8.30 a.m., Saturday, September 12.
The intermodal station in downtown Saint Louis is filled with all sort of interesting characters on a Saturday morning. I’m one of two people who have climbed into the Amtrak business-class car; perhaps two dozen more are in coach class.
The journey west takes me within about four blocks of my house. In Maplewood, well-tended yards butt right up to the train tracks. The City, though, is grittier, with dilapidated buildings, crumbling overpasses, and a sense of tightness around the tracks.
Kirkwood. Though this is but ten miles out from the City, the trip took 25 minutes. The crowd out here is completely different. I’m speculating based on appearances, but I see:
- a couple with their bikes, perhaps heading to the Katy Trail for a part-day of biking before boarding the return a few hours later;
- a bridal shower party, complete with little gift bags and a cooler, all of them 20-something suburban ladies;
- several older couples with no luggage, perhaps heading to Washington or Herrman for a part-day of shopping or enjoying the wineries;
- a family with luggage, small kids, strollers.
The ethnic divide is totally evident. Most of those boarding in the City – indeed, most of the people in the Intermodal stations – were African-American. Not a single black person boarded in Kirkwood.
Just after departing the station, we crossed I-270, then ran by a beautiful golf course just west of the freeway loop.
Washington. We’re rolling along beside the Missouri River. The sun is still in the east, behind the train, and the view of the river through the trees is quite lovely. Teeny little Missouri hills pop up on the horizon; they look so much bigger when one is driving on them!
I’m picking away at office email on the Webster lap-top. An AC outlet right beside my seat means that I can work all the way to Lee’s Summit.
Hermann. What little I can see of the town looks sleepy this morning. The Missouri River isn’t as wide here. And no one is partaking of the pleasures of the riverfront park.
While I’m enjoying being able to plow thru emails and lounge in a comfortable leather seat, I miss the large windows of BritRail or any decent US motorcoach. These Amtrak windows are about 18 inches tall, and grimy.
As we pull away from Hermann, we’ll leave the Missouri River and head into farmland. And we leave cell phone coverage, as I just found out!
Somewhere east of Jefferson City, I see single-wide trailer homes on stilts on the riverbank. Their view of the Missouri must be lovely, but I’m tickled at the dichotomy between beachfront homes on stilts, and trailer homes on the riverbank.
Outside of Sedalia. We’re rolling through lazy farmland. The corn is drying on the stalk. Soybean fields are ready for harvest. The gentle hills of this northern edge of the Ozarks are pleasant to the view.
I’ve finished with email for now, and so move on the newpaper and journals I tugged along.
Warrensburg. This was a quick stop. I think we rested for less than 30 seconds before moving on westward. Next stop is my hometown, Lee’s Summit. We’ll be a little late.
We’re traveling through more forest now than farmland. I don’t know why.
Warrensburg is the home of the University of Central Missouri. I have a Master of Arts in Music from this school. My mother and my sister Karen both received teaching certification from UCM; Mom took a Master’s degree in education here as well. One of my very first days in Driver’s Education in high school found me driving U.S. 50 to Warrensburg, a 35-minute drive from Lee’s Summit. I used to come here for high school music contest. I attended Boys State here in 1978. And my first university teaching gig, as Lecturer in Music in Fall 1992, was at UCM. Connections abound.
The dear lady in the cafe politely answers question after question from the passengers about how long she’s on the road, how long the train’s conductors work, and how fast the train is traveling. I’ve heard her answer the same question at least two dozen times today.
Lee’s Summit. I’m at the dining room table at my father’s home. Family dinner is over. My brother-in-law and I are visiting, and I just pulled in wireless signal. Life is good.