Sunday, July 13, 2014

From the Sea to the Hinterland: The Destination and Homeward Bound

The Destination

Wednesday evening soon became Thursday morning.  After a few short hours of sleep, I walked the short distance to Miss Karen’s residence and we breakfasted together.  Then we set out for the campus.  Provo impressed me a well laid out medium size city.  With an orderly grid pattern to its streets, square blocks of a tenth of a mile, and broad sidewalks lining each block, it was an easy city for a pedestrian to negotiate.  The campus interrupted the grid pattern, but it was also well laid out and beautifully landscaped, too.  Miss Karen had a few errands to run, and by combining these with my tour of the university and the downtown area, we covered a lot of ground.  We started at the Carl F. Eyring Science Center, where she had done much of her school work, and then visited the Harold B. Lee Library and the campus bookstore.  Heading downtown, we stopped to examine the under-construction Provo City Center Temple, and then continued south to the railroad station.  Returning north to Miss Karen’s residence, we stopped briefly at Smith’s, the local grocery store, for provisions.  By then it was time to prepare for the graduation ceremony, which was scheduled to begin at 4:00pm.

The highlight of this walking tour took place in the Lee Library, and it was a very special family history moment.  Miss Karen led me to a section of the book stacks that contained scientific works, and there she showed me several shelves filled with the multi-volume series Proceedings, the annual collections of technical papers and committee reports published by the American Society for Testing Materials in Philadelphia.  Several of these volumes contained the engineering prose of Robert Burns, my grandfather and Miss Karen’s great-grandfather.  Perusing through the volumes for the appropriate years, we found such scholarly masterpieces as “The Impact Testing of Plastics,”[1] “Measuring the Plasticity of Molding Compounds,”[2] “Report of Committee D-20 on Plastics,”[3] and more.  A bit awestruck by this discovery, I felt like I should genuflect!

Then Miss Karen explained.  When she and James had both been students at BYU in 2008 and 2009, they had found these volumes and looked through them, knowing that they contained material written by their great-grandfather.  They did this because they remembered accompanying me on numerous expeditions to the Boston Public Library in Copley Square and to the Martin J. Lydon Library at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell when they were little.  I was researching my family history then, and part of the project involved locating my grandfather’s published works.  Miss Karen especially remembered coloring at the tables in the big reading room in Boston and feeding dimes into the photocopy machine in Lowell.  That was back in the good old days!  But this was a good day, too, and I wondered if my grandfather was watching us from a celestial vantage point as we perused his pages.

Across the plaza from the library, we visited the bookstore.  Not surprisingly, I found many of my favorite books from the Greek, Roman, and English literary traditions.  Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Shakespeare, Dickens, and many others lined the shelves in both their original languages and in translation.  My favorite discovery was an edition of Saint Augustine’s Confessions, said by many to be the greatest spiritual masterpiece in the entire history of Christianity, in both Latin and English, Latin on the left-hand pages and English on the right.  Oh, to be a career student and take a lifetime to “become acquainted with all good books!”[4]  Once again, I felt that I should genuflect!  Being more practical-minded than that, however, I indulged myself by purchasing two of David McCullough’s historical volumes, The Johnstown Flood and 1776, from the bargain table.

The main event of the day, of course, was the graduation ceremony.  I joined Ross and Ruth Ann Wheelwright, formerly of the Nashua 2nd Ward, in the Marriot Center, while Miss Karen in cap and gown marched in the academic procession.  A very upbeat yet dignified ceremony then took place in which all the graduates were recognized by the university administration.  As a pleasant surprise, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church came into the Marriot Center, sat with the assembled dignitaries in the front, and briefly addressed the graduates.  Afterwards, on the lawn outside, there was much conviviality with lots of picture-taking among friends.  It was a very felicitous occasion. 

