Day #2 Utah and Colorado

April 20, 2023

Slept well! Woke up at about 6:30; the train was rolling slowly and this was the early morning view. We are somewhere in Eastern Utah…

This is discreet enough, ya? I really wanted to get a picture of the bathroom and shower. It’s like an airplane bathroom. There ARE showers on the first floor that have adjacent changing areas where you can spread out more. I thought this was fine and it was just steps from my roomette. It’s about 7:30 and there is no competition for the room!

As was our routine (lol), after breakfast we nabbed a spot in the observation car — best views in the house. Here are some nice scenes of Utah. And it’s worth noting: from a moving train with an iPhone (usually pressed up against the glass to avoid reflection).

In the picture above, note some of those rock formations in the distance, just below the snow line on the left-ish side of the shot. I mean…

And now we’re in Colorado.. Grand Junction, where we have a fresh air stop (and other train business). The fresh air stops allowed those who needed to smoke some time to do so (not allowed on train). For the rest of us, a brisk walk and exploration. This is the original train station, now abandoned, I believe (there appeared to be a new one, less architecturally interesting).

More Western Colorado… and as we near the Rockies, we start to see more snow.

One of the conductors made the rounds, greeting passengers and answering questions. Really interesting and fun to chat with this guy…

Today’s lunch was a baked potato with all the fixings. Not bad! We did not go hungry.

Another fresh air stop, this one in Glenwood Springs. I like this one a lot because Jim, Peter and I had been there in 2007 on a trip through the Southwest with the Bolles. We always remember Glenwood Springs because 1) Peter was allergic to the minerals in the hot springs there and developed a huge full-body rash (which did not stop him from enjoying the giant water slides) and 2) he got a pie in the face from the waiter at dinner because it was his 9th birthday. It is an incredibly lovely town along the Colorado River!

For the next several hours (and a couple hours before this), the train follows the Colorado River through truly gorgeous pastoral farms, then narrow gorges.

In the photo below, you can see the tracks we’re on. I’m also remembering last year on this trip (with Darlene, to Chicago), there was a LOT more snow.

We finally arrive to the highest station on this route, Fraser, CO, elevation 8574′. It was snowing!

We then go through a whole bunch of tunnels, one that was nine miles long, and emerge on the sunny East side of the Rockies..

And just as we’re wrapping up dinner, we get a sweeping view of the Denver metropolis and beyond.

We’ll head to bed pretty early again, this time sleeping through another “N” state: Nebraska.

Day #1: All Aboard

April 19, 2023

Matt arrived yesterday late afternoon..April 18. I spent the day putting finishing touches on packing and preparing myself and house for being gone for a month. Good productive day. Picked him up at the airport, went to Burma for dinner, got good nights sleeps. That meant that today… we were ready to board the train! Got to the station early (just to make sure) and were assured we were confirmed, then headed to Cloud Forest for a relaxed cup of coffee. Returned to the train station, ready to board!

The train was late.. ugh.. but arrived (not at 10:36, but) at 11:15….

One of my favorite things: when the train stops on the platform, train personnel jump out and stride right over to where you are and say things like, “Kari and Matt Peterson? Come right this way!” Our car’s porter, Jason, proceeds to load and stow our bags, and give us a quick orientation — lunch will be served at such and such, bathrooms and showers are here, observation car is there, snacks and drinks can be purchased down below, bed service is … etc. We each have a button in our roomette for summoning Jason, as needed.

We’ve said goodbye to Jim, the train rolls out… and after a quick tour of the entire length of the train, Matt proclaims, “I could do this for a long time!” (His tune will change slightly after his cold shower at the start of day two).

We are happy. We settle into the observation car and watch the world roll by.

The valley is beautiful, and takes awhile to move through. We have lunch with a couple from England.. charming. We will see them frequently over the next couple of days.

Colfax is quaint:

Then comes the first-day’s highlight.. views of dramatic foothills and the very snowy Sierra.

