11pm in the middle of nowhere

Its now 11pm and I’m seven hours into a train journey that has another nine and a half hours to go. It’s been a strange old journey so far. As seems to be the case on every form of transport that I’ve taken so far since arriving, there was confusion about accommodation allocations. I don’t know what it is about the human psyche that causes normal everyday people to miss the obvious solution right in front of their eyes, and instead focus on finding answers the hard way. Todays case in point roughly 15 people arguing that someone else was in their cabin and that they should leave the premises immediately. Of course the obvious solution would be to get the tickets out and verify the carriage and room numbers. But no. Lets instead all stand around arguing why you are correct, and that you never make mistakes and give the rest of us the pleasure of hearing your voices raise a few octaves because repeating your point, only louder is of course going to change everything.

After we got going I found that I had the misfortune to be on the sunny side of the carriage and a my tiny little room was suddenly an oven. I’ll confess to being very disappointed with the journey. Whilst the views were indeed scenic, there were so little of them. The railway goes through thick woodlands, or rock lined gorges for the first couple of hours. When we finally did reach open ground the tracks were lined with trees. So for around four hours, I saw an awful lot of trees and very little else.

At 8pm I was called to what can only be described as one of the worst meals of my life. The service was poor, the seating was cramped and impersonal and the food was absolutely terrible. After hardly eating for the first few days I have made up for it last night and at lunchtime. I returned to bar that I ate at the previous night in Washington. The Capital City Brewing Company. They brew their own ales and the food was fantastic and very reasonably priced. Last night I decided to treat myself as I knew I would not be spending money today, or at least very little. I had a steak that was served with the most wonderful mashed potatoes. The portion size was so large that I could eat more then 3/4 of it. It feels very strange to feel very full after eating far more then normal, but still seeing a significant amount left on the plate. This morning I had a cooked Orish breakfast, and then I had a very nice piece of chicken breast for lunch. Today was the first time I’ve eaten three square in a long time. Knowing that I’d had the breakfast and the lunch I took the veggie option for my Amtrak provided meal. In this case a vegetable ravioli with a tomato based sauce. When it arrived it had had the look and texture of vomit. Heinz would have been ashamed to put this stuff in a can and sell it for 10p. Put it this way, the meal was that bad that I’m skipping breakfast tomorrow. I’m supposed to be on a tour of Chicago just as soon as the train arrives at the station. But I’d rather go hungry then eat there again.

It would be fair to say that I returned to my cabin not in the best of spirits. The sun has now set and it appeared pitch black outside. Then I turned off the cabin lights and wow! The moon is lighting all the trees that where so frustrating to view earlier. It emerged that we were now following the course of a river as the moon would reflect on its surface, just shimmering with the flow of water. In the darker parts of the sky I could see stars and the first thing that caught my eye was the only constellation I can recognise – the Plough. How strange it suddenly seemed that I was in a train crossing North West America, and what I could see out of my window is the exact constellation I can see outside of my bedroom window at home. A familiar sky over a completely different landscape.

I plugged in my headphones and just listened to music whilst watching the moon dance in the river below. So incredibly peaceful.

We appear to be entering a city now. I’m not sure which one. Ah, a sign has just appeared – we are in Pittsburgh. The stars have now completely disappeared and only the moon remains visible. Lost to the light pollution. People in these cities really do now know what they are missing at night.

Time to convert my seating into a bed and get some sleep. Chicago awaits.

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