The next main event took place the following morning, on Friday.  Each of the colleges of the university had scheduled an academic convocation in which the graduates would be called forward individually and publically recognized and presented with their degrees.  Miss Karen and I attended the convocation of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, which was held in the ballroom of the Wilkinson Student Center.  With parental feelings of great affection and admiration, I watched as my beloved Miss Karen Elizabeth stepped onto the stage and received her credentials from one of the college administrators.  A professional photographer recorded the event for posterity, and these portraits would later become important additions to our family archives.

Afterwards, the staff of the Eyring Science Center hosted a buffet luncheon for the science graduates and their families.  Miss Karen and I attended this together, and I had the pleasure of meeting some of her fellow students and chatting with one of her professors.  Also, as I had the previous day, I was able to see several of the classrooms, laboratories, and displays in the science building, and I found it quite impressive.  My favorite item was the Foucault Pendulum in the lobby, a working replica of the famous pendulum in Paris by which Dr. Leon Foucault had proved the rotation of the Earth.

In the afternoon, my guided tour of Brigham Young University continued.  Miss Karen showed me around the broadcasting building, where she had worked as a student employee.  Following that we visited the paleontology museum, viewed the athletic fields and the sports building, and finally spent an hour and more in the art museum.  While these were all very interesting, the art museum was especially so because of a special exhibit of Danish and German religious art.  Featuring the iconic works of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hoffmann, and Franz Schwartz on loan from their European homes, this sublime and spiritual exhibit of extremely life-like and deeply thought-provoking paintings of scenes from the New Testament was very well attended.  We both liked it very much and found it to be both a great source of inspiration and an occasion for reflection.

It had been several years since I had last spent any significant time on a college campus, and I’ve missed the intellectual atmosphere.  It felt good to experience it again at BYU, in the library, the bookstore, the museums, the science building, the broadcasting facility, and the graduation ceremonies.  It also felt good to visit a university established on religious beliefs and moral values, one that recognized and developed human intelligence without glorifying it as our secular society often does.  How appropriate, then, that the BYU motto comes from the scriptures: “The glory of God is intelligence.”[5]   

Following a quiet dinner together in Miss Karen’s residence, we spoke with Miss Patty and James, and made plans for our last day together in Utah.

Following two beautiful days of blue sky and sunshine, it rained on Saturday.  Undeterred by the weather, Miss Karen and I set out on foot for breakfast at Kneader’s, where we dined with Cali Christensen, one of her former missionary colleagues.  Following breakfast I collected all my belongings and then we rode the bus to the Provo station and took the 10:00am train to Salt Lake City and points north.  We alighted in Farmington, three stops north of Salt Lake.  There Elder Chet Brooks and his family met us, and we all had lunch together at a new local restaurant called Habit.  We knew Elder Brooks from his mission in Nashua in the mid-1990s.  It was good to see him and his growing family again!  After lunch,  Miss Karen and I rode another train back to Salt Lake, where we had some sightseeing to do.

Like Provo, Salt Lake was also laid out in an orderly grid pattern and was very pedestrian-friendly.  It also impressed me as a very spiritual city.  Our first stop was at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.  Located a few minutes’ walk from Temple Square, this small but beautiful building is the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.  We toured the cathedral quietly, and we noticed that large portraits of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were on display just in front of the altar in anticipation of their canonization by Pope Francis in Rome the next day.  A truly historic occasion.

Returning to Temple Square, Miss Karen and I visited Brigham Young’s residence, the Deseret Book shop at City Creek, the Assembly Hall,  the Tabernacle, the North Visitor Center, and the Conference Center.  I was particularly impressed with Brigham Young’s house, and I learned some important things about the man in addition to his well-known role as a religious leader.  He had a bare minimum of formal education, yet he became a highly skilled and accomplished furniture builder who, valuing education because of his lack of it, read the great English classics, and especially Shakespeare, in order to improve his mind and educate himself.  In his house we saw his books.  They were neatly lined up in a special cabinet with glass doors that he had built for them.  How fitting that now a major university is named after him. 

