Serendipity on the California Zephyr
When the California Zephyr’s dining car crew made the daily lunch call at noon today, I grabbed a window seat to watch the Colorado River scroll by, and soon found myself accompanied by three elderly women.
One of them said she’s riding Amtrak from Connecticut to California, and the other two are riding only between Denver and Grand Junction. One of the Colorado ladies is a journalist running a local news website in Montrose, Colo., and the other has worked with my former editors in Grand Junction.
So of course we spent the next hour talking shop. They both knew my former editors at the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, and we exchanged stories of life and taking copious notes as reporters on the Western Slope. It was a delightful and unexpected hour in the dining car debating journalistic objectivity, the Flint water crisis and the perils of chasing tweets — all as the Colorado River meandered beneath redrock cliffs, canary-yellow aspen trees and a bluebird sky just outside the train window.
Such serendipity doesn’t often happen on airplanes. That’s why people ride Amtrak.
As I write, I’m riding the rails between Denver and Sacramento — taking the slow-travel route to the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in California. I flew to Denver so I could pick up the California Zephyr for its best stretch — the mountains and desert between Denver and San Francisco. I’ve explored Colorado more than most people, but I’ve never seen it by train.
SEJ’s annual conference is often an opportunity for exploration and a needed solo trip to new places. I suspect that traveling to SEJ via train may become something of a tradition for me.
Last year, I flew to San Antonio, visited family, and then boarded an Amtrak train to SEJ in Norman, Okla. Next year, riding the rails to Pittsburgh will be a no-brainer.
The California Zephyr is pulling into Grand Junction now. My only regret is that I can’t spend the night here, visit friends as I did in Denver, and swill some Kannah Creek beer.