Taking a train ride to Denver couldn't have come at a better time. There was a need to shuffle a couple service dogs around the country and nothing could be better than the lumbering swaying of the passenger rail cars, gently back and forth. Lulling in nature all the other experiences of traveling by train are extremely stimulating. Sights and sounds stand out and odd and unusual. There is the clickity clack of tonage of metal on metal. There is the sound "ding ding ding ding ding" at every crossing. There is the sliding doors at the end of each car, the exposed sounds of the outside when transfering between cars, sliding doors of the sleeper cabins, foot steps going back and forth at all hours of the night. Lights from the crossings blink and flash at crazy angles, the shiney silver interior finish has mirror like reflections that refract and bounce at their own whimsey. The stairways and hallways stretch and contort cartoon like. How could this not be a grand experience?
The train roared in from the east moving the ground underneath and blaring the horn signaling it's arrival. Gabor and Velo were all vested up and ready for thier first travel adventure via train. Many conversations addressed the value of the opportunity and the how these animals can make a difference. Next the screech of the brakes slowed the beast to a stop. Air spewed out of the brake lines and you could feel the surroundings relax. Doors to all the cars popped open and a big metal step tool banged to the ground with a tin link thump. The cabin steward stepped down onto the stool and finally onto the platform where we were patiently waiting to board.
The cabin steward looked our direction and let out a "I don't do dogs!", "No, no, no. I don't like 'em!" "Uh huh! I don't like 'em!" She then walked away from Gabor and Velo leaving us dumbfounded by her complete disgust and reaction to the serivce dogs. The conductor and crew approached us with cabin information that PJ should have provided us. The group was short and ungiving.
We loaded up and moved through the car to our assigned cabins. Through the ground level and up the tiny windy stair case to the upper level rooms. The evening was dark and eeirily still with the only real light and sound coming from the mercury vapors humming out a fuzzy cast of light hanging high above the platform action. You can imagine the halo effects and long cast shadows that create out of the world objects. The psuedo dark freaks me out so I can't expect the animals to understand it.
You could tell the machine was moving by noting the scenary slowly started passing by the windows. Wasn't long before we were up and running in full train glory. As we started to settle in we moved about the cabins using one room for our bags and another for us and the dogs. As we were out and about a head popped out into the dimmly lit hallway. I jumped inside my skin and the dog let out a chirpping whoof. Quick and sharp with an immediate recovery. After recovering I took my turn at heading downstairs to wash up. Just was I entered the last turn before heading down into the stairwell, out of now where there was the concierge flinching and quickly stepping back into the stairs and she the let out a "Oh god, I don't do dogs!" The dog didn't take to her reaction positively and there was another whooof.
Got everyone into the cabin and lowered the bunk to allow us all to settle down. You could feel the tension in the environment and no one was relaxing. We shut the door and within 3 minutes a conductor knocked on the window. Seriously setting us all into a tizzy. Not sure why we just couldn't be left alone. That's all we needed. Just a few moment to let it all go.
Next stop Omaha — around midnight — our last stop to let the dogs out before we hunker down until morning. All the sights and sounds and feels culminated and we were ready to unload. Stepped into a blast from the past. The underside of this early turn of the century building. We pushed the dogs out to the only area of grass and dirt that wasn't rubble.
Immediately after stepping out there was a congregation of the rail crew. The Conductor and concierges converged just behind us. A couple stepped off the train and gave out the stare of death aimed at the dogs and the two of us. Meanwhile the flick of the lighter set flame to the smoke sticks they puffed on profusely bellowing out more toxins and and visual polution than the locamotive we are following. Their piercing glare continued. Just then the crew gave all attention to the couple. Then they looked over at us and back to the center of their conversation circle. The service dogs had done thier business and we went to reload the train. Velo and I smoothly transitioned over the yellow step stool into the car and made our way up towards the uppper level and just before Nicole took the first step up and the Conductor (Brad) approached. He side lined Nicole for a one-on-one conversation. "We need to talk!" "Your dogs are out of control and barking insesently. If this doesn't stop I will kick out off the train." Nicole responded with a great big vat of silence and continued to board the train. Enough said. The dogs were not out of line. The dogs were dogs but not out of control and NOT incesently doing anything.
All aboard including the throngs of smokers. We turned in for the night. Closed the cabin door, pulled the curtains and turned our focus to the passing of the prairie grasses, tiny town and the billions of stars twinkling softly through the window.
The next few hours and station stops were quite uneventful as we slept right through any and all of it.
The sun was working it's magic in rotating itself into position to cast the first few rays up and into the sky and onto a new day.
As we woke the terrain turned to be more than familiar. We were paralleling the I-76 corridor, the same route we traveled every weekend too and from our place in Denver and our weekend home in Sidney Nebraska. Every mile, hill and bump we knew from our travels.
Over the intercom a first call went out for breakfast in the dining car and next stop Fort Morgan. We know this stop for the restaurant on main street that served one of the best bread puddings and the sugar beet processing plant that eminated a fairly narley odor. Fort Morgan is just a bit over an hour out from Denver but the train is probably another hour and a half. We needed to get the dogs out for the morning movements or potentially face the wrath of Brad the Conductor. I tracked down PJ, the cabin steward, sensitive to the fact that she "didn't do dogs" and that she "really didn't like dogs" but we needed to make sure they would open the doors for the service dogs. PJ tracked down Brad the conductor and I was assured we would be stopping and they would open the door for us but we, the dogs, would only have a 3 minute break. Brad lowered his thumb down on the talk button on his hand held deviced and belched out "We are having to stop for an ADA stop". Really he made this stop sound like it was an inconvience to the train and it's employes and made a point to focus the communication of the reason being an ADA event. The level was pulled back the door opened and we headed out with the dogs into the gravely lot that they call the train stop. As I look back towards the train as Velo hunched himself over, releasing the inner pressures I see hords of smokers barrelling out and firing up their smokes. Let me make the point that this stop was an inconvience for an ADA but yet a great percentange of the passengers were out in the lot and taking their time. Meanwhile the dogs and I loaded back up and hunkered into our cabin only to see that the people hadn't even made the attempt to hurry by any means.
Denver couldn't come soon enough. The romance had been dashed and stomped and probably went up with all of that smoke. All of us were ready to be complete this unromantic but environmentally challenging journey and the silvery superliner.
Velo and Gabor were real champions for handling themselves like the professionals they are. Gabor has sense gone on to be placed in the Seattle area and Velo did up the town of Denver.