardous when the train is travelling quickly across junctions! But we do both appreciate the en-suite bathroom with shower.
It wound its way through Texas, and now Arkansas, hooting at every crossing, and going suprisingly quickly. No doubt the folk sleeping by the tracks became accustomed to these night-time wails.
When we woke up, we had passed through Arkansas and were in St. Louis as dawn broke.
More electric commuter trains, as those still working for a living headed sleepily to their jobs! No time to explore on these stops, but we did cross the Mississippi by the famous Peace Arch, and headed for the Great Lakes.
We changed trains in Chicago, but since it was cold we only spent a few moments outside the incredibly bustling station.
Just time to take a picture of the Sears Tower, which is the most prominent Chicago feature.
The Bluewater is a less prestigious train, running from Chicago to Port Huron. We had an old, cold and clanking car, and a big contrast with the Superliner Texas Eagle. But we got there (at midnight) and entered the world of Best Western there, and the next day in the sister hotel in Sarnia.
Again we stayed inside a lot, having found out what happens when you move from hot to cold air overnight!
Yes, there was snow outside, but mercifully none fell and the roads were clear.
The trip was not, perhaps, as much fun as behind this old steamer, but well ahead for comfort versus the airlines. You just need a lot of time!
Nothing exciting for a few days now, as we catch up on chores, and do some “condo shopping” in the extensive malls around Austin, Texas. Shall we now go north, east, south or west? We will check the weather reports, and then decide. John