Thursday, August 24, 2017
It wasn't the alarm clock that got me up. I've been naturally waking around 5.30 for a long time regardless of how light it is outside. I tossed for a while before sleep actually comes. Why is a good guess, the bed is very comfortable and I actually have to slip, yes, slip down to the floor an inch.
Sarah is gone by the them I get up. Chi readies himself for his day. I do the polite thing, or the thing I've done in the past, gather the sheets and pull the bed spread over as I ready for my day. Chi offers me a ride. I decline. I need to burn an hour before I meet Mercy.
Mercy, my shipmate, and I text making sure she comes to the right Peets. I learn, thanks to Google, there are several. Mercy joined the Caribbean Mercy in 99 for a bit of the public relations tour in South Korea. Everyone knows the cook. As the cook, I'm embarrassed I didn't remember everyone. Slowly I remember how she helped us out as part of the Port Advance Team in one of the Korean ports. We chat a long while then began to formulate a plan of the day, 4 hours to burn before my train leaves.
We end up driving the Gorge to Beacon Rock. I almost run up to the top of this 850 ft climb for the view. She follows after renewing her State Park pass. I get a huge view but not total view of the Columbia River. She meets me half way up as I'm on the way down. This climb, build 100 years ago, counts 15 to 20 switchbacks.
An hour later we are driving around downtown Portland. We find Union Station then lunch at a 4 star rated dive of a Chinese restaurant. Where is the "Diners, Drive ins, and Dives" episode about this place. The food, delicious; the portions, generous. We catch up on ship gossip. Mercy sends a message to one of my favorite Koreans, PS I carried this one down to Med Ward on the C/M in El Salvador, SungYung; 15+ years later still single. We are limited on time over lunch.
At the train station, we make quick good byes. I see a line forming at a gate door. I quickly check with the ticket counter, my train arrived early. I que up. A few minutes later two other thru-hikers spot me. They are also going south on the train. Moments later the train loads up.
Portland slips by. I catch glimpses of Mt Hood, soon, too, Hood fades. After few junkyards produce treasuses. Who wants a Vietnam era Heuy? That's the oddest of the lot I spy. 40 and 50 cars dot the junkyards too. Forest comes up next. I find a seat in the sightseeing car and kinda turn away from conversations. Food tonight? Something from my food bag. Where's my spoon. While I have connection I text SungYung. 16 hours of time zone lay between us and only seconds via messages. I spot one of the other hikers, we swap stories whike people watching.
A booked out train means very few seats where one can spread out. My ear plugs are un-findable. Someone near by carries on a chain saw fight (snooring). I'm on the loosing end of that fight. I use my inflated pillow to support my lower back, sleep isn't at its best. I wake 5 minutes before the call for my stop.
Groggily I gather my things, navigate the steep ladder like stairs to the passenger door where I also grab my ruck from the baggage stash. Once the go a head is granted, the screeching ceases about a dozen of us off load into a muggy predawn Sacramento. I take a few minutes of sleep on the bench I shared with the Israeli gal a month ago. Around 7 I find a spot for a sunrise photo, hit old town in search of coffee, then return. to $tarbucks for an overnight priced breakfast sandwich and small coffee.
The train is a bit late people gather by the tracks. We load quickly when it pulls up. I find a seat, get my e-ticket checked, spend all day in the lounge car watch scenery slip by. First the city gives way to suburbia, then to rural, then to forest. The Forest builds to hills and eventually to mountains. As the high Serras come up more gather in the lounge car to see this route. Once Truckee arrives the crowd disperses. In Reno a few passengers change over, for so eventually it's their destination, others their bginning. Wild mustangs are just outside the city area of Reno.
I surf the social media sites while I get data service. I'm bored which is good as it forces me either into conversation or on to a book. Instead I walk the train as far as I can basically 4 coach cars. In all my walking I count fewer than 100 persons. In the lunge car, a couple argue over a developing business deal while a toddler screeches. I cringe with both while I mind my own business. The toddler is tired and mommy is the cranky one. The dinner car attendant is my hero as he produces Mac & Cheese within minutes. The screeching stops temporarily. Quiet, even the business deal conversation dies down over another mini-bottle of train brandy. Her attitude is totally Bronx, his isnt, more Floridian. I'm enjoying it.
It's hiker midnight on the train, someone deals a hand of solitaire. A red sky follows us. I set an alarm to wake me incase the conductor does not. New moon hovers a fist and a knuckle over the horizon. Haze of fires are so far removed from me I begin to see stars poking through.
My mind flips to my friend in Korea. It's mid-day there, what's for lunch? Is it an office grab and go or a sit down over business deal? The Koreans, I remember, work hard and play harder. The train horn shakes me from this thought among others.
Shortly, I'll see Ogden's lights before passing Tooele. SLC, my folks, and a draw to the end of my vacation. In the mean time I can stretch out on two seats.