Waitin’ for a train…


Well, it’s 11:38 pm, and I’m here in Maricopa, Arizona, just south of Phoenix. The train to Palm Springs was scheduled to depart here at 9:02 pm, and deposit me at (oof) 2:02 am. But fate had different plans for that train. I’m not sure the source of the delay (probably freight train traffic, the station attendant tells me) but it is now scheduled to arrive at 12:39, and get me to Palm Springs at 5:08 am. I suspect it will be further delayed before I board; it seems like about every half hour it gets pushed back a bit more. [Update: we arrived in Palm Springs at 5:45. I got maybe an hour of sleep on the train.]

I had already booked a hotel room in Palm Springs for tonight, which I think I’ll still be charged for. Maybe I can still sleep a few hours there, in the morning…? I hope so, because if not that would be an awfully long day for tomorrow. [Update: I made a few calls from the Maricopa station and then from the train, and the Motel 6 staff—“we’ll leave the light on for you”—were very helpful, changing the date of my reservation, even though I had made it through Expedia, and saving me the very last room for the new date.]

Oh well. I’m naturally a night owl, and I don’t feel sleepy at all yet. Perhaps I can sleep on the train; it should be at least a four-hour trip.

Today in Tempe was pleasant. I got to meet up with my Salem, Oregon friend Summer—the awesome co-owner and kitchen wizard at the all-vegan Infinity Room—and her mother, who lives in Sun City, just outside of Phoenix. Summer was in town visiting for a few days, so we took the opportunity to meet up at a vegan restaurant in my host’s neighborhood. The restaurant, Solar, was part of an indoor food court with a unique, modern ordering system: you first enter an unstaffed room with a tablet in it, and choose which restaurant you want (there are about ten) and then order online from their menu. The system calculates the tax and suggested tip amount, and then you charge yourself using the attached card reader. You enter your phone number into the system, and then wait nearby for the kitchen to text you when your order is ready. You go pick it up, and eat indoors or outdoors around the food court. Pretty neat!

Later in the afternoon, I biked over to the site of Culdesac Tempe, an ambitious and inspiring effort by some California-based innovators to build a car-free, self-sufficient community for 1,000 households, right in the middle of Tempe. I first heard about it just a few days ago, from my first Tempe host. Later, a Portland friend (my former boss Dave Brook, an innovator in his own right, who founded CarSharing Portland back in 1998) saw on Facebook that I was in Tempe, and suggested I visit. Finally, I was talking to today’s Tempe host, and realized that the planned development is within about a mile of her house. She has talked to some of the planners, and is very impressed with them and the project.

I had hoped to see some construction in progress, and to meet and chat with the planners, but unfortunately I arrived to see only a large dirt lot, fenced off and clearly ready for construction to begin soon, but sadly not yet underway. I later learned from my host that the planners have offices nearby, but not directly on-site. I hope to contact them, and perhaps chat about their vision. Maybe I could even meet them in January, when I come back through Arizona.

But now… I sit at the Amtrak station, “waitin’ for a train.”

Tomorrow: Palm Springs, Yucca Valley, and/or Joshua Tree!

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