Here’s the continuation of the Amtrak voyages. Part 1 can be found right here.
Welcome to part 2 of the story. I already covered how I went east and the people mostly I met and some on the places. Here is my return trip on the Southwest Chief route. Starting with beautiful Chicago I would work my way back to the west with stops along the way, some day or weekend trips, but mostly the people I met along the way. The Southwest Chief cuts across the deserts and plains and I ended up in Los Angeles. Here’s the train route for you. I rode this entire train route too. The photo album for my Amtrak travels is here.
Chicago to Albuquerque
Because of the distance or perhaps because I am a wimp, I decided to not use the RailPass and bought a sleeper for the 20 some hours to Albuquerque. I then spent about a week in Albuquerque and went on a few side trips. Albuquerque was a fun city to spend a week and days in. I found it had so much to offer but my airbnb was located a little away from the downtown areas. I did explore downtown a few times. Found good restaurants, museums, and wonderful historic city blocks I loved to walk down.
Summing up Albuquerque was just the going and seeing this large and spread out city. I had been numerous time in the past but did not remember it too well. The people are kind, restaurants were fun, and I found a nice brewpub down the street from where I liked to enjoy an evening. I would also do two trips which I give you below. My photo album from the city is here.
Santa Fe Day Trip
My first side trip was a train ride and day trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. The Rail Runner train takes a few hours and is a wonderful ride. Here’s the route for the Rail Runner train.
Fun ride to take and easy to do.
Santa Fe is a historic and beautiful city to wander around especially old town. I’d been to Santa Fe a number of times in some past darkly lit life but I recalled little of it.
I spent the day eating food with red chili on it, stopped for a coffee, wandered around and took photos. My photo album of a day spent in Santa Fe is here.
A weekend spent in Las Vegas (New Mexico)
I would use two more segments of the RailPass to go from Albuquerque to Las Vegas over a weekend. It takes a few hours on the Southwest Chief to do the trip.
I arrived in Las Vegas in the evening and walked up to the hotel. I had stopped and eaten dinner at this restaurant and reached the hotel just as it started raining. Deciding I needed a few beers for the room, I walked to the gas station nearby. Joining me were two New Mexican women. Very flirtatious sorts they asked me,
what is a good looking boy like you doing out?
They both laughed. We went to the gas station talking and bought beer. They smiled and told me Adios and I went to the room. After the few beers, the night evolved to some YouTube videos and just this incomparable feeling of this one town in a place I had never been before, will never go again, and now only for one night.
Raoul, retired truck driver. Las Vegas, NM.
The next day I decided to go see the historic part of the town but first I stopped for breakfast at the same restaurant. It was very busy and all the tables were full of tourists and locals. I was standing at the door and this older man introduced himself and asked if I would care to join him. And I met Raoul that way.
Raoul and I seemed to just hit it off from the first cup of coffee. We talked life and he told me his story of being a truck driver across the western United States for 40 years. Driving, talking on a CB radio, finding small truck stops to eat at. His 40 years went by and he found he could no longer work at his age and he hated driving even to Tucumcari where his girl friend lived.
We talked about the going and stopping. The times he had no home and slept in the truck. I asked him about his friends and he told me about a person named Chuck who he had known for decades. They never really met but engaged with talk, family, and life on the radio.
Finally as we finished the breakfast of eggs with a lot of red chili and tortillas, he let me know he must leave to drive to Tucumcari. I paid for breakfast and felt I got the better part of that deal. Raoul shook my hand warmly and thanked me and left.
I ended up walking back to the Amtrak station but stopped downtown to see the city. It turned out this city was troubled with a few social problems but it seems drug use had always been prominent. The young people I think with nothing to find, escaped instead.
I left the city without seeing the little historic district but I did take some photos. I think I found some living history that was far more interesting and valuable. I did wander a little in the city and here is that album.
Albuquerque to Flagstaff
I was at the tail end of the 2021 train journeys now. I used the 8th rail pass segment to ride to Flagstaff. The train was delayed so I got in rather late to Flagstaff and then checked out of the hotel after breakfast down the street. I ended up getting a hotel room for the day downtown so I could rest and wander around. I spent the day downtown based on the suggestion of my wonderful Uber driver and just kind of hung around, drank some beer, and bought a hat which I have lost since then.
Flagstaff was interesting but I doubt I will ever go back. I really liked the downtown part but that was all I saw. Here’s the photo album from that day.
Finally Flagstaff to Los Angeles
The train ride from Flagstaff cut through these wonderful desert places I had worked and lived in so long ago. Memories of city names and the wonderful and lonely desert landscapes kept me in some wanderlust yet sad state. I had practiced archeology across so many of the names. It really stirred up the thoughts going way back and I was glad to not be spending more time in any of the places. They cut too close to the past for me in some cases. I ended up getting a sleeper car because of the distance and my desire to just be alone for the final part of the trip.
Finishing it all
I had used 8 of the 10 segments on Amtrak on the USA RailPass which gave me 10 segments over 30 days. I felt I did pretty well. I told this Amtrak employee what I did and we both felt that the California Zephyr going east was the route to do. I am so glad to have done both routes and to have gotten the RailPass. Well worth the cost and easy to use.
From Los Angeles I would then fly to Austin Texas and then on to Mexico. I ended up living in Mexico for a year except for a visa run to Houston Texas which I won’t be writing about. Very depressing and angry place.