After finishing our sightseeing, Miss Karen and I walked a few blocks west and met Bishop Carl Belnap and his wife Carolyn, formerly of the Nashua 2nd Ward.  Enjoying another pleasant reunion with old friends, we dined at Crown Burger and lingered over dinner before needing to head out in separate directions.  At the appointed time, the Belnaps drove us to the Salt Lake Central Station, where Miss Karen and I bade each other farewell.  She then boarded the 9:11pm train back to Provo.  Next, the Belnaps delivered me to the Salt Lake International Airport, from which point I would take an overnight flight to New York.

Homeward Bound

Our three days together in Utah had gone by much too quickly.  I thought this as I reviewed the week’s events while I waited to board the aircraft that would convey me home.  It was not all over yet, though. 

At 11:55pm I departed from Salt Lake City aboard a Delta Air Lines 757.  One of the more fortunate passengers, I had a window seat in coach on the port side.  I watched carefully as the aircraft taxied to the runway and took off in the mist and then ascended through the overcast and set a course for the East Coast.  Most of the other passengers went to sleep; I remained awake and attentive through most of the flight.  This was not hard to do, as it was vastly different from my night aboard the Lake Shore Limited.  There were no leg rests.  In fact, there was no leg room.  I had not been on an airplane in many years, and I was rather surprised at how tightly packed in everyone was.  The metaphorical sardine can description fit quite well!  To be fair, though, it was comfortable enough for four hours, and I did enjoy watching the world go by outside.

As the aircraft headed east across the Midwest, it passed to the south of a very large area of thunderstorms.  For hundreds of miles along the route I could see clusters of such storms with bright flashes of lightning.  The storms that were closest to the flight path generated some turbulence, which I did not enjoy, and as it became rougher the pilots directed the cabin attendants to discontinue the snack and beverage service.  After a couple of hours the sky calmed down, but the overcast continued with only two small breaks.  While many would call this bad weather, it nonetheless displayed beauty and majesty and formed part of “the beauty of the earth”[6] and “the beauty of the skies,”[7] and I was grateful for the opportunity to observe it.  Next, looking to the northeast, I began to see light emerging from over the horizon.  The Earth beneath me was rotating eastward to meet the sunrise.  It seemed a supernal sight, the light of the world coming into the world, and the natural world, at least, rushing to meet it.[8]

At 5:30am, about half an hour ahead of schedule, the aircraft emerged from the cloud cover as it passed over the city and then over the western end of Long Island Sound.  Descending now, it flew eastward over the North Shore of Long Island.  Looking down, I had a wonderful view of the Connecticut coast, the open sound, and the harbor of Oyster Bay where we had often brought the children when they were little.  Turning south, the aircraft crossed Long Island and went out over the open Atlantic, giving me a panoramic view of the Great South Bay, Captree, and Fire Island, places where the entire family had gone sailing, swimming, and picnicking for five generations.  Turning west over the Atlantic, the aircraft passed over the Ambrose-to-Nantucket commercial shipping lanes, through which my grandparents and I had sailed many times.  Still descending, it passed over the Ambrose pilot station.  Sandy Hook came into view in the west as the airplane now turned north.  Brooklyn appeared out my window as the plane turned northeastward on the last leg of its approach to the runway at JFK.  I remember when this place was called Idlewild, I thought.  That was over 50 years ago, when I was a small child myself.  Finally the pilots brought the aircraft down to a very firm landing on the runway and then a rapid deceleration with full reverse thrust of the twin jet engines.  Navy pilots, I thought, trained to land hard and stop fast on an aircraft carrier at sea.  As the plane taxied to the gate, I noticed the lights of four following aircraft that were making their approaches to the same runway.

After taking two and a half days to cross the continent from Boston to Utah, it felt a bit disconcerting to retrace nearly the same route in reverse in only four hours.  It reminded me of an overnight flight I had made from New York to Italy to join a ship many years ago.  That had just been too fast, a surreal nocturnal fantasy that disgorged me into another country on another continent with a different language and different money and a different culture that often looked askance at itinerant Americans.  At least this time the country, the continent, the language, and the money were the same.  As for the culture, well, I had just experienced some very sublime culture in Provo and Salt Lake.

