Day 6 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from just outside Martinez, California, where I am now at mile 3795 of this voyage. You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.
Once more I woke before dawn; we had just pulled into Winnemucca, Nevada. I had spent the night safe and warm in my California Zephyr roomette. I have had curious, but strangely comforting dreams on the train, perhaps the result of the effect of being gently rocked all night long. I got myself to the observation car where for the second day in a row I watched the sun rise, this time over the desert of western Nevada. I wrote a good 1300 words this morning, and when I finished, the dawn came up like thunder. The woman next to me began to sing, “Here Comes the Sun,” and for a few seconds all of us were singing there in the observation car in the intense morning light.
I had breakfast with a woman who designs video games, and a librarian from Provo, Utah. We spoke about “Gamergate” and children’s books, and the world of fantasy.
After breakfast–”Railroad French Toast” with bacon, yow! — I engaged with the Amtrak shower, and I can report that the water was HOT and the pressure was GOOD and that I was surprisingly refreshed. Again, if you go: remember to bring your own shampoo and conditioner. No, there’s not a blow dryer. Please.
I settled into the observation car as we ascended the Donner Pass. Crossing the Sierra Nevadas was almost as spectacular as the Rockies the day before. Although, gazing down at Donner Lake, it did make me think about the settlers of this country. It’s a miracle to me than anyone survived. It’s impossible to imagine pioneers spending five, six, seven months crossing the plains, and then the Rockies, and then the Sierras. How on earth are any of us here?
After lunch, I wrote another 1200 words. I’m so close to finishing the climax of this novel. The extended time alone has enabled me to do this kind of sustained work– such a precious gift. The only obstacle to the work– and I say this for the writers who will follow me– is that you really want to spend your time looking out the window. Every second there is something new to see.
We are crossing the Cartinez Straights, and out the window to my left I can see big ships– oceangoing tankers out on Suisun Bay, and evidence, if any more were needed, that we are drawing near the end of the western leg of the trip. Tonight, an SF hotel for me, and an author book signing and party.
Tomorrow morning I’ll board the Coast Starlight south, bound for Salinas., and then Big Sur, where I will hole up for the weekend: hiking, writing, meditating, thinking. I’ll be “On a Siding” for a few days, but I’ll try to connect back up before departing on the next leg of the trip– the northern leg from Salinas to Seattle, which begins on Monday the 10th.
In a way I am very sorry to be leaving the Zephyr. What can I tell you: you should do this, if you can swing it. As my sleeping car manager Dennis said yesterday, “It’s phantasmagorical.”