Monday, March 1, 2010

Taking the high iron again

Double-O Arch in Arches National Park, Utah (Wikimedia Commons).

Tomorrow I'm off on another railroad-borne safari.

This one is on the California Zephyr (if my count is correct, it'll be the 23rd time I've ridden this Amtrak train) from Chicago to Grand Junction, Colorado.

There I'll rent a car for the two-hour drive to Moab, Utah, headquartering at a bed-and-breakfast there for photographic forays to the Canyonlands and Arches National Parks nearby.

After much thought (and weight trials with a camera slingbag), I'm packing two Pentaxes and three zoom lenses -- a 10-20mm, a 17-70mm, and a 55-300mm. That ought to cover just about anything the desert has to offer.

Why Canyonlands and Arches? Partly because Ken Burns' recent PBS series on America's national parks spurred my interest in them. And partly because I can get there (or almost there) by train, for my money the sole remaining civilized conveyance in the United States.

Will I work on Hang Fire, the novel-in-progress? Maybe. Probably. I'm taking the new netbook along, and maybe excessive precipitation (the Utah forecast is for rain one of those days) or a little inspiration will squeeze out a few more pages.

I'm also interested in seeing whether the first-rate service on my last two train trips (one on the Texas Eagle and the other the Southwest Chief) was just luck or real evidence that the esprit of Amtrak crews has improved over the last couple of years. Not long ago conductors, attendants and waiters could be lazy and snarky, but maybe new labor contracts and the Obama administration's support for the national railroad have changed their outlook.

Full report soon.


  1. Have a good journey - hope you'll be singing "Underneath the Arches" when you get there!

  2. Judy and Phil are already planning a trip to Sochi Plypics and thenthe Trans Siberian to Vladavostok. 6000 miles in the winter?
    "Bill" D