The Big Easy - NearlyJune 7, 2019 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 26 °C
Not a great start to the day. A massive thunderstorm and torrential rain last night caused the power to go off in my hotel, and the air con refused to come back on, resulting in a hot sweaty night. Got up early to catch the 6.25am train which showed no sign of moving until well over an hour later. Amtrak’s customer service rivalled ScotRail with the lack of information, and keeping passengers, including pensioners like me, standing on the platform.
The Eastbound Sunset Limited to New Orleans was packed and we were allocated seats as we boarded by a very camp, self important young man, relishing his moment of power: ‘No we DON’T have any window seats available, Ma’am’. I was assigned a seat next to an odd looking middle aged man with some kind of mental health issues. His small table contained 4 large McDonald’s drink cups filled to the brim with iced water. ‘I need to get up all the time and move about’ he said in a Forest Gump kind of voice. ‘Does that bother you?’ ‘Of course not’ I said. ‘I mean I have to get up all the time and move about. Does that bother you?’ He repeated this a number of times before saying ‘I have to get up now!’. He did so, and stretched up to reach his bag in the overhead locker, extracting another four 2 litre bottles of water. As he did so, he leaned over me with his flies open, and I could somehow tell he hadn’t availed himself of the shower facilities on board.
I asked the Conductor to find me another seat, which he did, in the middle of a large black family enjoying a huge breakfast of indescribable foodstuffs while laughing uproariously. I decided to remove myself to the relative calm of the Observation Lounge Car.
It’s a 16 train journey from San Antonio to New Orleans, and we encountered the by now usual issues of giving priority to freight trains - 2 miles long and often 2 containers high. Again no WiFi on this route (come back ScotRail), so I welcomed the meal breaks in the dining car.
My lunch companions were Rod, a retired casino worker from Atlantic City who mourned the decline of his employment there, and who now spent his time riding the rails all over the country (a bit like me); and Jeff and Alice, self styled food critics who described In detail every meal they had eaten over the past five years. ‘I mean we love the food in Italy - have you ever been to Rome?’ he enquired ‘I mean Rome, Italy’ he clarified, lest I thought he was talking about Rome, Georgia. Jeff spoke with the assured confidence of a military guy (Yessir, I am in the American Air Force), and his younger wife giggled a lot and took strange photos (oh, look - there’s the highway - click!).
I have to say that the clientele on this southern crossing of the States was not as sophisticated as it was coming across from Chicago on the California Zephyr. Without wishing to offend, trailer trash springs to mind. Regular announcements had to be made by the Conductor about not putting anything but paper down the toilet as blockages were occurring - boak! Feet on the seats, leaving trash around and speaking loudly while other folk are trying to read - I really must learn to behave properly on the train!
This Eastern side of Texas greener and and lusher than the earlier arid desert landscapes, and what a huge state Texas is. We passed through Houston and eventually crossed the State line into Louisiana (shades of Whistle Down the Wind).
Due to the timing of the long distance trains, which don’t run every day, I always knew this connection would be tight. However the very late arrival of the train - 18.5 hours after we left San Antonio- left little opportunity to see much of New Orleans before it was time for bed and another early start. This was disappointing as I hadn’t been here for many years and I believe there have been a lot of changes. Ah well, I’ll just have to come back for that ‘Jambalaya, a- crawfish pie and-a file gumbo...’Read more