I squeezed myself and my bulging backpack forward, up the sharp right turns of the stairwell, down the skinny body of the train to find the seat I would be occupying for the next thirty hours, while I made my way to Denver, then south to the leeward side of Sangre de Cristo mountains to scatter my maternal grandparents’ ashes. I was armed with only the essentials: four bottles of Glenlivet Scotch, two flasks of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and a vaporizer pen full to the brim with sweet, sweet respite. Normally, a person attempting to cross the Continental Divide using travel technology that reached its peak in the 19th century would have the good sense to purchase a small sleeper car for the journey, but since Amtrak charges around the price of a year-long ocean cruise for a room the size of an infant’s crib, my slightly reclining seat would have to suffice.
The first few hours of the journey were fairly pleasant. I stared out the window at the verdant forests of the Sierra Nevada. “I think those are some kind of pine trees,” I attempted to inform my fellow passengers, but they were too engrossed in their iPads to notice. I pitied them. They were simple folk, who would never know the beauty that was whizzing by their dimly lit faces. This was truly God’s Country, and I was the only one who gave a damn. The curse of having a poet’s heart, I mused. I felt like a solitary Thoreau in a sea of Benthamite Philistines. I casually glanced down at my watch. 9:13am. We had left the station in Sacramento 13 minutes ago. It had not been hours. It had not been an hour. I looked at my seat-mate’s iPad again. She was watching cartoons. She was also four years old, and my niece. “Give me that god damned iPad,” I quietly growled. She impolitely declined, without so much as looking up from the episode of Caillou she was hogging all to herself. I looked out the window again. The same dumb-ass trees were still there. I looked at the scotch in my backpack. Train time isn’t the same as regular-world time, you guys. You can have scotch for breakfast.
After a quick belt of the Glenlivet, I jogged down to the bathroom, squeezed the door shut behind me, and attempted to empty the contents of the vaporizer pen into my lungs in one mighty pull. Only 29 hours and 43 minutes to go. Time to drink some more scotch. I would repeat this process approximately every twenty minutes for the duration of the trip. Trains are horrible steel prisons, and only an idiot would ignore the majesty that is air travel to subject themselves to this shit.
We tottered sleeplessly through Nevada, a state so beautiful, they had to legalize prostitution and gambling to get people to live there; then on through Utah, which boasts a bunch of large, brown rocks at which I hostilely glanced up from my whiskey a few times to glare. By the time we rolled into the station in Denver, I was in perfect form; whiskey-drenched, and a hundred or so vape-trips to the lavatory high. I emerged cautiously blinking from that rail-bound shit-wagon, flipped a staunch bird at Coors Field1, and vowed never to subject myself to thirty horrific hours on a train, ever, ever again.2
1 Go Giants
2 I took the return trip via the same train a week later. Fuck trains.