Tag Archives: trains

The Zephyr brought joys.

Liam’s papercrafting

While my son “Soldier” was away for a few weeks, his wife whom I call Joy brought all four children to California to see the grandparents. They came by train, the California Zephyr line, which gave me an excuse to tell them stories about my yearly summer train trips as a child to see my grandmother. The images that my mind retains through the decades related to those journeys are vivid. Many railway experiences of the current Amtrak era are worlds apart from what I knew, but I’m happy that the children had a new adventure, and even slept overnight on the train, which I never did.

Their lively group stayed with me five nights, and visited Joy’s family nearby as well. We were so busy all those days, I barely remembered to take any pictures, much less write about our fun.

braiding seagrass

Liam’s side of our Bananagrams game, using all his tiles.

We went to church, to the beach, to the cemetery — bringing along yarrow, zinnias, snapdragons and sunflowers for the children to lay on their grandpa’s grave. They are too young to remember him, so when we got home I showed them a photo slide show on the computer.

We took walks along the creek and to the neighborhood school’s playground. I read from Eleanor Farjeon’s The Little Bookroom  as I had read to their cousins last month, and laughed hilariously over “The King’s Daughter Who Cried for the Moon.”

The children combed my garden to find everything I would confirm as edible. They gathered hundreds of manzanita berries from under that little tree and chewed on them, spitting out the several rock-hard seeds in each. The strawberry tree fruits are ripening now, but the tree has grown so tall that they needed a ladder and a broom to knock them down.

These children are, as we say, “good eaters.” No matter what strange concoction Grandma has made, they want to try it — even my ultra-spicy pudding that I make with the pulp left over from making ginger broth. When oatmeal or buckwheat porridge was on the breakfast menu, they loved having a smorgasbord of toppings, everything from peanut butter and milk to chopped dried apricots and this seed mix.

I was given a dozen homegrown peaches recently and I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen to make a cobbler, half of which we ate for dessert one night, and the remainder next morning for the third course of our breakfast, after grapefruit and scrambled eggs.

It was delectable. Where the recipe called for vanilla or almond extract I used almond. I think if I make it again I will increase the amount of fruit, and use a little less cream or butter in the scone topping, with confidence of still being able to call it Plenty Rich. And I would like to try it with plums — or any fruit!

My dear people are headed back home to Colorado now, and the cobbler is gone…. The taste of scones and peaches is already fading, but Joy and her young joys made a big deposit of sweetness in my heart, to flavor many days to come.

Trains next door add to our family fun.

In my own neighborhood.

People have written me from Idaho and Virginia, asking if we are being flooded. No, there is no danger close by, even though it rained for 24 hours straight, as my housemate Susan told me. I had driven north to Pippin’s for a couple of nights to be with various relations who were gathering to see Kate’s family. Fifteen of us ate and gabbed and hugged, and there was the necessary Settlers of Catan game, though it was short and small this time. Children ran and squealed.

It rained up there, too, and on my drive up and back. But not constantly… we were able to go out the first evening and put pennies on the railroad tracks next door; only minutes later a train came by, and then the hunt for flattened metal pieces began. In spite of the tape, which usually prevents them getting knocked off before the weight of the train comes down on them, the smashed coins are often carried a ways down the track and it requires a practiced eye to find them.

It was the shortest walk I’ve ever done while at Pippin’s, but of course there were interesting sights to see, because she was with me pointing them out. Who would have recognized this brown lumpy thing as a mushroom? She said that once she came upon people excavating  one for eating, but she hasn’t researched them.

Indoors, there are four cats again, including a new kitten named Fred. (Pecos disappeared and may have been eaten by a larger animal…?) Rio has a reputation for being “useless,” a label that in this household I don’t think has ever been applied to anyone else. But she offered her beautiful self to be petted by Rigo. Ivy and Jamie showed me the seed collections they had made for their homeschool science.

Kate’s husband Tom is very romantic about trains and loves visiting this place that is hard up against the railroad right of way. After everyone else had gone home or to bed Sunday night, he heard the train whistle again about midnight and went out to the tracks by himself with a flashlight. Not only did he get to see a rare passenger train speeding by, but he found one more thin and shining remnant of copper.

An afternoon in South Mumbai.

I’m staying with Kate and Tom in the Suburban District of Mumbai, which is the larger part of the city and brimming with things to see and do. After spending my first ten days here, I had my first brief experience of the downtown hub of South Mumbai one afternoon when Tom and I made the trip with a few small goals in mind. The excursion was fun for me even though it was somewhat unsuccessful in the first stages.

We thought we’d visit the tip of the island, where in 1858 the British consecrated the Church of St. John the Evangelist as a memorial to soldiers slain in the First Afghan War of 1838. I had seen it on a list of The Ten Most Architecturally Interesting Churches in Mumbai. It is known as The Afghan Church

The church sits in the middle of an area of military buildings, a little remote from the busiest part of the city. Tom hadn’t yet been this far south. In this photo I found online, you can see the two towers of the Mumbai World Trade Centre in the background with the church spire in front. As we approached, a couple of British hippies were leaving, and they told us that it was locked, and “spooky.”