From the airport I rode the trains to the Mineola station and walked home from there.  It was a peaceful and quiet Sunday morning.  The sun was by now shining brightly in a clear blue sky.  It both looked and felt like a day of rest, the perfect day for a family visit.

After a day and a half of visiting with my parents at Family Headquarters, I embarked on the 12:30pm train for Boston on Monday afternoon, April 28.  It was the 35th anniversary of my receiving the Merchant Marine license as third mate.  So long ago, and so many tides have come and gone.  I gazed seaward as the train followed its route along the famous Shore Line through coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island, but for once did not think very much about the sea.  Instead, I thought about my transcontinental journey, about the prairies and the mountains, about Provo and Salt Lake City, and of course, about Miss Karen Elizabeth.  I had had a wonderful time with her, and I was already missing her very much.  But another wonderful time lay just ahead of me.  When the train reached Boston, I found Michael waiting for me on the platform in South Station.  With family members in Provo, New York, and now Boston, it was the perfect conclusion to an outstanding vacation!

[1] In American Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings of the Forty-first Annual Meeting Held at Atlantic City, N.J. June 27-July 1, 1938, Volume 38, Part II, Philadelphia: American Society for Testing Materials, 1938, pp. 39-52.
[2] In American Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings of the Forty-third Annual Meeting Held at Atlantic City, N.J. June 24-28, 1940, Volume 40, Philadelphia: American Society for Testing Materials, 1940, pp. 1283-1288.
[3] In American Society for Testing Materials, Proceedings of the Forty-sixth Annual Meeting Held at Pittsburgh, Pa. June 28-
July 1, 1943, Volume 43, Philadelphia: American Society for Testing Materials, 1943, pp. 402-406.
[4] D&C 90:15.
[5] D&C 93:36.  This is one of my favorite quotations from the scriptures.  With all due respect to the original language of the Doctrine and Covenants, because of my religious background I often contemplate this verse in its Romanized version: Gloria Dei est intellegentia. 
[6] Folliott S. Pierpoint, “For the Beauty of the Earth,” in Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, p. 92.
[7] Ibid.
[8] See John 1:4-10.

Monday, June 16, 2014

From the Sea to the Hinterland: Outward Bound

For half an hour or so in the late morning of Monday, April 21, 2014, I stood at the Boston harbor front and gazed upon the water.  Dark blue and serene beneath a clear blue sky dominated by brilliant sunlight, the seawater beckoned to me, as it always does.  In a similar moment in my vagabond youth, I would have stepped across a gangway and boarded a ship about to set sail.  Today, however, was to be different.  Instead of going to sea I would undertake a long inland voyage, by railroad. 

At 11:55am, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited was scheduled to depart from nearby South Station. This train would convey me away from the waterfront and into the Midwest along the route of the old Boston and Albany and New York Central Railroads to Chicago.  There in Union Station I would transfer to the California Zephyr and travel across the Great Plains, through the Rocky Mountains, and across the desert on the route of the old Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy and Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroads to Provo, Utah.  My purpose in making this journey was to attend Miss Karen Elizabeth’s graduation ceremonies at Brigham Young University.  With mixed feelings of reluctance and anticipation, I pried myself away from the salt water in front of me and walked to South Station, ready to board the train.

The Lake Shore Limited departed on time.  Ensconced in a coach seat next to a window on the right side, I enjoyed the view as the train ran the length of Massachusetts and into upstate New York.  The train passed through the crowded Boston suburbs and made its first stop in Framingham as the Boston Marathon was wending its way through town, supervised by an army of police with a fleet of ambulances at the ready.  Following further stops at the magnificently restored station in Worcester and the disappointingly dilapidated station in Springfield, the train entered the Berkshires.  Small farms filled the valleys and gentler slopes amid these mountains and formed a rural landscape vastly different from the eastern end of the Commonwealth.  After Pittsfield, the train descended toward sea level again, and at last emerged from the peaceful wooded hills as it approached the junction in Rensselaer, New York.

