Second Day on the Rails

It’s Saturday morning, a little after 10 a.m., and we’re leaving Minot, North Dakota, running almost an hour late. We had been warned before we started the trip that “extreme heat conditions” were causing delays of up to five hours, but we are in no particular hurry.

I was awakened a little after 7 by Barney descending from his berth, in the process of dressing, saying he intended to go along to the observation car since there was no percentage in staying in the upper berth with no window. I also got up and, after a little regrouping, went downstairs to try out the shower. I found it more than satisfactory. I had the advantage that the train was stopped, probably in Devils Lake, North Dakota, but even when it started moving, I had no difficulty and found the whole experience surprisingly easy. The shower was actually better than a lot of hotel showers I’ve experienced lately.

After dressing, I gave Errol the go-ahead to make up our room and then trekked to the observation car to find Barney. He put our name on the list for the dining car, and we were paged soon after. Once again we found ourselves seated with Jackie and George, who had already ordered. After an omelet, croissant, regrettable orange juice, and very welcome coffee, I am back in the roomette, writing and charging my laptop.

During breakfast, we reached Rugby, North Dakota, the geographical center of the North American continent, which we are informed “has a stone monument and tower to mark the precise spot and a museum nearby.” We could not see any of those—or much of anything else. Barney commented that it didn’t appear there was very much to do in Rugby. Aside from Rugby, we mostly had a view of many flat miles of drought-stricken fields of corn, wheat, and hay, but since we left Minot, the terrain has changed dramatically, to rolling hills, with farmhouses and barns nestled in the valleys. I had no sooner written that, however, than it was back to what had recently been fields of waving grain—very flat.

[Later] As the day went on, we did eventually see mountains, though most of the most scenic part of the route is passed during the night. The excessive sway of the train got to Barney, and, nursing the last ginger ale from the club car, he sent me to the dining car for lunch alone. I shared a table with Christina from the Twin Cities (a coach passenger), who was heading for a week’s vacation in Whitefish, Montana, and P.D. and Diane, from Indianapolis, who were getting off at Glacier for a week there. I spent the afternoon reading, napping, and snapping an occasional photo.

By suppertime, Barney’s appetite was restored, and we again opted for the 6:45 seating. We shared a table with Jay and Elizabeth from Blaine, Washington (the northernmost city in the 48 states, named for James G. Blaine, “the continental liar from the state of Maine”), and Vancouver, BC.

We turned in fairly early. I took the upper berth, as promised, and had an uneventful night, entirely sleeping through the activity in Spokane in which our part of the train split from the part going to Seattle.

[Written September 1]

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