The American River…

Approaching Donner Summit… (takes about four hours to get to the summit!)

Donner Lake. And of note: we are cruising along the tracks visible (and seemingly covered in snow) last week when Jim and I were snowshoeing at Donner Summit. We asked a conductor about snow on the tracks and were told that the train moves slowly enough that it simply clears the tracks as it goes. Snow is typically light and fluffy, largely because the number of trains passing through precludes too much snow from settling and icing up. They have been known to stop the train and chisel snow as necessary.

Matt and I did a bit of this: pre-dinner cocktails and gin rummy. So, so fun.

More lovely eastern Sierra shots and the Truckee River…

And then passed Reno and onto the Nevada portion of the trip.

We have 6:30 dinner reservations… and the scenery is lovely. Steak for Matt, Salmon for me…

And the sun sets on our first day..

Jason sets up each of our roomettes and we hit the hay pretty early. We’ll sleep through the rest of Nevada and most of Utah.

Good lord… it took me the entire day to pack for this trip. I had all sizes of suitcases out, hoping maybe I’d manage with the mama bear… but no… ended up putting mama and baby bear away and went with the grand ol’ papa bear suitcase. Ugh. It’s a beast and will be brutal during times of transport. But man… how DO you pack for a month of variable and unpredictable weather, a variety of activities — some dressy, some outdoorsy — and not take a million things. Plus a whole bunch of gifts. Plus laptop, books, and whoa nelly it adds up. (I still have to find a place for 3 boxes of See’s candy, a large gift bag full of treasures, and a gift book.


I will be.. with any luck… posting daily in the weeks to come, so I’ll not go into any detail now… but what a trip this is going to be!


I drove out to the airport to pick up my travel buddy for the first (of four) legs of this journey. MATTY! And on the way to the airport came upon about a mile or two of these… bright blue flowering shrubs dotted along Rd 102. So so pretty! No idea what they are, though they look like ceanothus, at least from a distance.


And finally, let the record show: we planted our tomatoes today (we meaning Mary the gardener, of course). That should make Jim happy. We (Mary) also planted basil, eggplant, peppers, yellow squash and zucchini. The chard’s going gangbusters, as are the parsley, carrots, garlic, strawberries and onions. We can still harvest broccoli, as well, though it’s at the end of its run.

And, who knew we were growing celery!

And that’s the up to the minute. Fingers crossed boarding the train tomorrow goes smoothly!

Colorful Carpets

April 17, 2023

After this atmospheric river-rich winter, we here in gorgeous California will be experiencing an epic spring. I’m going to miss a lot of the bloom, as I leave town in a couple days.. and no time to drive up into the foothills to see this. So…. I went to the California Wildflower Tipline group that I follow on Facebook for some inspiration and loveliness. I took none of these, of course. All the credit goes to a bunch of people I don’t know, but whose photos I admire! Kudos to these talented strangers: Lisa Harper, Katherine Arch, Dave Miller, Chris Nugent and Ming Luong. And check out their photos on FB.

Carrizo Plain National Monument in Santa Margarita…

East of Fresno in the Sierra foothills…

Two from Palos Verdes…

Carrizo Plain…

Carrizo National Monument…

Cottonwood Canyon Rd off of Hwy 166..

Carrizo Plain…

Carrizo Plain

There are so many more… I love the carpets of flowers

Waning Tulip Season

April 16, 2023

As tulip season draws to a close in our backyard, I shall share a final shot of this year’s crop.

I still buy tulips at the store and have multiple vases around the house because these are too pretty to pick. Plus, I like looking out the window over my desk (I’m doing it NOW) to see their sweet perky selves out there.

I don’t know this for sure, but I think–after too many non administration-approved antics on the part of the [much beloved] UC Davis Band-Uh–the old band’s gone and in its place a cleaned up, straight-laced, respectable band to march in parades, including today’s Picnic Day event. Don’t quote me on that.. but I think that’s what I heard (and am now memorializing in my blog!)

