Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Worldcon Trip Day 3: Land o’ Corn

As California Zephyr left Denver on Monday evening, we observed that the lower level lounge car was unoccupied, so the members of TrainCon moved down there for the scheduled 8 PM BASFA meeting. With everyone accounted for, BASFA Vice President Chris Garcia called things to order early. The meeting lasted only around twenty minutes but did cover the entire regular agenda. The meeting actually ended twenty-seven minutes before it was scheduled to start. You can blame it on time zones; indeed, meeting “Amtrak-6” ended before the regularly-scheduled meeting back in the Bay Area was scheduled to begin at 8 PM PDT.

TrainCon moved upstairs to our regular pair of booths across from each other. Some of us sat and talked, while others (including me) played card games and talked. But soon enough fatigue overcame us and Lisa and I returned to our bedroom, where Lisa made up the beds for our second night on the train. Sleeping was very difficult for Lisa because of her cough (which isn’t really getting much better), although I slept pretty well myself.

At a long stop at what I think must have been Lincoln NE, I awoke because of a blinking light reflecting into my eyes like a flickering neon sign in a cheap hotel. Peeking through the curtains, I saw a piece of BNSF railway maintenance equipment on the next track to ours with a rotating yellow warning light. I pulled the curtains more securely closed and returned to bed.

Wednesday Tuesday morning found us rolling through the cornfields of Iowa. Lisa had finally managed to get into a sleep sufficiently deep that she didn’t hear the first call for breakfast, but I did and got up and dressed. Lisa woke up and was getting dressed herself as second call came. She left the compartment half-made-up and we went off to breakfast. Our car attendant came by and pulled up all of the bedding and remade the seats while we were eating. Eggs and sausage (even with raisin bread) weren’t as rough on my blood sugar as some of the other meals I’d had on this trip. I was surprised to get a 95 reading (which is good) an hour after breakfast. Maybe the walk on the platform at Ottumwa IA helped.

After the Ottumwa stop, Lisa hung out with other members of TrainCon in the lounge while I showered. While having a shower in the sub-compartment is nice and convenient, it’s tiny, and I was glad to have the rest of our bedroom to use to get ready before and dry off after the shower. Also, when our car attendant took the bedding, she ended up carrying away all of the washcloths as well, which was a little inconvenient, but I managed. I did feel a fair bit better after showering and changing into my Chicon 7 polo shirt.

I changed places with Lisa and sat down to begin composing LiveJournal entries for later posting. I overheard one of the other passengers (who I later learned had lived most of his life in California) marveling at the vast fields of corn that stretched to the horizon in all directions. “What could you possibly do with all this corn?” He asked of all of us around him.

“Well, there are over 300 million people in the USA alone, you know,” I said. “It’s not just you and a few hundred people you can see.” He looked a little blankly at me. “Some of this people eat. Some of it we feed to pigs and cows and chickens, and then we eat them. Much of it — possibly too much right now, thanks to the drought — is made into fuel. And a little bit of it is made into whiskey and other spirits.”

“Fuel? Drought?” He didn’t know that ethanol made from corn is a common additive to gasoline and also that there were vehicles capable of burning higher-percentage mixes like E85. He also was unaware that there were drought conditions in much of the middle of the country affecting crops rather badly. Sad, really.

About that time, the lunch call came. Although breakfast had not been long ago, lunch would be early and short because we were looking at an on-time or even early arrival at Chicago, so we joined Chris and Linda for our last meal on board. The server had our preferences down and remembered our drink and meal requests before we even gave them to her, except that Linda tossed a curveball by ordering the veggie burger — with bacon. Our train passed through Burlington IA and crossed the Mississippi while we were dining.

After lunch, it was time to begin the wind-down process and move most of our things back into our luggage downstairs in order to make the deboarding process easier. Lisa and I spent most of the rest of the trip in our bedroom with her reading, me composing LJ entries, and Bear watching the scenery go by. As we passed Aurora, and the EJ&E crossing, I waved in the direction of my company’s regional offices where I’ve worked numerous times and started shutting down in preparation for our arrival in Chicago.
Tags: amtrak, basfa, chicon, lisa, traincon, trains, worldcon

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