Monday, October 05, 2009

Fetching Dunbar

Amtrak's "Southwest Chief" train is a bit of a different animal than the local service train I usually take from KC to St Louis or Springfield. Two powerful diesel locomotives power the train, this time consisting of a baggage car, a dining car and 5-6 big, double deck passenger cars. A couple of the cars were the sleeper cars, in reality rolling mini hotels. Since I was a short hop (the Chief starts in LA and goes to Chicago) I got one of the recliner regular seats. Long and comfy, fully reclinable and on the upper deck. For $52 and a quick trip, it could not be beat.

The Chief is the successor to the fabled Santa Fe Super Chief which ruled the LA to Chicago route during the peak of passenger rail service. Leaving KC in the AM, the Chief rolls through north central MO, stops in the hamlet of La Plata, MO serving Kirksville to the north, the river town of Fort Madison, IA and then on to Galesburg and Chicago. As the last time, Amtrak got me there on time and in comfort.

I immediately recognized my Uncle Howard, despite not having seen him in a while. Without going into a long psychological discussion, my dad's family is pretty much a mystery to me. We didn't do much with them and with the exception of my late Aunt Pauline, they were scattered here and there. Howard is the intellectual among the siblings and the most traveled and worldly. At 90, he still golfs, bicycles and is active in church and volunteerism. Tall, lots of white hair (where did mine go??, but his sons look much like me in the hair department) and sure footed and quick witted, he certainly looked less than his 90 years. Along with him was his long time friend Louise, his constant friend and companion, filling the void after his beloved wife Helen died 4 years ago.

We walked to the parking lot, like all of Illinois in the summer, undergoing construction, and there was Dunbar. I had little info on the car so I did not know what to expect. But there was a dark gray Century, resplendent in the 2 year old paint job (a story for later) despite the chilly, threatening weather. Instantaneous relief was felt when I saw the "Century Limited" badge on the back quarter panel. This meant Dunbar was of the rarer upper class, not just a lowly and ubiquitous "Custom". True to form, Dunbar is graced with power everything, the V6 instead of the underpowered I4 and a more cushy interior. I mean really, if you are replacing a Lincoln with a Buick, it should at least have some comfort!

Howard offered me to drive so off we went the few miles to his home in Knoxville. Dunbar seemed to drive fair for a 19 year old piece of machinery, but the brakes and front alignment are a bit suspect.

Lunch was in order, so we stopped at the newest incarnation of the Family Restaurant in Downtown Knoxville.

Over a fine walleye fish sandwich and two orders of beef tips and noodles (no, I did not have the beef tips) three people of two generations were to connect and re-connect. Stories told, catching up, realizing we had lots in common and a shared outlook on life.

I know better where I came from.

1 comment:

the other Amy - Gaier! said...

Loved reading about your adventure. I am also a fan of Amtrak (most recent trip was to Herrmann) and finding out more about where I came from