It was good to get to the Newton Kansas Amtrak depot even if it was midnight. I hopped on The Southwest Chief, which runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles. Routing through St. Louis, it generally follows the Santa Fe Trail starting in Kansas City. With a 2:45 AM stop in Newton, my bike was loaded in the luggage car and I was on my way to the back of the train to the club car seating. It’s actually not too bad, just a bit smaller than first class airline seats. I have plenty of leg room and reclining seats.
Wednesday was one of those days when you are attempting to finish last minute trip details, and the list keeps growing. Maybe the middle of the night departure wasn’t too bad after all, allowing time to finish my list. Making sure there was plenty of dog food, clothes washed and dried, bedding cleaned for the house sitter, paying last minute bills due after the first of the year all had to be taken care of. A sigh was had when the depot opened its doors. The only other passenger there decided to lay down on the vinyl benches, I followed his lead and slept for about an hour. I almost feel like traveling by rail is like traveling back in time. In many ways it is, with their decades old brick depots still in use. I’m sure technologically speaking, the rail system is modern, but the feeling you get is completely different than flying. If you have the opportunity to travel by rail, I would encourage you to experience it. Even the food service is top notch.
As the sun came up, we were soon into Colorado, and then New Mexico. The snow capped mountain peaks were beautiful on the horizon. I ran into an old nursery industry friend, Dan Simmons, on the train which was a great surprise. It was nice to catch up a bit. It was good to see him, it had been a while. Dan’s destination was Albuquerque where there is a stop for crew change and any mechanicals that need attention.
You’ve met my good friend Bill Jackel from past Tour Divide posts. He has been there for me the past 2 years at the completion of my Tour Divide rides and taken me either to Wichita or Denver. Bill and Pam live in Albuquerque. Knowing that I was passing through town, they came down with a sack full of goodies, including a green chile turkey sandwich, a few local brews, chips and snacks for the road. We visited about the completion of this trip and again was offered a ride back at some point. We’ll stay in touch. As the conductor calls out ‘All Aboard!’ We man hugged, exchanged ‘I love you brother’, and he tells me he has my back. I never question.
As I’m finishing my dinner, another guy sits down next to me. He has “the look”. Noticing he has with him a set of National Geographic’s Baja maps, this can only mean one thing. He’s doing Baja Divide as well. Andrew is from Minneapolis. It’s great to visit about the event with another rider prior to the event. We’re all rookies at this point, and will make rookie decisions on bike setup and gear selection. It’s good to compare notes and hear how other riders set up their rigs. Andrew is meeting a couple other riders in San Diego and start their Baja Divide adventure a day ahead of the group.
With the days being short, I decide to turn in around 9:00. I’ll attempt to get what sleep I can. I wouldn’t say sleep on the train is quality on the club car, but it’s ok. The populated area of Southern California is large. Waking up at 5:30, the Amtrak makes a brief stop at San Bernardino with stops at Riverside and Fullerton before our destination at Los Angeles. The lights of the city as we pass warehouses, highways, the lines of traffic, shipping container yards is completely different than the images. I’ve enjoyed the past 24 hours traveling across the southwest portion of the country.
Silhouettes of palm trees as the sun rises tells me we are in a warm region. I’m looking forward to seeing the flora of Baja, which I’m sure will be much more diverse than south central Kansas.
Today’s agenda is to change trains in LA and make the 3 hour trip to San Diego. The Amtrak agent suggested I get a spot on the upper deck in the observation car. I’ll be camping at the metro KOA, which will be a good place to get the bike set up and spend 3 nights before our Grand Depart into Baja.
P.S – There’s not a Trackleaders page set up for this ride, as far as I know, so please follow along my Spot Tracker HERE.