Trip Start Dec 02, 2013
Trip End Dec 15, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Iowa
Saturday, December 14, 2013

Woke up to Iowa.  It is starting to snow here a little this morning.  This is mega-farm country.  I have never been to Iowa before.  The farms are enormous.  We had a two hour delay due to track work this morning.  I will have about a five hour layover in Chicago, so it shouldn’t affect my connection to the LakeShore Limited that will take me back to NY.  I noticed two hunters this morning in a wooded area alongside the tracks.  I figured, let me see if I can spot any deer in those woods.  They are hard to spot because they blend in so well.  Sure enough, about mile down the track I spotted a big buck.  I hope he got away.
There seem to be more critters that wander onto the tracks along here.  Occasionally you get that nasty, smoky smell that makes its way up into the passenger area from animals that get pulled up into the wheels and undercarriage of the train and I guess the friction of the wheels sort of fries them right away.  You get that sometimes even on the LIRR, but here in Iowa it seems that it happens about once an hour.
I am enjoying a playlist that Sarah put together for me just before I Ieft. At the last stop, Ottumwa, Iowa, I took some video during the stop to capture the sound of the whistle and the “All Aboard” call.  I will post it next time I get a signal which does not seem to exist anywhere in Iowa. Last night I was watching Star Trek, the original series on Netflix and, of course, just as Captain Kirk was about to save the ship, I lost the signal.
I brought five books with me; I know that’s a little crazy. I read Zealot quickly as I mentioned, so I was down to four.  Then I was given an autobiography of Carl Jung at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, so I am back up to five now.  Almost finished with Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath.  He is always enjoyable to read, but this one is maybe not his best.  He seems to be stretching things sometimes to make his points. Basically, it is about how individuals and groups that are underdogs often succeed against great odds precisely because they are underdogs and are more innovative, committed and nimble.
This is my third day on this train, the California Zephyr, and we are now about four hours from Chicago. I would really like a shower. Soon we will be at Burlington, the last stop in Iowa.  We’ll then cross back over the Mississippi (I will try to get some pics of that) and turn north up through Illinois. I don’t want to jinx myself, but through a combination of luck and skill I have been able to have two seats for myself for the entire time I have been on the trains with the exception of about 20 hours between Delaware and Mississippi.  During the day it is not a problem at all to have a fellow passenger sitting next to you.  But at night the sleeping is so much better if you can stretch out into the next seat and not have to worry about elbowing someone. I am figurign that trip will have had about 170 hours of train time!  You have time to do calculations like that on a trip like this.
The change in time zones is much easier to deal with when traveling by train as compared to flying from coast to coast.  It is more gradual, of course, with the downside being that it takes 3-4 days by train compared to 5 hours by air, if you are in a hurry.  You hear a lot of people on the train talking about their preference for train travel.  I have seen and heard all of the following mentioned:  cost, fear of flying, airport security, can bring more baggage (bikes for example), sleeper cars (which I have not used), food is better (though expensive).  Also, I think there are people I have seen who are too big to comfortably travel by air and there are some who I think bring substances and weapons because there is no baggage check. They do have dogs who they bring through at every major station.  I saw a dog in Denver on the platform, however, that I think was just a decoy.  It was a big fluffy yellow lab and I think the agent just brought it along from home because it wanted to go for a ride.  The dog definitely did not know what it was doing. It was one of these dogs that looks like it just wants to jump up on you and lick you and play with you - definitely does not belong in law enforcement.  I’d like to know how many times it has actually sniffed out drugs or explosives!

I have added today (Dec 17) a video clip from a brief stop at Ottumwa, Iowa that shares some of the sounds of the trip as well as a walk through the interior of the train.  I hope you can view the video. It is challenging to add video clips.
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Therese on

I read parts of the Gladwell book, too. Based on the example he gives of the woman who went to Brown and flunked out of the science program (but might have fulfilled her dream of becoming a scientist had she attended a less rigorous school) I suggested to B & F that they might want to go to colleges where they can be big fish in small ponds rather than the other way around. B thought that was ridiculous and amounted to false confidence. He wants a big pond, even at the risk of getting eaten by bigger fish! I like Gladwell's story of how the impressionists, a bunch of cronies, elbowed their way into fame by taking an unbeaten path.

Okay, back to grading papers, but it's fun to think about these things. Thanks for giving me the chance to ponder vicariously through your road trip.

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