Sorry for my silence the last few days, but the Southwest Chief train did not have wifi. The one from Chicago to Milwaukee does, so I am currently taking advantage of it. Monday I took a turn driving on the California freeways, and it wasn't too bad. We stopped in Santa Barbara to visit the mission, and I was stunned to find information there about a Native woman who was abandoned on a Channel Island many years ago when the island was evacuated; she was discovered 18 years later and lived the rest of her life at the mission. When I was a little girl, I read a book based on this very incident called Island of the Blue Dolphins, and it really captured my imagination.
We continued on to LA and drove on Mulholland Drive to see the large houses, but somehow we ended up on a terrifying road called Topanga Canyon Drive. Steep turns and drop-offs - yikes! Then we drove on a beautiful road called Laurel Canyon Drive to the La Brea Tar Pits. We went to drop off the rental car, but first the GPS in my phone tried to take me a way that didn't work because the roads are one-way, and then when I called the branch for help, they weren't helpful at all. Worse, when we did manage to find our way there, they said they couldn't take the car and we would have to go to another branch further down the road!! Say what?? At least that branch was helpful and even paid for our Uber ride to the train station. We were biting our nails about making the train, since by then it was rush hour traffic, but we were fine. We relaxed on the train, and around Yorba Linda I noticed the traffic was really backed up even at 7:30 at night, so we were relieved to not still be in a car. Then we realized the town of Corona was on fire, and the traffic was people desperately trying to evacuate. It was the scariest thing I'd ever seen - the flames went on for miles, and even after we passed it, the red glow was visible in the distance. Incredibly, I have read since then that nobody was hurt and only one house was damaged, even though 2000 acres were burning. I never need to see something like that again! It looked like the gates of Hell!
Yesterday we had such a chill day on the train. We just ate, checked out the beautiful New Mexico scenery, and talked to our fellow passengers. Apparently there had been an incident in the middle of the night in which one passenger stole a bunch of stuff from the crew, and when he was caught he also had illegal drugs with him. Needless to say, he was escorted off the train. We just heard about it after the fact. He stole bottles of A-1 steak sauce from the dining car and even the conductor's eyeglasses! What a kleptomaniac. We did get off the train in Albuquerque for some fresh air, so I can now say I have set foot in New Mexico. I'm not quite up to Travalon's 50 states yet, but I'm up to forty-something. We did stop in Las Vegas... New Mexico, which does not look anything like the more famous city in Nevada. We also saw lots of pronghorn antelopes, but they are way too fast so we didn't get any pictures. On this train they let us eat much later than on the California Zephyr, so we really appreciated that.
Today we had another relaxing day. We stopped in Kansas City and spent a lot of time in Missouri, which looks something like Wisconsin. We spent even more time in Illinois, which looks even more like Wisconsin. When we got to Chicago, we got to stow our luggage in the first-class lounge and take a walk outside the station, where we had some deep dish pizza in the shadow of the Sears Tower, or Willis Tower, or whatever it is called these days. Now we are heading to Milwaukee, where our car is parked, so that we can get home and to bed, and get up for work tomorrow.
Here are some more photos. The first three are of the mission at Santa Barbara. My regular readers will be shocked to learn that I bought a rosary there.
This shot is from the freeway. It is in Ventura, California with the Channel Islands in the distance, but it kind of reminds me of Maui with the palm trees and distant islands.
This is a shot of the gorgeous houses up in the Hollywood Hills.
Palm trees and moonlight was what we could see from the train as we passed Fullerton:
This is a shot of the huge wildfire in Corona, California:
I loved these commuter trains in Albuquerque! They are called Rail Runners and have a cartoon roadrunner going over two cars.
I took a lot of shots of the desert in New Mexico but will only bore you with one:
The Sears Tower! We are almost back home!
Even in downtown Chicago, the sunsets are beautiful.
And finally, a video of the La Brea Tar Pit showing the tar bubbling up.