Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Snow Over Donner

Today's weather forecast for Reno/Sparks included heavy rain and potential flooding, and gusty winds in Fernley buffeted the trailer throughout the night, so it was a fair bit of trepidation that we set out for Reno this morning in the Big Orange Van. Although the BOV has more surface area (and thus more "sail") in the high winds), it's so much heavier than the Small Orange Pickup that Lisa felt safer driving it to take me to the train.

Amtrak was mostly unaffected by the weather and was right on time at Reno. The waiting room was full as is has been every time I've ridden from here, and it was a bit of a scrum getting aboard because the train had only two coaches; however, when my car attendant had the presence of mind to open the baggage door of the combination coach/baggage car, things got easier, as those of us who could handle the slightly higher step could go into the baggage compartment to stow our larger bags while people who needed more help used the main door.

I managed to find a coach seat, but spent very little of the trip in it, as it was Last Call for Breakfast. Inasmuch as the conductors have been very sensibly lifting tickets and issuing seat checks in the waiting room at Reno rather than having to chase passengers all over the train, it's very easy to get your seat and head for the diner, which is what I did. After breakfast, I went to the lounge car to take in the views. By then, the rain had come, turning to snow higher up, which spoiled the long-range vistas (Donner Lake was lost in the mist) but provided some different nice views.

Getting a good picture from the camera phone under these conditions is difficult. This is the best shot of those I took, taken as we were held briefly at Norden on the west side of the Donner Summit tunnel (tunnel 41) with the wind whipping the snow about. It was pretty, but would have been no fun at all in which to drive, so, just like the trip up two weeks ago, I was much happier riding the train than trying to brave the elements.

I spent most of the trip down from the summit to Sacramento in the lower level of the lounge car where two docents from the California State Railroad Museum were providing the narration of the trip as they regularly do. One of the stories that they tell is of the City of San Francisco getting snowbound at Yuba Gap. The docent doing the narration laughed and showed me the script, which has a notation "Do not read during severe snowstorms" in order to avoid worrying the passengers. By the time we'd got down to Yuba Gap, however, the snow had backed off and he decided to read it anyway.

I skipped lunch in the diner — I think Amtrak's lunches are the weakest of the three meals they serve — and had a hot dog, chips, and a soda in the lounge car just before the car attendant (a great fellow who was having a good time talking with all of us on the lower level) gave Last Call.

The Zephyr has a lot of schedule padding and if all goes well it gets to Emeryville at least 30 minutes or more before its scheduled 4:10 PM arrival. (This is helped by having the final three stops before Emeryville being "Discharge only; may depart ahead of scheduled time" stops.) When that happens, not only can I catch the earlier 3:55 Capitol instead of the "official" connection (the 5:15 from EMY), but I can also run over to the Emeryville Public Market for an early dinner to go. Today we got there early enough to make that early connection, but only about five minutes ahead of the earlier Capitol (which must have been "riding our yellows" clear down from Sacramento) and thus I couldn't get dinner.

The ride to Santa Clara and the bus back over to near my apartment were routine. I did have to pop out to get a bite to eat because of the above close connection, and there was a further delay as I put my apartment back together (I'd had to pull things apart before I left on account of the apartment building had had exterminators spraying for bugs over the holiday period when I was gone), but it was no big deal.

I called Lisa to let her know I'd made it. She said it wasn't too bad driving back home, and she went back to bed for a few hours. (I don't blame her.)

The train travel is easier than driving would have been, but it's still ten hours of travel and I'm very tired and still recovering from bronchitis. I've told my manager I'll be late tomorrow on account of needing to go up to Fremont in the morning and collect my minivan, which is ready to be picked up as my mechanic finally cracked the problem during the month he had it in his shop.
Tags: amtrak, trains, travel, weather

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