August 27th, 2012

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Worldcon Trip Day 2: A River Runs Beside TrainCon

I awoke around 6:45 AM as our train rolled through Utah heading for Colorado. Lisa had a rough night, being awakened repeatedly by coughing fits. We pulled ourselves together in a leisurely way in preparation for breakfast. I got out my razor and pre-shave lotion and was dismayed to discover that the cap had come loose on it during the night. Now I keep that lotion in a Ziploc bag for this reason, but the bag itself had sprung a leak! Fortunately not a lot got loose and I was able to contain the damage and use a spare bag. After cleaning up a bit, we went to breakfast and enjoyed the view as we passed through Green River, Utah.

After breakfast, TrainCon reconvened in the Lounge Car for a while. Lisa was pleased to actually win a game. Some of our fellow travelers were intrigued by our card games and we explained how the game worked. At least one asked where he could buy a copy of Guillotine, and we said any good specialty game store should be able to get it for him.

It was mostly sightseeing today. The route passes through the ex-Denver & Rio Grande Western Colorado River route, sometimes sharing the canyon with Interstate 70, but in other places the only access is by train or by river raft. We saw many rafting groups in the river, and, as we had been warned, some of them decided to moon the train. We had lunch as the train paused at Glenwood Springs, right across from where Lisa and I had stopped for lunch on our drive back from Denvention 3. I wore my D3 polo shirt today in recognition of today’s major stop, which will be Denver. Unlike Lisa and my trip to Montreal in 2009 (which was diverted via the faster-but-less-scenic Union Pacific “Overland Route”), we won’t have a two hour layover at Denver. Tonight, the eight members of TrainCon are scheduled to try and commandeer the lower level lounge car area for BASFA meeting “Amtrak-6.” For my sins, I agreed to be Secretary, with BASFA VP Chris Garcia presiding.
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Worldcon Trip Day 2: Cab Ride Through Moffat Tunnel

After a day of spectacular views, our train pulled into Winter Park for what was supposed to be a relatively short stop. Passengers were told they could step off the train for a couple of minutes, which mostly means smokers stream for the doors, but Lisa and I like to get off when we can and walk the length of the platform. We walked from the rear of the train where our sleeper was toward the baggage car at the front, admiring the small Winter Park station platform. We were just about to head back toward our end of the train when there was a commotion ahead of us near the center of the platform. We walked part-way back that way when we saw a man get knocked over and land hard with his head hitting the yellow bumper strip on the edge of the platform. About that time the conductor waved everyone aboard and we got on at the first open door. I said, “So much for a quick stop.”

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After the half-hour delay at Winter Park, we departed for Denver, and they made an announcement that we would be passing through the long Moffat Tunnel in about five minutes, and that to prevent diesel fumes from getting into the cars, would everyone please find the car in which they would stay for the transit of the tunnel and not move between cars, as doing so lets fumes into the cars. Lisa had a sudden brainstorm and said to me, “Quick, let’s get down to the front!”

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After making our dinner reservation plans for the eight members of TrainCon, we went to the lounge car for the descent toward Denver. Even though Winter Park and Denver aren’t far from each other as the crow flies and even only 62 miles by rail, the timetable allows two hours to make the trip, and the train needs it. The rail line down from the tunnel to the flats at Denver is slow and twisty, with several horseshoe curves to change altitude as gently as possible. The views are almost as stunning as those back in the canyon. We saw deer grazing alongside the tracks, apparently unconcerned about our train passing by as we headed for Denver.

I was concerned that we’d miss our chance to get out at Denver because we’d be at dinner, but as it happens we were finishing just as the train backed into the single-track temporary stub at Denver. Those of you who rode the train to Denvention 3 will remember that all trains back into Denver Union Station, located at the foot of the pedestrianized mall and near the baseball park. As part of a major rebuilding of Union Station to a multimodal transit hub including commuter rail, the Amtrak station has moved a bit to the north with a temporary single-track stub and station building across the street.

Denver is a major servicing stop for the Zephyr and we had plenty of time to walk up and down the platform and see what could be seen; however, it’s not close enough to any shops or service to be able to run quickly and grab something. (I had hoped I might be able to grab some more medicine for Lisa’s deep chest cough.) That’s as much due to the idiot at Winter Park as anything else. If it had not been for that mess, we would have been as much as an hour early at Denver and might have been able to run out on an errand. As it was, the recovery time built into the schedule meant that we were pretty much on time as we left Denver.