Rensselaer was an important stop.  There the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited would be merged into the larger New York section that was coming up the Hudson from Manhattan.  Operating on a padded schedule, the Boston section arrived first and needed to wait.  Disembarking for the duration along with many other passengers, I looked around the new station, watched trains come and go, and remembered when I had visited the companion cities of Albany and Rensselaer as a teenager.  I had come up here several times aboard the tug Charger as she hauled the gasoline barge Interstate 35 in the summer of 1978.  I had visited the Amtrak station and the state capital, in addition to the petroleum docks and related waterfront landmarks.  So long ago!  It felt good to be back and feel the gentle breeze from the river, even if only briefly.  Presently the New York section of the train arrived.  Its locomotives were removed; the Boston section was backed into place; the two sections were coupled together; and the now enlarged Lake Shore Limited departed on time at 7:05pm.

From Rensselaer the train crossed the Hudson and skirted the north side of Albany.  Within view of the magnificent campus of the state capital buildings, the train passed slowly through a ramshackle neighborhood of abandoned industrial buildings with shattered windows and crumbling masonry.  Soon enough, the train entered the famous main line that crosses the sprawling farmland of upstate New York and accelerated.  Station stops in Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester followed as darkness gradually enveloped the landscape.  The stop for Buffalo was made in suburban Depew close to midnight.  A few minutes later, the grand old Buffalo Central Terminal came into view.  An icon of the old New York Central Railroad, it has since become a victim of deferred maintenance and fallen into disuse.  Happily, though, plans for its rehabilitation are in the offing.

Through the dark night the Lake Shore Limited crossed the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania and the northern tier of Ohio.  I slept quite soundly through Erie, Cleveland, and Elyria.  A bit after 5:00am, I awoke in Sandusky, Ohio, and gazed seaward as the train crossed a bridge spanning a narrow section of Sandusky Bay.  Lake Erie lay faintly visible just beyond.  Shore lights penetrating the predawn darkness reflected on the water’s calm surface.  Dozing again, I reawoke in the Toledo station, another large and once-impressive facility that had fallen on hard times.

While sleeping through the night in a coach seat probably sounds uncomfortable, it actually was not.  Unlike airplane seats, the Amtrak seats were wide and spacious with leg rests and ample room to stretch out.  The lighting was subdued, and the other passengers were quiet.  Those who detrained and those who came aboard during the night did so with minimal disturbance.  Overall, it was very peaceful. The train did carry sleeping cars and a dining car, but for this one night I opted for coach and supplied my own food, and it worked out quite well.  Soon after the night receded, the train crossed into Indiana.  An early-morning stop was made in the farming community of Waterloo, followed by stops in Elkhart and South Bend.

Running about an hour late, the Lake Shore Limited reached South Bend around 10:00am.  This was one of the highlights of the journey.  As the train slowed on its approach to the station, the Golden Dome and the chapel spire of the University of Notre Dame came momentarily into view.  The gold of the dome shone brilliantly in the bright sunlight and contrasted beautifully with the blue sky behind it.  For a second an industrial structure along the tracks blocked the view, but then the Golden Dome reappeared briefly for an encore performance before the train passed through a changing landscape and came into the station.

Seeing Notre Dame again was a family history moment.  My older brother—the smart one of the two of us—attended the University of Notre Dame from 1967 to 1971 and graduated with a degree in computer science.  My parents and I made one journey by automobile to Notre Dame in each of those school years.  The first year we delivered him; in the second and third years we attended football games; and finally we watched him graduate.  So long ago, but many happy memories!

West of South Bend the Lake Shore Limited became delayed by heavy freight traffic and track repair work.  As had been the case all along, freight train after freight train went by in both directions, bisecting the seemingly endless cornfields of northern Indiana.  Presently the train entered the cornfields of Illinois.  As the landscape became industrial again the freight traffic increased exponentially.  The train waited for a while at a point a few miles south of Chicago and a few hundred feet west of Lake Michigan.  The bright blue and calm water of the lake looked both inviting and refreshing.  A short distance offshore, a cargo ship was sailing north.  Finally, at 11:10am Central Time, the Lake Shore Limited arrived at Chicago Union Station.