See? All dressed up and orderly. Yawn.

Jim early-scouted a table at Crepeville, I showed up around 10, in time to order and eat breakfast before the first floats appeared. Great front row seats. And that was it for us. Couldn’t quite muster the energy to take on the hordes on campus. Besides, the baseball team’s down at UCLA today.. so no baseball game to watch this year.

My Kinda Friday

April 14, 2023

Jim and I, alternatingly, finally talked each other into a trip up the mountain yesterday to do some snowshoeing. That is: for weeks, I’d been all gung ho to experience California’s biggest snow in forever, and worked hard to make my case! As it got closer to leaving on the big train-car-grad-birthday trip, I started to feel like I was running out of time (I am not) to do all the stuff I gotta do before leaving (nothing). Now it was Jim’s turn to talk me into it. Which was not a hard sell.

So we went.

Remember: always say yes. ALWAYS SAY YES.

Anyway. Simple, easy.. and a spectacular day.

Some snow shots. There was a lot of snow. This is the Old Donner Pass Road.. (we’d inadvertently detoured along the lake and double-backed up I-80 to the snopark.. a worthwhile detour).

One of many views of Donner Lake we’ll get today.. this was from the Old Donner Pass Rd. Parts of the lake are still frozen.

I feel like this is the railroad track I’ll be on in a few days.. as the California Zephyr makes its way from Davis to Ottumwa (and points before and beyond). But.. how can that be.. they seem covered in snow? I guess I’ll see come Wednesday…

Two nice shots of Donner Lake.. so so pretty… one with the tracks visible and the other just a nice water pic.

Jim had gotten a day pass (they probably never check, but it’s a good thing to have). We parked on a patch of dry road and walked back to the snopark area to find a way up and in. Best we could find was this…. about a 12′ vertical wall to ascend. Jim comfortable with this, me not so much. But did it. Climbed in snow shoes.. that was new. (We found a much better way to descend at the end of the day… a whole bunch of anxiety I could have done without! I thought all day about the end of the hike and how we’d have to either down climb or slide.. )

The hike up was BEAUTIFUL. Cold (high 30s) a small amount of wind at the top, bright, clear skies! The hike is about 1 mile, most of it is up, but not crazily so.. 400′ gain total. A good 60-minute workout.. warmed right up. Some views:

About mid-way…

It was great walking.. great snow.

At the top.. lake in background, probably Heavenly off to the right.

We saw not a soul, except families down at the snopark area. Saw a few cross country ski tracks.. some animal tracks. That was it.

A shot coming down… following our tracks back.

We tried a few places for lunch before we found TJ’s Roadhouse in Colfax. But before that, tried Rainbow Lodge, along the Yuba River (the pic below) and the Monte Vista in Dutch Flat.. both closed.

Great day. May make it an annual trek. Can’t be beat.

Pink Leaves

April 13, 2023

Spring usually bring pink blossoms (and white blossoms and purple blossoms, etc). Like this gorgeous photo that Jim took yesterday…

Colorful leaves usually happen in the fall (though usually come in yellows and golds… and maybe some red).

But on this lovely spring day, I came upon a tree down by the creek with pink leaves.

I do not know what kind of tree it is… but it jumped out and it’s gorgeous!

Just lovely.

Whatta Face!

April 12, 2023

This is, hmmm, my first-cousin-twice-remove-in-law. AKA, Jim’s first cousin Monica’s daughter’s daughter.

She is one cutie patootie!

I futzed a bit with a photo I took the other day the Arb..

It’s a feature of iPhone photos, where you touch a photo’s subject and wait until an outline’s been created around said subject. Then, they (“they”) remove everything outside that outline. It works pretty well (usually). This one has some issues, but it’s still neato.

So that’s the rocks I refer to in the title. And between rocks is the goofy space between the rocks that the outline feature couldn’t process.


The hard place is where we are in our politics these days… and to illustrate that.. how about a few current favorite memes.

And hoo boy, those republicans hate the woke mob!