Starting in the Middle

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for a couple of years now. I would think about how to start it and how it should be organized. Every time I started to write I think about how my story should be organized, how it would make the most sense, how it would evolve – all the while writing nothing. I thought about what my influences were, what got me started, my first camera – organizing this and making sense of it stopped me from starting. I may talk about those things someday, for now I’ll just start from the middle, the very recent past.

In my professional life I am highly organized, I’ve been told its a rare trait for an artist. In my personal time I tend to get the most out of more spontaneous things, enjoying experiences as they happen.

I just got home yesterday from a series of wonderful spontaneous experiences. My sister, Karen and went on a train trip followed by a week of zigzagging across the plains and mountains visiting national parks.

Side bar – Karen’s really my sister-in-law, but a few years ago she just started referring to me as her sister – I love that, I have wanted a sister since I was about 3. I used to pretend that I had a sister named PeeWee (our chihuahua), I told friends at school about her and her adventures in our backyard – Karen is much better than my imaginary sister, and she’s quite a bit taller and doesn’t shed.

Our adventure started with a train trip. Karen and I were both devoted to my Grandpa. He was a Union Pacific employee for over 35 years. Karen and I have collected train memorabilia, hunted railroad spikes, and even chased down trains in the desert. Neither of us had been on a long train ride (my only train ride was in Disneyland), so we decided it was time to give it a try. We embarked in Emoryville. Being a train geek, I was excited to so close to trains and tracks at the station.



If you’ve never traveled by train, I highly recommend it. You show up at the station, print a ticket at a kiosk, go to the track and get on your assigned car. No lines, no luggage screening, no TSA agents. Just get on the train. We checked our tickets and walked right onto car 631.


As soon as we stepped onto our car we were greeted by Pete, our sleeper car attendant. He stowed the luggage and settled us in. He insisted on helping us even with small things. Karen is really a “people” person so she set out to learn a bit more about Pete. He wasn’t giving anything up and even squirmed about having his photo taken. This only made us want to know more about him. Karen quizzed other train staff for clues, asked Pete seemingly unrelated questions, and made unreasonable requests – Pete never flinched or gave up anything except that he loved trains and was an expert on the history of the California Zephyr. Here’s a photo of Pete reflected in a window of the door of our sleeper car.


A little about our accommodations – we had a “room-ette”, a car built for 2 that has facing recliners that convert into a lower bunk and a shelf that drops to create the upper. It’s compact but efficient, pretty comfortable for a small space.


Karen wasn’t sure about all the buckles, she assumed her sleeping accommodations were verticals and complained that the seatbelt was not very comfortable.


Once Pete prepared our beds, Karen checked out the top bunk. Once again the utility of the safety features eluded her:)



Seriously, traveling with Karen is a blast. She find humor in the strangest things.

The thing about traveling by train is that there’s lots of room to move around. From the sleeper car you can walk from car to car, passing through the dining car on the way to the lounge. The lounge is spacious with large booths and comfortable recliners scattered throughout. It’s a great spot to take in the scenery and try and take some photos. The scenery is one of the great things about riding on the train, looking out the ample windows is like watching the most amazing nature show. Wildlife, cities, farms, scenery – all passing into view. I almost hated to sleep for fear of missing some of the show.