After my brief e-mail fix at the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago Union Station, we stowed our luggage with the red cap and walked over to Greektown and ate at the same place we did the last day we were here. Boring, I know, but we weren't hugely hungry and it was fast and we knew we liked it. After a stop at the Walgreens to pick up snacks and a last hit of Coca-Cola for the train, we did a loop around Union Station. I picked up a couple of the crisp breads from Corner Bakery – a chain not on the West Coast, which is just as well because I shouldn't eat too many of those crips – talked Lisa into getting a fudge brownie, and returned to the lounge and reclaimed our bags. I tipped the red cap three of my dwindling supply of $2 bills.
Unbelievably, in the brief period of time I was online before they called our train, I got a work-related e-mail that I actually could answer right away, although the person who asked it had said he was content to wait until I got back from vacation next week. In addition, I got a question regarding Anticipation that really could not wait two more days for an answer because the journalist was on deadline, and I felt relieved to be able to answer her question before shutting down as the conductor started preparing to board our train.
It's a good thing we got back sooner than I expected, because they started boarding about twenty minutes earlier than I thought they would. The conductor lifted our tickets and an attendant led us down to our platform. We were in the first full sleeper behind the locomotive – the one forward of us is a transition/dorm car partially used for the onboard service crew – and we were the first passengers aboard. We had lots of time to settle in to our car before the Southwest Chief pulled out "on the advertised" at 3:15 PM. Unfortunately, not long after that we got hung up by a dispatching problem and "freight train interference" caused by the middle track of the three-track BNSF "speedway" being out of service for maintenance. By the time we reached the first stop at Naperville, we were 20 minutes late and we pretty much stayed that way all along through the first section of the trip.
We settled in nicely for our 39 hours in Bedroom E of our sleeper on what I hope to be one of the more restful legs of this trip. I've been surprised at the minor variations from line to line of the Superliner equipment, and this car is no different. It, too, has only one power outlet, and that one poorly placed. Lisa ran extension cords around the compartment and we plugged in my radio and later our computers. I had forgotten to print out the list of railroad train frequencies for the Chief, so I pulled up the page (copied to my computer locally) and hand-wrote them onto my schedule. I also asked the conductor and she helpfully told us what the current and subsequent channels were.
Our car attendant introduced himself, and I saved him and us some time by explaining that we were relatively experienced train travelers, knew how to work the mechanisms, and would ask him for help if we needed it. For a wonder, he didn't make a nuisance of himself, and he did fetch Lisa some hot tea later and a blanket before we turned in for the night. (One thing the Viewliners have that Superliners do not is a hot-water dispenser as well as a coffee machine, so that tea drinkers are treated equally with the coffee types.)
Out beyond Aurora, we processed photos that Lisa took on board the Lake Shore Limited and that you'll be able to see over at travelswithkuma later. I then pretty much sat back and watched the world go by and was glad that we didn't have internet access, although at Lisa's suggestion, I did "fish" for connections at a couple of our station stops, without success.
Beyond Galesburg IL, we entered new-for-us mileage, as we swung to the southwest away from the line of the California Zephyr and set course for Los Angeles. At 7 PM we headed off to the diner for another meal of steak for Lisa and salmon for me. Needing some sort of walk, we walked the length of the train to the rear car, where a Boy Scout troop heading for New Mexico had been settled in the rear half of the car. We talked trains with them for a while from the second-best seat in the train looking out the rear. (The best is up front with the engineer.) Then it was back to our compartment, where I caught my accounts up to date. I kept such awful records in Montreal that I simply wrote off everything for which I couldn't account to general meals. Trips like this are times when I have difficulty sticking to keeping track of every expense.
As I said earlier, this portion of the trip is interesting, but there's not a lot of excitement. That's just fine with me. Lisa told me to not wake her up in the morning if she doesn't want to be awakened, and if she misses breakfast, so be it. We have the time, and we're supposed to be on vacation.