Thursday, July 10, 2008

Empire Builder

First of all, what? The Empire Builder? Which empire is that? So, I don’t like the name. The train is a different story. The Cascade mountains were gorgeous, and while the vistas weren't as breathtaking as in Southern Oregon, we passed over and alongside a number of spectacular clean, fast moving rivers (or perhaps just one a number of times). Then we got into Montana and "big sky" country, which was underwhelming. I don't see how the so-called big sky country is any different than, say, Kansas, which is more known big empty country. It's the same thing, just not as well marketed. Which isn't to say that it wasn't nice, just that it was not as nice as, say the Coast Starlight.

For this stretch of the trip I was in the small sleeper. It's two seats across from each other that fold down into a bed, with a fold-down berth above. It also has curtains and a door that locks, allowing for privacy, which is nice. With the bed down, that's about all that fits in there. There's a closet wide enough for two hangers, and the area between the bed and the door was about the width of my shoes. Still, the bed lay flat and compared to the coach cars, was luxurious. Other perquisites include a mini-bottle of campaign upon boarding, an attentive attended, and the inclusion of the three meals the dining car served every day. The dining car has limited selection, though there are at least two things I can eat at every meal.

What's nice is the opportunity to be placed with other people from different parts of the train, and to get to meet them and hear where their from. I met a middle-aged couple from Montana who loved camping but were headed down to Chicago to see their son. I met an older woman who was going to Mayo Clinic for laser back surgery before taking her family on an Alaskan Cruise. I also met a couple from Los Angeles, who worked for a prominent talent agency (I didn't ask the name but the represent some big stars), he on the business side, she for the company's foundation. They were traveling to Glacier National Park (another area we passed through with some beautiful views) to see it before the glaciers melted. They were fellow travelers, at least to some extent, and were interested in alternatives to flying and other ways to help reduce global warming.

They also told me that some scientists now say that there is a 50-50 chance the Artic Ice may be gone THIS YEAR. This is very bad. On a scale of one to ten, with one being George W Bush/Exxon Mobile's fake science, and ten being The Day After Tomorrow's fake science, this is like an 8 1/2. At the beginning of his term, the total loss of polar ice was seen as a disaster, but one no one expected this century. Even a few years ago the most pesimistic outlooks were for 2012. To be upon this marker so soon should raise the concern of everyone who cares about the future of the planet. I did not intend for this blog to preach on the subject of global warming, this is truely terrifying new information, and ever effort must be redoubled to stop the spread of warming.

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