When I wake up this morning, our Texas Eagle train has already left Texas and we are about to leave Missouri as well. We are just arriving in St. Louis and crossing the Mississippi to Illinois. I've ridden this route before on the way out to Fort Worth. There was nothing to be done but backtrack a bit along the same route to get to the Pacific. At least I don't have to go all the way back to Chicago, just as far as Springfield in Illinois. My train left Fort Worth two hours late. I would have missed my connection in Springfield. But overnight the Texas Eagle made up so much time that I still have time at Springfield if it goes on from there. The nice thing about traveling with Amtrak is that you are never left to your own devices, but there are always staff there who round up all travelers and guide them to the right departure platform. You have to be very stupid here to get lost. There are also not many connections, so everything is clearer than in German rail traffic.
Short intermediate stage on the highway
From Springfield and the Texas Eagle line, the only option is to transfer directly to the California Zephyr line to San Francisco at the terminus in Chicago. The alternative is a short stopover by minivan from Springfield to Galesburg, a two-hour drive.
The combination of train and bus works perfectly and we are temporarily a small tour group of 9 people who make our way through the Midwest to Galesburg. Everyone is in a good mood and there is a lot of laughter. The driver suggests that we all tell a joke and immediately suggests:
“A couple has a very expensive all-time subscription to the best seats in the stands at baseball stadium. Both are big fans of the team and have never missed a game. But on today's match day, the seat next to the man is free. The person sitting next to him asks where the woman is. "She died recently," he received as an answer. But it's a shame about the good seat, says the person sitting next to you. "Don't you have kids, cousins, uncles, aunts, or sons-in-law who are interested in baseball. The man replies: "Yes, but they're all at the funeral."
Fortunately, the one joke sticks and no one else feels compelled to tell another. So you talk a bit more about the area and then everyone doze off. We arrive at the train station in Galesburg on time. I have a three-hour layover there before the California Zephyr train from Chicago to San Francisco stops there and I can board.
Waiting room like back in the days
The waiting halls are also nice about traveling by train on the American railways. They are spotlessly clean and have plenty of classic lacquered wooden banquettes for seating. There is a ticket office staffed by two people, even in tiny Galesburg, where only six trains stop each day. There is even a bookshelf where you can take books for free and leave some of your own. Of course there is also free WiFi. The toilets are clean and free. You can also get snacks and drinks from several vending machines. A giant bucket of coffee is only $1 here.
1000 calories a day as provisions
I am impressed by the helpfulness of the counter staff. A loudspeaker announcement tells me that you can check in up to two pieces of luggage at the counter, which can then be taken to my terminal station in the luggage trolley. I am happy to take advantage of this offer. Because even my hand luggage with the cool box, packed with water bottles and tin cans, is heavy enough. It would be a great relief if I didn't have to heave my suitcase onto the train and into the luggage rack. "Sacramento or Seattle," the train employee asks me when I check in my luggage. "Seattle is my ultimate destination," I reply, and he begins filling out my luggage tag. "Don't you need a name or a ticket from me," I ask, surprised. How does he know who owns the suitcase? "You're Jessica, aren't you? You're the only one going to Seattle, so I figured that out," he says naturally. He grabs his suitcase and that's it. I get a receipt and watch as the suitcase is driven to the platform for loading.
Galesburg is a train station that dates back to the early days of American railroading. Abraham Lincoln was here before the American Civil War. An old steam locomotive with tender and wagons of a museum railway can be visited. For me there is still lunch here from my rationed canned provisions. Chili maccaroni are on the menu today. Surprisingly, it also has kidney beans in it. But a few proteins won't hurt my already meager diet. I have calculated that during this week's journey from San Antonio to Seattle I have two and a half liters of water per day but less than 1000 calories to eat. For a high-performance machine like me, that's very little fuel. But for the last three days it has been working fine. At the end of this Pacific leg of the journey, a significantly slimmer version of myself will surely arrive.
The California Zephyr pulls into Galesburg station on time. I only have to carry my hand luggage there. When I get on, I tell the conductor that I'm going to Seattle with the Rail Pass and I'm sent to the last car. There, when I board, I get a piece of paper that says SAC. You put it in the overhead compartment. This way the conductors can see who has to get off where.
Mexican Golden Girls
Sitting next to me are three lovely Mexican Golden Girls who obviously know how to travel by train. Meanwhile, Mexican TV chattered on their cell phones while all three of them were knitting, checking each other's stitches from time to time. In the evening they unpack the nachos, peanuts and cheese cubes they brought with them and chirp white wine from the on-board restaurant. Although they are all elderly, they make themselves comfortable in a pile of blankets under the seats on the floor. I find that funny and pretty good, because that way I have the space next to me to sleep at night. I bought a sweater in Austin and now I wear it over my jacket. Despite this, it is almost too cold to sleep at night. It's already bedtime on board at ten o'clock in the evening and I fall asleep at half past ten. With a few interruptions, I get enough sleep until half past seven in the morning. It's the second night I've survived on this East-West train trip to Seattle. Every night I figure out new tricks for getting cozy and staying warm.