Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Amtrak Series: A Room with a View

"Illinois Prairie"

"Early Morning in Eastern Colorado"

"Colorado River, Western Colorado"

"Utah Sunrise"

"River in the Nevada Desert"

The Amtrak California Zephyr that runs between Chicago and Emeryville, California, goes through parts of 7 states. Five years ago Bob and I took the Zephyr from west to east. This reunion prompted us to do a reverse of our earlier trip, which enabled us to ride through the Colorado Rockies. Five years ago track work detoured us north to Wyoming and we entered Denver from the East. The Rockies are not to be missed. I always feel like I am traveling across a map on the train and I recalled fond memories of our bicycle ride across the USA in 2008.

As we left Chicago we passed through the suburbs and then into the wide open spaces of the Illinois prairie. My first journal sketch, Illinois Prairie, is a synthesis of views from the window of our roomette. We crossed the wonderful wide Mississippi into Burlington, Iowa. By this time it was dusk and we traversed most of Iowa and part of Nebraska at night in the rain. We awakened in Eastern Colorado, where farther south on our bicycle ride we spent a night in Haswell (pop. 84) in the town park when we got hit with a fierce electrical storm on the prairies after riding through 100+ degree heat and blinding sun. Early Morning in Eastern Colorado depicts the view we had from the lounge car after breakfast as the sun began breaking through the clouds over the barren prairie.

After a stop in Denver to switch out engines and crew and clean and supply the train, we continued on. Soon we were climbing the mighty Rockies on switchbacks and passed through 29 tunnels built to maintain a 2% grade for the train. Colorado River, Western Colorado, was a lovely scene viewed from the lounge car.

We were running behind schedule because we were delayed leaving Chicago due to a mechanical issue with one car and having to run slowly over recently flooded tracks in Iowa. We are reminded that nature is really in control. Thus we entered Utah in the dark and I did not awaken when we stopped in Salt Lake City. As our second morning dawned, we were heading west across the gorgeous desert lands in Utah. We were treated to a Utah Sunrise, which started out quite muted and became more colorful as the sun rose.

We were now on our final run into California. The barren landscape was cut by a rushing River in the Nevada Desert as we raced through Nevada, making up our lost time in the schedule. We pulled into Reno where the town invested huge sums of money to dig a trench for the trains so that traffic wasn't stopped every time a train went through town. Next, we traversed the lovely Sierras where we traveled through snow sheds and over track beds that were built by Chinese workers. I was enjoying the scenery instead of painting. We stopped in Sacramento, home of a marvelous railroad museum. On to Davis and then into Emeryville, the train arrived early. From there we took the Capitol Corridor to San Jose, and bus 68 to our home. My trip will be relived each time I view my Canson journal sketches, done with 3 small brushes on 10" x 7" paper using 7 tube paints loaded into a tiny Holbein palette.


hwfarber said...

These are absolutely wonderful. Maybe Amtrak would be interested.

I have read about this train ride. Your paintings make me want to jump aboard. Really great.

Mary Paquet said...

Hallie, the train ride let me see a little slice of life and a bit of our country. It's interesting to slowly watch the terrain and climate change. We sat looking out the window for hours.

AutumnLeaves said...

Such beautiful memories, Mary, and a gorgeous sketchbook in which to display them. I love the hints of crop lines in the Illinois prairie piece. Considering you went into Burlington, Iowa, you apparently traveled along the corridor in which I live (along I-80 west). So much surprising beauty, yes? You've captured glorious glimpses of each of these states and I think this is just a treasure!

Mary Paquet said...

Sherri, I didn't realize how close I was to your home. There is a lot of surprising beauty. Thanks for realizing I was trying to suggest row crops. I just wanted to hint, not hit you over the head with detail.

The sketching from the train was very rewarding.