Friday, October 24, 2014

Dispatch from the Empire Builder: Last station stop Portland, Oregon

"Doll...effeyeohareeyeeh, wake up. We're back in Stumptown!" "Mmmph. What time is it?" "5:26 PM. We are only 5 hours and 46 minutes late. Not bad. We were scheduled to go 0.79 miles per minute and we went 0.71 miles per minute, roughly. Off by 11%. Or looking at it another way, 89% right. B+/A-". "Who died and made you Pierre-Simon LaPlace?" "Who?" "Famous mathematician. LaPlace transforms and all that." "Well, I don't know about that Dolly-girl. I'm just glad to be home and 89% right ain't bad...Welcome Home and thanks for a great trip,
effeyeohareeyeeh". "You too, jayehseekay..."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dispatch from the Empire Builder: Getting light west of Libby

I could hear the telltale signs of Dolly-girl waking up. "Mmph" A yawn. A stretch. "Jack-honey, would you put that camera down and get me some java ? My coffee spot is emptier than Uncle Jackie's lunch bucket at quitting time." "Sure thing, Fiora--effeyeohareeh--I could use another drip myself. " "Where ARE we, anyway? I didn't feel them split the train in Spokane like usual." "That could be 'cause Spokane is still 4 hours away or so. We didn't lose anymore overnight, but Casey Jones up there didn't make us any time neither..." "Why Jack, I do believe you are sounding frustrated! What's with that, Mister-Everything-in Good-Time?" "Well jeeze Louise Doll...Fiora, define 'good'. We coulda got here faster in one of them conastoga wagons the pioneers fell out of--remember like the ones we saw over there in, what's the name of that place we went, Baker City?" "Relax Jack--are-ee-el-eh-ex--and look at the beautiful river..."

Dispatch from the Empire Builder: Havre at midnight?

After crawling across North Dakota, trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits of rail traffic, brought on by a combination of oil field development, oil exporting, and the usual grain shipments, we made it to Havre, Montana at 11--about 8 hours late. My mother used to say "Never ship a corpse on the Erie Lackawanna because it won't get where it's going in time for resurrection day." I guess it's time to let the Erie off the hook and replace it with Amtrak...

But what's wrong with this picture. Why are we moving oil and gas to export terminals anyway? And this NoDak biz has extractable reserves estimated at just about 14 months of use for the US. Yep. 14 months. Makes me wonder why we aren't investing in alternative energy and leaving NoDak (and all the other FrackVilles) alone. And while we are on the subject of energy efficiency, how about investing in high speed rail?

"Nice rant, Jack. If you read what I read you would read the reason. Capital em-oh-en-ee-why. Yep Jack, the reason is jack and I don't mean Jack with a capital J as in Jack D'Mestiere."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dispatch from the Empire Builder: Corn, the grain that makes our nation great!

"Jack, I'll tell you, after this trip if I never see a damned cornstalk again it will be too soon! What in the name of Aunt Donna's davenport do we need all this corn for?" "Well, corn chips, corn bread, corn..." "It was a rhetorical question, Jack--do you know what that is? Did they teach you to investigate that?" Dolly-Girl was getting cranky after too much time in the mid-section of our land..."And quit calling me Dolly-girl, I have a perfectly good name." Cranky. As in cranky as Uncle Bill's Model T. "OK, Fiora, F-I-O-R-A, as in eff-eye-oh-are-eh, but think of everything corn brings to the U.S. of A. Look at those grain storages we are passing by--jobs!. Look at that sun on that corn." "I don't see any stinking corn..." "Well, there was some there a week ago..." "Oh for the sake of Isabelle's eyeball, Jack. It brings high-fructose corn syrup, obesity, animal confinement, cholesterol..." "There's no cholesterol in corn, Fi..." " ...I know that Jack...pesticides, global warming..." "OK, Fi-Or-Ah. I get it. You are up to your gullet with Middle America, as represented by Zea mays (and the should be italicized). I'll go find the conductor and tell him to get this train rolling!" "For the sake of Uncle Mike's mandolin, make it so..."

Dispatch from the Empire Builder: What a smooth ride

Sometime during the night the ride really smoothed out! Oh, wait. Define ride. We were stopped and, while we left the Twin Cities on time, we were 3.5 hours late getting to Fargo. But, sunrise is beautiful...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dispatch from the Empire Builder: Mississippi River Sunset

"Jack, what in the name of Aunt Lucy's corset are you doing?" "I'm recording our adventure with the Kodak, Dolly-Girl. Look here, we're almost at the Mississippi River and headed into Minnesota. I got my start as a PI there, you know..." "Yes, Jack, I know that. How many times have you told me? We even went there, remember?" "Yep, I do. Just nostalgic, I guess..." "Don't take any pictures of me, Jack..." "I won't. Just taking pictures of the window..."

Dispatch from the Empire Builder: Stumptown Bound

Left Chicago bound for the home office of D'Mestiere Investigations

Dispatch from Chicago's Union Station

I was wandering around, sleuthing as it were. Some sort of computer malfunction was creating noise in the background. Kept repeating "Track number [mumble mumble] Track number..." It had been playing since we got here Sunday. Finally, with some fine detective work on my part, like asking a guy in a uniform...

I asked what the white noise was--"I don't hear anything but the track announcements for blind folks..."

I walked by and, sure enough, as you pass by, the voice tells you what track you are at. If you can hear, you can find your track...

