Sabra and I are spending a couple of weeks in sunny Arizona. Before her stroke, we planned to go on a Habitat For Humanity build in El Salvador followed be a week in Belize. Best laid plans often go astray, however, and we spent the time in a hospital instead.
Sabra is well on the road to recovery although her energy and strength are diminished. Like always, warm, sunny weather invigorates her (and me) so we decided a trip here was in order.
Thank God for the ghost money.
Because of her injury, she was told not to fly for six weeks so we took the Southwest Chief instead. We boarded the Amtrak train in Fort Madison and spent the next 28 hours rolling to Flagstaff, Ariz.
We both loved the ride. The scenery is spectacular as you chug through the backyards, back doors and back country of our great land. The seats are big, comfortable and– unlike airplanes– are not mandatory. Besides your own assigned seat there are also seats in a dining car serving delicious meals, a club car vending snacks and beverages and– our favorite– an observation deck with a half-dozen small tables.
At first you might think six tables each suitable for four persons isn’t much for a train with several hundred passengers, but it is the paucity of that which makes it so much fun because it forces strangers to sit together and interact.
At least I love it. You can take the journalist out of Iowa but you can’t take it out of the Iowan. I love interviewing strangers.
The first people I met were also my favorites– a family of Pennsylvania Dutch traveling from their home to Mexico for medical treatment. There was a mother and father in their 70s, and a daughter and son-in-law in their 40s. The older couple had 10 children and 80 grandchildren. They all were happy as larks looking out the window for cattle and animals. The daughter was especially good at spotting coyotes, or so it seemed. One of us needed better glasses as she kept pointing them out while I could never figure out what she saw.
The rest of her clan had the same trouble and began teasing her a bit. “That ain’t no coyote,” the patriarch of the family would say. “That’s a spot on the window.” Nevertheless, I enjoyed her childlike enthusiasm. I’d like to visit the area and plant a few rubber snakes and maybe a stuffed coyote for her, and other’s, viewing pleasure.
If I do, I’ll leave an orange hat nearby.