My, my what a long train trip! It was just shy of 40 hours by three and a half- but hey who’s counting. The train is surprisingly comfortable, but two overnights certainly make for less than restful sleep. For the price, the chance to meet all sorts of oddballs along the way, and to watch the scenery go by, it was really was worth it. I started this leg in Milwaukee, WI. What a cool little city, I definitely wish I had more time to explore the museums and downtown scene. While waiting for the train I had a beer with a Vietnam vet from Key Largo who has been on the waitlist for Packers season tickets since 1981 and is hopeful he’ll get them in the next five years. An independent swordfish fisherman until the mid 80s when the government bought out his business to turn the trade over to a few larger companies. He shared that he has damn near wore his middle finger out flipping the US government off his whole life. The restaurant we were at served outrageous bloody marys. Of the very few regrets I have so far on this trip- this photo being blurry is a big one. Let me describe what you are looking at. That bloody is topped off with a pickle, olive, dilly bean, jerky stick, a shrimp, a lemon, and a big handful of cheese. Milwaukee you are something else!
Once on the train I met David who was originally from New Hampshire, went to college in New Jersey, and his wife went to grad school at UVM. We chatted about his life as a guidance counselor in Minneapolis for the last forty years and his battle with MS for the last 14. He mixed, as he said, a prescription cocktail people hold pharmacies up for. Then left his bag on the seat next to me and wandered up to the observation car. Regret number two- when David came back a few hours later practically singing “Brittany did you see the full moon reflecting back over the Mississippi river!” I’m sure it was an incredible site.
Then there was Carl the nut salesman from Texas sitting in front of us. No even I, couldn’t make this stuff up. Once David was back, Carl abruptly turned around and asked if we liked nuts- “you know the kind you eat”. Then proceeds to hand out brochures and offer free samples of his company’s two most popular flavors: chocolate pecans and vanilla pecans. Carl was in for the long haul traveling about 6 more hours further than me to Spokane WA for a model train convention. When he noticed on day two I was still eating my block of cheese and nearly stale baguette for my third meal, he offered to take me to lunch. While a nice enough guy, I didn’t have the energy to make conversation with a Texan man of few words and with such interesting hobbies.
The trip rounded out with a couple, Roger and Cathy, in their 70s traveling from West Virginia to Portland. Roger was full of life advice for me. He shared that he and Cathy met when they were 20 when he was a sailor and no fewer than 6 times repeated that neither he nor Cathy were pure when they met. And despite Roger getting held up at work and showing up for their first date three hours late, he told her on their second date that he was going to marry her. And while Roger told the story Cathy read her book all the while making faces and rolling her eyes at all the right parts. Bless their hearts. Roger introduced me to Kaity a 20 year old woman from upstate New York who’s soldier fiance just called off the engagement when he got back from overseas and now she was off to Oregon to live with her grandmother. Roger would have advised us until the sun came up. But without looking up from her book, Cathy barked “Roger you’re preaching. Quit preaching and let the girls live.” Heard that Cathy.