Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Train Trip over the Sierra Nevada

This rainy season has been long, cold and very wet. The result is the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada this year is well above normal. Only a week ago, it was still snowing the the Sierra Nevada mountains. (Today, Mark Cowin, State Water Director, reported that the snowpack was 143 percent of normal.)

My sister planned a trip to Nevada for early May and would be spending a night in Reno. I thought a train trip from the Bay Area to Reno would be fun, relaxing and scenic given the amount of snow this year. Sunday I boarded the California Zephyr in Emeryville, CA for my trip across the Sierra.

I packed five bottles of wine in a suitcase to give to my Minnesotan sister and had a painting that belonged my mother that I wanted to give my sister. The painting was fragile and the suitcase was very heavy. I decided to carry the painting onto the train and check the suitcase.

The train out of Emeryville followed Interstate 80 and the northeastern portion of the San Francisco Bay. As the train traveled toward the east into the delta area, I saw the blue bay waters turn brown. As the train moved eastward, we left the bay waters and traversed farmlands. The train stops were very, very brief at the stops along the way until we arrived in Sacramento. Over 100 boarded the train at this stop. It was also designated a smoking stop to allow passengers who were smokers to get off the train and have a smoke.

A volunteer from the State of California Railroad Museum in Sacramento boarded the train at this stop. He provided interesting historical comments as the train moved between Sacramento and Reno. The train made a stop at a town called Colfax. The man from the Railroad Museum said that the town was named after Schuyler Colfax.

In February, I wrote about my relative, Schuyler Colfax. This is the same person for whom the town of Colfax was named. I took a picture of a statue that was near the train stop assuming that it was a statue of my relative Vice President Schuyler Colfax.

The trip across the Sierra Nevada was pleasant and the views beautiful. I left the train in Reno and waited for my suitcase that I checked in Emeryville to appear. All the suitcases were claimed but one. However that suitcase was not mine. The claim number on the tag was one different from my luggage claim number.

The agent at the station took a report, called the Emeryville station to see if my suitcase was still in Emeryville. After several minutes, he learned that the suitcase left at Reno belonged to a man who was traveling to Denver. Somehow in Emeryville, my bag was tagged to go to Denver and the man's suitcase was tagged to go to Reno. The agent was able to contact the conductor on the train to check for my suitcase in the Denver destination section of the baggage car. The bag was there and was taken off the train at Winnemucca, Nevada. Monday morning my suitcase was put on the westbound train from Winnemucca to Reno.

I picked up the suitcase Monday morning. However, I did buy a nightgown, some underwear and a blouse to use between Sunday night and Monday morning.

I flew back from Reno today and told the skycap at the airport to make sure that my bag made it on the plane to San Jose as the suitcase had been lost by Amtrak on my trip to Reno.

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