Shifting external and internal landscapes

Denver was a quieter, more relaxing stop, which was just what I needed.

The train trip between the Bay Area and Denver was beyond breathtaking.  I could scarcely believe what I was seeing out the windows.  I understand why people call this the most beautiful line in the system. I’m including a few of the photos in this post; to see more, feel free to follow me on Instagram (@dreamintochange). 

I did my best to stay present with myself and my surroundings on that leg of the journey, but I admit I was somewhat glued to my camera, and even when I put it away, I could feel the “pressure” to enjoy all the scenery in each moment, while I could.  I did have some good conversations with dining and lounge car companions.  (One such fellow told me that he thought the Cardinal line—the one I will board next—is actually the most beautiful line in the system, surpassing even the Zephyr.  Wow!)  But despite my pronounced lack of sleep these past two weeks or so, I didn’t dare to nap for more than a few minutes, for fear of missing more spectacular views.

We even had a thunder, lightning, and heavy rain storm right before our arrival, which actually delayed our arrival by about 15 minutes.

But when I disembarked in Denver, the storm subsided, and I began to enjoy some nice downtime.  I stayed with the relative of a friend, in the northern suburbs, and got to spend time with his adorable beagle, and walking along the beautiful giant-cottonwood-lined trail behind his home.

I got a good night’s sleep in a non-moving bed, and the next day we headed out to Watercourse, possibly Denver’s best-known vegan restaurant.  I had a delicious skillet meal for breakfast.  Then we proceeded to the Denver Botanic Gardens.  It was a huge place, filled with a profusion of flowers and exotic plants, and there wasn’t time to see it all, but we enjoyed the tropical and Japanese gardens in particular.

On our way back to spend more time with the dog, we stopped at Beet Box, an all vegan bakery, where I grabbed a cinnamon roll and chocolate croissant to enjoy later.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in quiet reverie, which gave me time to rest my mind and enjoy the journey so far.

In the evening, we headed back downtown to the train station.  Sadly, a few years ago the station was sold to a swanky hotel, whose designers gutted the original station, keeping the rail aesthetic but replacing most of the practical infrastructure with expensive restaurants and bars, and relegating the Amtrak office to a small, hidden corner.  This was sad, but I had to admit that the building remained majestic, inside and out.

The remainder of this portion of my trip, to Chicago (where I will be disembarking in about an hour) has also been quiet, and slightly less idyllic than the earlier part.

This particular train set, for example, seems to be older than the one from the day before.  It sounds more rattle-y.  I got thrown around in my bunk more last night (probably also because this time I was on the upper level); I actually awoke with some fright more than once during the night, hoping we would be able to stay on the rails.  Fortunately, we did.

But we had another deluge + electrical storm (definitely fun for this Virginia-raised gal who has gone without such storms for almost 30 years in Portland) on this train, and I found that all the couplings between the cars had begun dripping heavily afterward, falling onto passengers as we walked through, and leaving dangerously slick puddles on the floors. 

Further, my roomette was too cold for comfort last night, and the single thin blanket was not enough to keep me warm.  I didn’t want to disturb the attendant at a late hour by asking for another blanket, so I toughed it out, but this did not make for a restful sleep.  I recalled the advice I received on one of my first long-distance train trips, nearly 20 years ago, and stuffed my towel into the overhead vent that was blowing cold air and could not be closed… but that was a minimal help as well, since it could not be completely covered.

Meanwhile, my mind briefly slipped out of “vacation mode” and found things to worry about: payroll at my employer, which I would need to handle remotely; bad news I had just received via email from my partner Johnny about a seemingly crushing setback he has encountered in his work on the prison healing garden; worries about the state of the world, and my place in it…

This is a major journey I am undertaking.  It makes sense that I would experience a variety of physical, mental, and emotional states along the way.  I am perhaps one-third of the way through this trip.  I continue to read “Planetwalker,” by John Francis, and marvel at the geographic and spiritual journey that he describes.  I know that everything I experience on this trip, whether blissful or painful, is a part of my journey, and a part of my human condition.

I await my next chapter with curiosity.

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