illinois & iowa | train 3
Princeton, Illinois is our first announced stop, although we stopped in Naperville earlier on the way out of Chicagoland. It is “not, I repeat, not a smoke stop,” our conductor says. That will be Galesburg—45 minutes after Princeton. I have been watching the small towns slip by between the long stretches of dormant fields. The last one had a pudgy building titled “Feed Store,” a clearly identifiable local bar, and a red church all sitting on main street as if they were waiting at the barber’s for a trim and some local gossip. A few minutes ago I became aware that I’d been thinking that we had another train near us. Maybe it was distant, but it had been with us for a while. The thick dissonance of a train whistle was faint but detectable in echoes and between the clear click and rush of our own noise. My only question: how could another train follow us for as long as it had? Do they let them follow that closely? There doesn’t seem to be another visible set of tracks. After about 30 minutes, whistle still with us, the solution occurred to me. WE’RE a train. We’ve got our own train whistle. We don’t have some sorta of train shadow. We’re the ones making the noise.
Ate dinner with an elderly man named Rich, and a young guy from coach named Nick. Both were polite in the classic sense. I guess I was too. “Pass the pepper, please.” I thought it would be easier to come up with things to talk about, but the conversation was mostly a bust. Rich is a regular Amtrak rider, so you had that to talk about for a while. Nick’s first time on the train too, but he didn’t have a lot to say. He’s going to Denver to look for work. He has family there.
I had a steak, which is pretty unusual for me, but among the options (shrimp scampi, buffalo meatloaf, turkey and stuffing) it didn’t seem like there was much of a choice. Overall, sorta fun doing the dining car thing for the first time, but I hope the experience improves. I think just having daylight out the windows will make it more fun. Once it gets fully dark the glass becomes glossy black.
And now I’m laying here in my car made into a bed, wondering if I’m going to be able to sleep with the train rocking back and forth. They said you could get used to it, but it’s not how I thought it would be—rhythmic and soothing. More jarring and sudden in unannounced spurts. We’ll see.
My internet signal has vanished, so this may have to wait until morning.