in Going West

2021 Voyages – Amtrak part 1

Here are some Amtrak train travels in the United States in 2021. Part 1 is going east on the California Zephyr train. Part 2 is going west. I decided to do the story in two parts.

Rather than tell the story of the places, this is about a few people that made up the places. Hope you enjoy! All of the wandering was captured in a photo gallery. I spent 30 days going east and west. The Amtrak travels can be found in the photo gallery here but each post has a highlight or two or whatever from each journey. Hope you enjoy.


When I started wondering about this part of the voyage, I looked at the California Zephyr Amtrak map and just for fun here it is.

I decided I wanted to go east all the way to the end. That would be Emeryville California to Chicago. The trip east was through some of the most beautiful country the US could offer.

But I wanted stops along the way. Segments. So the voyage became this.

  1. Emeryville to Reno. Reno was rather interesting but rather disturbing. I had been to the biggest little city so many times but this time it seemed like it all had changed. The city lights and the people that used walk the streets were replaced by other less fortunate people. I did not seen anyone out day or night walking. The casinos were little prisons where all the guests just stayed inside all the time. Ate, gambled, perhaps had sex, got drunk. Maybe in that order. I stayed a few days but was so very glad to leave. My Reno photo album is here.
  2. Reno to Salt Lake City . Salt Lake City was a beautiful city to me. Old buildings, wide city streets but it seems like everyone loves beer there. From the mornings most days, I saw coolers out and liquor stores being visited. I had lunch with an old friend from the .com days that lives outside SLC at this nice brewpub. We spent a lot of time talking about the city, about the people we worked with then and about how lives had changed. I spent three days in SLC and really enjoyed just walking the city. I also had one of the nicest hotels there. They let me check in at 5am, got me some breakfast, and then took me to Amtrak at 3am in the morning. Nice people. That album can be found about right here.
  3. Salt Lake City to Denver. Denver was interesting and I loved the downtown mall area and the historic parks. This city seemed to suffer the same homeless problem as Reno though. I only went to upper scale neighborhoods at night like the downtown mall. My Denver photos are here.
  4. Denver to Omaha. I really liked Omaha for three days but I don’t think I could stay longer. I disliked the focus on the pandemic being over and masks were optional. Kinda reminded me in retrospect of Houston Texas. On the flip side, the city had some fun bars and restaurants. Here is the album from there.
  5. Omaha to Chicago. Finally Chicago! This was different for me. I stayed a week in Chicago and of course it was in uptown in Little Vietnam. Seemed legit. When I got there, the cabbie had told me all about uptown and the area I was in. I stopped at a little Vietnamese restaurant and got a ca phe sua da. Sat there and wondered just how in the world I could leave Vietnam, travel thousands of miles and just arrive for a Vietnamese coffee. Chicago though! What a beautiful city to wander in. I walked the Lake Michigan area a few times, went to the Field Museum. That museum! If you go, I think two days are needed. What a beautiful property. Then there’s the food. I had some fun times drinking and eating in the city and riding the transit system all around. My photos for Chicago are here.

The focus here though is on what follows really. I loved the eastern route I took. From beginning to end. It’s worth noting that I also went west from Chicago to Los Angeles but that’s part 2 of this story.

The People make the places

The real impact of this wonderful vagabonding around were some people I managed to meet. Going east I have some people to share with you. From Salt Lake City to Denver I would sit alone most of the time but somewhere along the route a person sat next to me. This is his story. Slightly fictional and a mashup perhaps. So sit back and enjoy.

Red Ambrose. American cowboy.

Red was the one of the last of this breed. An American man of the west. Hunting in the Rockies, breaking ponies, wandering trails from Wyoming to Arizona. He was larger than life so his story is. He could have said,

guns don’t lie. People do.

At another turn he might have also noted,

only good thing about people is when they know when to stay and when to go

I’m pretty sure though as he told the stories and listened to mine, I asked him what he liked in his life. With the larger than life laugh and boisterous yet shy persona he answered.

I like sunsets in the Rockies, breaking a pony, hunting, and a pretty woman.

Yeah. I’m pretty sure Red said that.

Red was a mashup of the west. So big and beautiful and colorful with fierce blue eyes that crinkled at the sides. A red beard perhaps his namesake, and a loud laugh that rolled across the train aisle. He was also quiet and philosophical and warm at times. His family loved and hated him. Held him at arms length. He may have told me to hold my daughter closer than that.

Red and I parted company in Denver. The last I saw of him he was walking that angular walk and both laughing and talking at his phone in that boisterous and wonderful voice. He marked my world. I knew I would write about him.

Adios Red. Our trails may never cross again but you touched my soul.

Teri. Retired school teacher.

I would get on the train next in Denver and ride to Omaha. I decided to sit in the observation car which was not crowded at all. I sat for awhile taking photos and just thinking of how life mirrored the whistle stops of the train perhaps. My life sure seemed to find places to just go. A few seats away was a woman sitting by herself. We got to talking so she moved closer. She had keen blue eyes and beautiful long blonde hair. Perhaps in her early 60s. She had spent years teaching in elementary schools and then covid came along. The entire fabric of the school fell apart with online teaching. Suddenly the impact of teacher and student was no longer there. She was estranged from her charges and social impact. Many things though she blamed on our then president. She believed that Trump was a national disgrace and did more to damage the country pandemic or not.

Teri had an easy laugh and I think she felt sitting in the observation car with a stranger it was okay to simply talk about her life with more abandon than a close family member or friend. She told me about teaching and the kids and the school as it closed down. She was sent home too. Instead of everyone rallying to beat the pandemic she found some that were refusing or politicizing it. Masks became political statements. Science become a victim. She was distressed and asked about life in Vietnam at the time so we talked about that.

I think Teri must have been a compassionate but demanding teaching in her times. I felt she had this clear moral sense and compass. Soon though her stop came up before Omaha and I saw her leave the train after I left the observation car. She had this purposeful walk and a focus to her life which I found very appealing. She was also a beautiful woman and I liked that too. Just speaking the truth here.

Ending the people in the places

So this ended my going east on the train. Stories of people over places but we are not done yet. There are more of both to come. I will go west next and visit Albuquerque for a week. Do some other things and end up in Los Angeles. But that is part 2. All taken with my iPhone 12 Pro either along the route of the train or in the places I visited. I don’t have much need of anything else.

I’ve added part 2 of the voyage. You can find it here. This is going west from Chicago on the Southwest Chief.