We walked around the building and noticed the wall stones stained black, unkempt landscape, and old signs lying randomly around, and could well believe that it was locked and never used. How sad, that no one, or at least no one who had the means to do anything about it, cared about this church that had a beautiful design and holy purpose. I took a picture of the detail on the base of a large stone cross in front of the church, which is my favorite image from my visit.

As we were walking out the gate again a small boy wandered over to us from a little house nearby and told Tom that he had the key to the church. I at least was not interested enough to take him seriously; I had given up on the Afghan Church at that point. We read online later that “Visitors may obtain access to view the historic church interior from the [lax] on-site custodian.” The website also said that a small congregation there holds services.

We stopped by another venerable building, the General Post Office, because we’d heard that they sold postcards, but no. Whether they normally sell them or not we never learned. We visited a room where several people seemed to be at work, but they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, tell us anything but that they were closed. I haven’t given up hope that I will find some postcards in time to mail them before I go home — maybe when I visit a more touristy spot?

Our last stop was exciting and satisfying, the iconic Victoria Terminus of Bombay, known simply as CST now, for Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus of Mumbai. Over 1,000 trains come and go every day from 18 platforms in this huge building, and for a watching companion I had my son-in-law who is the best guide possible, fascinated as he is — and knowledgeable about — railways all over the world. We enjoyed taking videos in both slow-motion and time-lapse modes, of the swarms of people flowing into and hopping out of the cars. Two million passengers pass through daily! I could have stared at that scene for hours.

This station was planned as a commemoration the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and took ten years to build from the beginning of the project in 1848. It is said to be “a fusion of influences from Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and classical Indian architecture.” It is so grand, it is often mistaken for a palace or a cathedral.
The lights that have been installed on the exterior seem to me to contribute to an ongoing fusion of style. 16 million lights in different colors are available to create an ever-changing display according to the different festivals throughout the calendar. As we were driving away at dusk, I was surprised to see lavender hues that hadn’t been there in my first photos, and the next day I read about the lights and found examples of the most brilliant displays to show Kate.

Since our visit I’ve also seen unbelievable and scary train scenes from Tom’s phone, that he recorded previously and of the sort I’ll never have the opportunity to witness firsthand. My acquaintance with Indian railways and trains is certainly minuscule at this point; I hope to actually ride a train before I’m done, and afterward I should have more to tell.

Here’s a car with the picture on the side showing that it is reserved for women. I won’t be riding in one of those, because if I go, it won’t be without my competent male guide along. For now, if any of you has a tale to tell of Indian train rides, I’d love to hear!

Last images of D.C….


I had spent five nights with Kate by the time she needed to return to work,
and I was ready to proceed on the next leg of my trip.
Many images of Washington, D.C. had been imprinted on my mind
and recorded by my camera.

The Navy Memorial, showing western North America.

It looked like winter down by the Potomac, where in Georgetown
they were building up the ice rink for skating, “Coming Soon!”
A man was spreading the freezing water around with a sort of push broom.


We had been out for a yummy dinner in that neighborhood,
where I was surprised to see, next to buildings along broad sidewalks,
people bedding down for the night on the red bricks.

Unidentified building with square theme.

My time was up, I had my ticket in hand already, to depart on Train 86 – Northeast Regional Line, to visit my cousins in Philadelphia. Tom drove me to Union Station where I was immediately transported into a compartment of my mind where emotions linked to other train stations throughout my life seem to be stored all together.

My primary experiences of rail travel, thoroughly positive and exciting, were my childhood trips to see my grandmother. Then there was the year that I rode trains from Munich to Istanbul, and back to Amsterdam, young and alone and meeting strangers who were sometimes like angels. That was also my first experience of a huge railway depot like Victoria Station in London, where the first angels appeared.

Mr. Glad and I had a blissful train ride down the coast of California long ago, the day after becoming engaged…and with Pippin I experienced English railways in modern history. God only knows how to sort out all the train events, and speculate about what rivulets of that stream were running through my heart as I entered Union Station gawking. It was early enough that I could wander around a little and feel the vastness of space and excitement — though I think for most people it was routine, and for me the excitement was probably largely drawn from the well of memory.


When I went through to my gate, I had some trouble finding the right queue to get into. I think I was just a little early, and after the earlier 8:10 boarded things were easier to figure out, partly because I asked people for help.

I should have put my suitcase in the floor-level storage area at the end of the car, but before thinking very long I just hefted it up, balancing it for a second on my head, and it landed in the overhead bin okay. Then I had two hours to look at the scenery, and to read or pray. I was a little downhearted for the first while – probably because I had left my dear daughter and son-in-law behind. Parting is the uncomfortable side of train-station drama.

Soon I was meeting more family and hugs at the other end of my ride and being taken care of again. And that will be the next happy chapter of my travel story.