This was another family history moment.  My grandfather, Robert Burns, had made many business journeys to Chicago by rail in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.  Arriving via the old New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads, he had passed through Union Station and nearby La Salle Street Station frequently.  I had been there once before myself, in 1979, and Miss Patty and the three older children had all passed through Chicago several times in recent years.  Today I felt that I was catching up with the rest of the family!  With nearly three hours between trains, I went outside and walked through the busy city streets.  Tour boats laden with sightseers glided along the narrow Chicago River, dwarfed by skyscrapers on both sides and partially canopied by bridges spaced a block apart.  A cold east wind blew through town from Lake Michigan.  A bright and sunny but chilly spring day in the aptly named Windy City.

Shortly before 2:00pm, it was time to board the California Zephyr.  This train consisted of double-decker coaches and sleepers, as well as a dining car and sightseer-lounge car.  On this leg of the journey, I had a roomette in one of  sleeping cars.  My private little space was located on the right side of the lower level of the last car on the train, one of five such roomettes in a cluster.  Restrooms, showers, luggage storage racks, and a self-service beverage bar were located a few steps away in the vestibule in the center of the car.  It all formed a convenient, comfortable, and quiet neighborhood.  The dining car was two cars ahead, and the lounge car was the next one ahead of the diner.  All together, these facilities were a bit more spacious than my coach seat on the previous train!

Right on time at 2:00 o’clock, the California Zephyr eased southward out of Union Station.  Turning to the southwest, she rolled through the suburbs of Chicago and before very long came into the great American heartland.  All through Illinois and Iowa the train sailed across a sea of farmland.  Occasionally it stopped at small settlements like Princeton and Galesburg and Ottumwa where grain elevators crowded around the stations.  Between stops, it was like being at sea.  Mile after mile after mile of flat farmland extended uninterrupted to the horizon in all directions on both sides of the tracks with the train constantly at the center of the circle.  Numerous freight trains hurried past in the opposite direction on the adjacent track.  The gentle motion of the train resembled that of a ship in a mild sea; it could easily lull one to sleep.  I spent the afternoon reposing in the quiet solitude of my roomette watching a continent go by outside my window with no responsibility except to enjoy the ride and show up on time for dinner.  It was a very pleasant feeling; I could get used to it!  Yet I was not completely alone.  I remained in contact with the rest of the family via text messaging.  James in particular sent me many memos concerning the details of train travel that I would need to know.  At dinner time I walked forward to the dining car where I enjoyed a gourmet meal of strip loin steak and mashed potatoes with cheesecake and strawberries for dessert.  While I was dining the train crossed the Mississippi River.  Back in my own space at bedtime, I was lulled into a sound sleep in my cozy little bed after watching the sun set over a sea of farmland in western Iowa.

Daylight the next morning found me in Colorado.  I had slept all the way across Nebraska.  On awakening, I needed to orient myself to the day of the week.  Traveling by train resembles traveling by ship this way.  When several days are spent en route, the time can become a blur.  It was now Wednesday morning, two days and two nights after I had begun my journey in now far-off New England.  This evening, Wednesday night, I would arrive in Provo.  With this minor matter straightened out, I tended to my morning ablutions and then sat down to an early breakfast of French toast, sausage, and orange juice in the dining car.  Following breakfast, I found a seat in the already crowded sightseer-lounge car and gazed upon gradually sloping farmland and the distant Rocky Mountains as the train approached Denver.

The California Zephyr backed into Denver Union Station at 8:00am, an hour behind schedule.  This was a service stop of about 45 minutes’ duration.  In this interval the passengers could disembark  while a service crew fueled, watered, provisioned, and cleaned the train.  I stepped ashore and looked around the station.  It had been undergoing a major rebuilding and rehabilitation project for about the last two years, and the results were impressive.  Everything was clean and bright with new tracks, new platforms, and a beautifully rejuvenated station building of classical architecture.  The surrounding neighborhood was likewise seeing major improvements.  New office buildings and condominiums were filling downtown, with Union Station serving as the central focal point of the area.  Walking about in the cool morning air with the bright sunshine and clear blue sky felt refreshing and invigorating after a restful night aboard the train.   And so my first impression of Denver, the Mile High City, was a very good one.

