|On the Train Again: Del Rio to Alpine
||[Apr. 29th, 2009|09:52 pm]
Del Rio is a Border city, on the Rio Grande, about the same elevation as where I live now (968 feet above sea level, on the edge of the Edwards Plateau but more related to the south Texas plains in terms of vegetation.) It has permanent (so far) springs that supply the water, and a little creek--the only running water we passed by in a long, long stretch before and after. It has the dusty, pale look of all the Border cities--though I grew up well down the river from Del Rio, it looks familiar to me.
Breakfast was in the dining car, the car behind us, and on the upper level. (I found out this morning after daylight that the whole train is two-level, with connections from car to car on the upper level. Lower level has bedroom at each end, four roomettes, 3 toilets and a shower/dressing room.) Had to climb a twisty little stair to get to the upper level of our car, then navigate the passage beside the bedrooms (upstairs, with their own toilets in the rooms) to the end of the car, and thence into the dining car. There were choices: I had a decent cheese omelet, sausage, biscuit, orange juice. Omelet wasn't pretty, but it was real eggs (not powdered) with cheese in the middle. Smucker's concord grape jelly for the biscuit (my choice of several.) Cafe car closes after breakfast hours in the dining car (??) for its minder's "morning break." Made lunch reservation for 12 at 10 am.
Back to the roomette. Arrangement of bed v. different from that on the sleeper from Edinburgh to London. That one, the beds run across the train, with a narrow passage on one side of the car. Here, the roomettes are on both sides of an aisle; the beds run parallel to the car sides, next the windows, and when un-made, the supporting seat cushions go back to being seats, facing each other, with a fold-out table available between them. What I don't entirely "get" is the big window to the aisle, requiring a separate curtain for privacy...in the UK, the sleeper car had a solid door. The UK compartment also felt roomier, though I like the bed being parallel to the axis of travel. Every time the sleeper in the UK braked, I worried about falling off the bed. (OTOH, I just bruised my thigh banging into the little foldout table. Good to work on, lousy to bang your thigh into the corner of. (produced one whopper of a deep purple bruise, too.) [Later edit note: because the other roomettes were empty, I could see out both sides through the open doors and the interior glass windows. Not a bad idea after all, though the person who glued Velcro to the frames to keep the curtains 'stuck' in place should've paid more attention to where the Velcro was on the curtains...]
West of Del Rio, the land is higher and dryer, steadily more rugged, with more and more mountains visible in the distance--and closer in, too. If you think Tamaulipan brush is sparse, wait until you get out near Sanderson in a dry year. Two horses apparently eating sand or gravel (I see no grass) as we climb a grade, about an hour out of Sanderson. Spiny bushes of some sort, well separated, maybe waist=chest high. First livestock I've seen since near San Antonio. We're paralleling some draw (that lower down was doing its best to become a canyon. Gorgeous rock (here and elsewhere. ) Just pulled a tight curve and I'm able to see that we have two diesel locomotives hauling us up the grade. Going through cuts of fine-bedded sandstone or a pale shale--thin flat layers, not strong. Pretty, though.
Some kind of road race at one point, though either it hadn't started or...I dunno. Every parking spot off the road had a car or camper in it. There were markers and warning signs on the road, and highway patrol. Finally, I saw a bunch of race cars of some sort, all in a row, bright colors, numbers and stuff on their sides. Still don't know what that was.
The tracks didn't stay near the road all the way to Alpine, but lifted up on the sides of big rough hills to the south of the road, giving great views of mountains to the north and (sometimes) views opening far to the south with even bigger ones. Shades of lavender, blue, tan, gray, taupe...turkey vultures in the air. Some draws had more water sometimes (none visible this day) as the vegetation proved, but there were stretches of serious desert--creosote bushes maybe knee high (none more than waist high) spaced many feet apart. Very little grass visible except right along the tracks and cuttings. Cactus (only prickly pear recognizable from train) looked drought-stricken--the pads shrunken between needle-clusters.
Ate lunch before Alpine--a warm turkey & Swiss sandwich on some fancy bread roll, some salad. Mountains closer now, but not so solid that you don't get views down long desert basins to more distant ones. Alpine is about 4500 feet above sea level; the train paused there long enough for smokers to get out and have a smoke, let off some passengers (including the couple who had been in the "family suite" that lies across one end of the sleeper car, next to my roomette--the other end has the handicapped-accessible room that train crews use when no one's in that one.) I spent a week in Alpine after college and before I went to OCS: rode the bus 24 hours from home to get there, stayed in a motel and rented a truck to drive around in. Had a fine time, much of it spent at the state park in the Davis Mountains. Big Bend National Park is south of Alpine; on a day clearer than this was, you can just about pick out the Chisos in Big Bend, 80 miles away. But it looked like storms were gathering, so we couldn't see quite that far.