Day 3: Nebraska-Illinois
I woke up this morning rolling through the Nebraska Cornfields at daybreak- a cloudy sky spitting rain. Pulled into Omaha at about 5am, and a conductor woke up those of us sleeping stretched out on the floor of the lounge car. Gargantuan Union Pacific Coal Trains crawled by lugging ridiculously huge loads to power plants throughout the West. Not only is all this carbon ending up in the atmosphere, but UP dispatch routinely routes the sluggish coal trains ahead of Amtrak passenger trains, creating habitual delays for the railroad. Guess who’s on the board of UP? Our favorite VP Dick Cheney, who was also trying to kill off Amtrak’s funding. Hmmm…. I wonder what Halliburton and Chevron have to gain from killing passenger rail service in the US….
Since the California Zephyr, now sold out with people who boarded at Denver last night, has been on BNSF track east of Denver, the delays have been minimum and we’ve been cruising at about 70-80mph, now at 4:47pm Central time, west of Chicago. We’ll be about four hours late into Chicago, directly because of UP Coal Trains going 15 mph in front of us through Utah and Colorado. As a result, Amtrak could (and often does) lose thousands of dollars putting people in hotels who missed their connections. Also, delays tend to have a ripple effect through the network, magnifying the effects. And then the enemies of Amtrak in the administration and congress blame Amtrak for not being “financially self-sufficient.” Makes me want to take the lane with my bicycle going 5mph in front of Dicky’s Navigator, W’s Suburban and Ahnold’s Hummers (all nine of them).
It now appears that I will probably make the connection to the NYC train- the Lakeshore Limited, though they are really having to hustle to make it on time. We are again following a freight train as of 6:10pm so it’ll be close. We’ll see. Wouldn’t complain about being put up in a hotel tonight though.
Great guys from Chicago and Virginia I met, Maurice and Shelton, taught me the Dock of the Bay chords, and the blues scale on my guitar. Such a basic ingredient of good rock and blues. Will come in handy during the long Atlantic Crossing. I can rock out with the crew.
Peace out from the outskirts of Chicago Illinois y’all! Will write tomorrow from New Yawk, with any luck and without interference from the oil addicted neocon hawks.
ACTION: Write to your congressional representatives, and ask that Amtrak be adequately funded and given priority on the nation’s railroads!
7:53 pm I am sitting on the Lakeshore Limited after a direct connection!!! It is completely sold out, and Chicago Union Station was a madhouse. Nevertheless, I am on my way to New York City….