10:02am

Sat September 22, 2012
Reporter's Notebook

Romance Of The Rails: All Aboard For Dreamland

There's two ways to travel on the California Zephyr: in coach and in a sleeper car. The sleeper car? First class. Turn down service, a mint on the bed, a dedicated attendant. Nice, right?

For my Denver to Chicago leg however, I've been traveling coach. Wide seats, two across, with a water dispenser in the middle of the car. After the evening's late night entertainment I thought I'd be just fine anywhere I could rest my head. However, my romantic idealism of train travel is at an end.

Essentially, I admit, I'm sleeping on a glorified Greyhound bus.

The car is dark. Light green LED lights line the floor, giving off a subtle green hue. We're moving, and fast, but the windows are pitch black. We're all alone out here.

The car is quiet. Occasionally the blare of the horn softly drifts inside, but no one makes a sound.

Well, actually, the car is NOT quiet.

Snores, coughs, sniffles, shuffling feet, the 'ca-chang' of the car doors opening as the conductor or car attendant waddles through. I brought a neck pillow and a travel blanket for sleeping, fully expecting my sleeping arrangement. I was set... right?

Nice try.

There's little you can do to make sleeping in a seated position comfortable. As I pass in and out of sleep, I allow my thoughts to wander.

I tune into the sounds of the train, and try to ignore my soreness and awkward sleeping position. My seatmate is doing alright. He’s lucky, he's got the window seat. All things considered, the gentle swaying of the train helps, a bit.

I close my eyes at 4 a.m... and at 7 a.m. (on the dot).

"GOOD MORNING! IT'S 7 AM! THIS IS YOUR DINING CAR ATTENDANT! BREAKFAST IS NOW BEING SERVED... AND HAS BEEN SINCE 6:30!!!"

The perkiness.

The almost smug tone of "...as has been since 6:30." I’m so groggy. Please, just 5 more minutes. The car comes alive. Whispered conversations became louder, zippers from suitcases and dopp kits: zzzzip. Shuffle. Shuffle. Zzzziiip.

All I want is a bit more silence. But alas, the day has officially begun on the California Zephyr.

Editor's Note: Reporter Nathan Heffel is chronicling his ride on the California Zephyr, you can follow this series here. Next up: the final leg into Chicago.

You can follow Nathan Heffel on Twitter: @Heffeln