From Denver the California Zephyr continued westward and uphill and before very long entered the Rocky Mountains.  Following extensively curvaceous track, the train twisted and turned through valleys and along mountainsides and passed through numerous short tunnels.  I considered myself fortunate to have found a seat in the now very crowded sightseer-lounge car, which with its oversized floor-to-ceiling windows offered the best vantage point for taking in the view.  This was my first time seeing the Rocky Mountains, and the view of them from the train was simply spectacular.  In the late morning, the train reached the summit of the rail line and transited the six-mile-long Moffatt Tunnel through the Continental Divide at an elevation of 9,239 feet above sea level.  From this point it was downhill through the mountains and canyons of western Colorado.

Also at this point I had my first experience with a very mild case of altitude sickness.  I did not really get sick, but just didn’t feel right—lethargic, uncomfortable, queasy, etc.  To alleviate this condition I retired to my roomette and put my feet up, ate some bland crackers to settle my stomach, and skipped lunch.  I also stepped outside at the next few station stops to get some fresh air.  After a little while, and as the train continued into lower altitudes, I felt fine again.  By dinnertime, the train was emerging from the famous Glen Canyon through which it followed the Colorado River, and I sat down to another banquet of steak and potatoes in the dining car.  So much for altitude sickness!

After Glen Canyon the landscape changed to hills and orchards, then to high plains, and then to the famous Ruby Canyon.  By this time the sun hung low in the western sky.  As the California Zephyr passed through the canyon, the now softening sunlight struck its ragged rock walls and illuminated them in magnificent shades of red that defy description.  Ruby Canyon was indeed aptly named.  At its base, the Colorado River again flowed alongside the track.  The river and the railroad parted company after a while, though, and the train entered the desert of southeastern Utah, a sea of empty and uncultivated land that stretched for many miles in all directions to the horizon.  I watched the sun set over the desert, and then dozed off for a while.

By this time the California Zephyr was running about two and a half hours late.  She would arrive in Provo at nearly midnight.  From Provo the train would continue to Salt Lake City and then across Nevada and California to the San Francisco Bay area, but without me.  As I approached the end of my long journey I thought of all that I had seen and experienced since leaving Boston.  What impressed me the most was the enormous food-growing capacity of this country. With the obvious exceptions of the cities and the mountains, from western Massachusetts to western Colorado were farmlands.  In a trek of approximately 2,500 miles,  I reckoned that about 1,700 of those miles contained farmland, whether used for orchards, livestock, or wheat and grain.  A very impressive and thought-provoking sight of “a land which is choice above all other lands.”[1]  Also very impressive was the engineering work of building a railroad with tunnels through the backbone of the Rocky Mountains, truly a monument to American ingenuity and perseverance.  And yet, there was decay in some of the cities, which seemed out of place in a choice land.

Anyway, close to midnight, the California Zephyr came to a halt in the Provo station.  I stepped ashore from this great train for the last time and was greeted on the platform by my beloved little girl, Miss Karen Elizabeth.  She and her friend Magnolia had come to welcome me and drive me to my lodging near the campus of Brigham Young University.  I was very happy to see her again, of course, but also a bit sad to see my train leaving the station without me.  Later on when people would exclaim in surprise, “You rode the train to Utah?!  How long did that take?”  I would answer, “Not long enough!”  And it was true; I could have very happily kept going!

But tonight Miss Karen wanted to know all about my journey.  She had ridden the trains between Boston and Provo several times herself, and we enjoyed comparing notes.  We chatted as I got settled in a spare room in the apartment of Taylor Anderson, her home teacher.

[1] Ether 2:10.