Dispatch from Chicago: Prepping for the train ride

After some fun days in Big Windy, Dolly-Girl and I are about ready to climb on the Empire Builder bound for Milwaukie, Minneapolis, Fargo, Minot, Havre and points west. We decided to tie on the feedbag at a local HashHouseItaliano before we take off. The hash their slingin' on the rails these days isn't what it used to be...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dispatch from the Texas Eagle

Longview, Texas...Fiora's reading a book. Jack's drinking a beer. There's a surprise...

Dispatch from the Texas Eagle

The Texas Eagle just passed through Terrell, Texas. Couldn't see much. Cemetery, Virginia St., Blanche St. Places my father showed me when we were there in 2000. Then he said, "I thank God my mother got me out of this hell hole." He didn't thank God often.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dispatch from the Fort Worth Stockyards

Duh! What a simple solution: Just post a sign saying no criminal activity is allowed. Presto, problem solved!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dispatch from the Texas Eagle

Jack, what's with this Sunset Limited? I thought you told me we were on the Eagle."  "Right Dolly-Girl, we got on the 422 in Los Angelese, which is also the 2 which goes to NOLA--that's New Orleans..." "I know what NOLA IS..." "--and is called the Sunset Limited. They divided us in San Antonio--that's where the Alamo is..." "Jack, can the geography lessons and just stick to foaming about trains." "...that's what all that bumping was in the dark, and the power and A/C going off and waking up in front of the dining car instead of the caboose". "But I liked being the caboose!"

"And these tracks Jack! I like to be flung like a wet rag in the shower!"  "Gee Dolly-Girl, you're talking like you're from Texas!

I've been snapping some pictures and things sure did change overnight

And have a look at that cloud--more water in that than the state of California!

"Nice picture, Jack, but I still like "Chemult at Night--it captured the essence of the place! Meanwhile, when do we meet up with Anna-Maria?"  "Long about 2..." "Knock off the Texas talk, Jack..."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dispatch from the Texas Eagle

"We just crossed the Continental Divide, Dolly-Girl!" "Now there's some excitement, Jack. Still looks dry and dusty out there to me." "Sure, but now the water goes to the Atlantic.." "And that's important why since all the oceans are connected?" "Well, I saw a sign and they wouldn't have a sign and stores that sell t-shirts and gifts such if it weren't important, would they?" "Did you see the sign that said 'Welcome to Lordsburg? Did Lordsburg look important?" She went back to reading. Didn't even say she rested her case. It looked important to me--you could get serapes and feed critters..."

Dispatch from the Texas Eagle

Raining in the desert as we round a corner and can see the front of our 12 cars and 2 engines. We are in car the last. Dolly-Girl calls it the caboose. She likes those old terms, you know...

Dispatch from the Texas Eagle

It's been raining in the desert of Arizona...

Dispatch from the Texas Eagle

Sunrise in the Arizona desert...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dispatch from the Caboose of the Texas Eagle

Dolly-Girl and me boarded the Texas Eagle and said farewell to Los Angelese tonight. We are in the last room on the last car--the caboose--and that's Okie Dokie with us.

Dispatch from Union Station, Los Angelese

Me and Fiora are wrappin' up our visit to FilemLand. We're going to put on the feedbags and maybe have a celebratory cold one in the station before we get in our sleeper for a little Travelin' Thru The Desert Shuteye. Dolly-Girl is gettin' a head start on that right now while I'm putting these words down.

The station here in Los Angelese is pretty spectacular. Don't miss it if you ever find a chance to be traveling this way...

Dispatch from Hollywood and Vine

Dolly-Girl woke up this morning with stars in her eyes. "Jackie-Boy, take me to Hollywood and Vine! I got to walk with the stars!" She found her fav...

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dispatch from the Coast Starlight

SLO, as Fiora says the stars call it. She gets that from reading about her shows and stars. She's a reader, that Dolly-Girl. She says she just finished reading the "Forward" to a book--67 pages and no pictures. JeezLouise, as I would say, I hardly never read a book with 78 pages and no pictures...But then I'm a gumshoe and she's Dolly-G...I mean Fiora

Dispatch from the Coast Starlight

Old Sol is peaking his head above the Central Valley but Dolly-Girl still has cobwebs float in' around under the wave. "Want some java? It's half-good." "Mummph..." "Does that mean 'yes'?" "Mummph..." "Doll..." "Jack, cut the yammer! I'm trying to be in dreamland here..." Okay already. I was just askin'...

Dispatch from the Coast Starlight

Dolly-Girl is snoozin' away in her bunk, but the gumshoe in me woke me up when we pulled into Chico, down in Cali, as she likes to call it. But it looked like trouble was snoozin' too...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dispatch from the Coast Starlight

I have my GPS app going. It tries to put us on a road. This time it's the Fremont-Winema National Forest 5811580 road. Pretty smooth for a Forest Service road! Of course we are stopped on a siding while freight traffic takes priority over passenger travel. Have to give Amtrak credit--they persevere while the Republicans try to kill them off...

Dispatch from the Coast Starlight

The Pleasure Pack--beats the cruise!

Dispatch from the Coast Starlight

McKenzie Pass. 7 PM. Sunset

Dispatch from the Coast Starlight

Me and Dolly-Girl decided to blow Stumptown for a while so we caught the southbound 2:20 out of Union Station headed to Los Angelese, as the Stranger called it on the Big L.

Dolly-Girl says these are "filberts". Look like trees to this private eye...