Note: most of this was written on the train, but has been cleaned up and added to at home. I've made no attempt to indicate which was written where.
I spent the night at a fancy hotel in San Antonio, going to bed early but sleeping intermittently, as I often do on the first night of a trip. I kept hearing trains (the hotel is across I-37 from the tracks and the station, and my room faced Bowie Street, and thus I-37 and the train station and tracks.) The first one, I got up and looked--being on the 27th floor, I could see over I-37 easily--noting the street crossing barrier lights flashing and then not flashing as it moved along. Most were freights. But about 3-3:15 am, I heard a "different" train. I looked out and saw static flashing lights. Excitement overrode the need for sleep--that had to be a passenger train.
At 3:30 it was still there. Peeked out the window of my 27th floor room (which faced the right direction for this) and saw blinking lights holding still, over where I thought the train station was. Aha! I gave up trying to sleep (I had a 4 am wake-up call) and was downstairs getting a taxi to the station by 4:15--not even hurrying. The taxi deposited me at the station, and two uniformed women checked my ticket and ushered me aboard my sleeper. I did not have to check my suitcase--it fit on the luggage rack in the car. The bed in my roomette was made up and ready, so by 4:30, I was stretched out on a very comfortable mattress. At 5:40, the train left the station on time, and I snoozed off and on until a pretty pink and blue dawn tempted me to get up and start looking for food.
As we hurtled through the brush country between San Antonio and Uvalde, we scared a bunch of black vultures from their roost. Also saw Blue Mountain Ranch, that guarantees trophy quality white-tails. The ranch entrance looked to be at the railroad but there's no scheduled stop. Maybe it's a dirt road in and I just didn't see it, or a narrow paved that didn't show from the train. Or they have an airfield. But they certainly have a fancy gate and entrance sign. Now, coming into Del Rio, I'm seeing retama (or palo verde--can't tell from the train) in full bloom, and guajillo and whitebrush as well. I'm thinking "guajillo honey" (which is incredible if you've never had it--rivals sourwood honey.) Also saw the big south Texas plains yucca in full bloom (it's a tree yucca, unlike ours, and deserves to be called Spanish Dagger--leaves are stiff and the points very sharp and hard.)
Out of Del Rio--views open to the south of mountains in Mexico. Railway bridge over Lake Amistad, also one over the Pecos River canyon, now filled with water from Amistad. (That's the canyon where the original canyon-bottom bridge was a death-trap if a flash flood came down.) Then a slow sinuous climb, probably not making more than 50 mph, lots of curves, passing a freight train, and then a fast run at probably 70-ish. Ocatillo in bloom. More yuccas, some sotol.
[OK, one clear post-trip-note. Notice that "passing a freight train". Amtrak's ability to stay on schedule has vastly improved in the past year, thanks to U.S. Senators from New York, who managed to push through a rule change allowing passenger trains right of way. Prior to that, Amtrak's trains were required to yield to freight in all instances. Slow freight, slow passenger train, in the same direction, and passenger train required to pull off and wait while freights bound the other way went on. Now it's different. And the result was that we got to LA on time, and back to San Antonio on time.)
Train fairly smooth--some sections of track are clearly welded--very smooth indeed--with others clickety-clack (or, more accurately, ka-lump, ka-lump...ka-lump, ka-lump.) Roomette has a power outlet (yay!) for the laptop's power brick or a cellphone charger or whatever. AC, lights, call buttons.