Grampa Bill Index

Travel in the USA Index

First Days in SF

Street People

Going to Colorado

At My Sister's House

Going to Chicago/Michigan

East Lansing - 1

East Lansing - 2

Goodbye Michigan -
Hello Chicago & KC

February 1-2, 2012

Dear Student,

After four wonderful days at my sister's house / ranch in Grand Junction, Colorado it was time for me to get back on the Amtrack train known as the California Zephyr #6 headed to Chicago, Illinois and the "Blue Water" to go to East Lansing, Michigan. The journey from San Francisco to Grand Junction had taken 24 hours. The trip from Grand Junction to Chicago was to take about 29 hours plus 3 more hours to East Lansing.. We needed to get over the great mountain chain that is called the Rocky Mountains.

We went to the station at 9:30 am to prepare to catch the train at 10:30 am - I said my good-bye to my sister. Perhaps the next time I see her will be in China. I am encouraging my family members to come and visit me while I am living and working in China. Actually, I have invited my sisters son, Philip, age 24 to come for a visit in March/April. We are planning on this to happen.

The train travels East, going up the Grand Valley, following the Colorado River to its source high in the Rocky Mountains. We travel past fruit tree (apples, peaches, pears, cherries) orchards as we leave Grand Junction. As we get into the high country there are some beautiful houses / ranches along the river banks - horses, cows, and other large animals can be seen. There are deer and elk that we pass by - and always the river winding down the valley.

On the North side of the Colorado River is Interstate Highway 70 running East and West - and on the South side of the river the train tracks climb the valley. We pass a great mine operation drilled into the side of the mountain.

The observation car has few people on this part of the journey but they are busy taking pictures and talking about the beautiful, wild, country we are passing through.

Near the summit (top) the valley is very narrow in places. At about 9,500 feet high we enter a tunnel that is about 6.5 miles long and we cross the Continental Divide. All the rain and snow that falls on the West side of the mountains flows to the Pacific Ocean while all that falls on the East side goes to the Gulf of Mexico. The actual mountain at that point is over 13,000 feet high but the tunnel saves us front going that high.

As we come out of the tunnel we start going down the mountain toward the city of Denver, Colorado. Most of the people in Colorado live on the eastern side of the mountains so there are lots of ski resorts on that side of the mountains - Vale, Steamboat, and other resorts. We seem to go down the mountain on the East side of the mountains much faster than when we went up on the West side.

I fix some quick fix noodles. The snack car worker gives people free hot water - to make their own coffee, tea, or noodles. I tip the man $1.00 for the water - which keeps him very friendly during the trip. I have been very lucky during my travels on the plane and the train with empty seats next to me most of the time. I have plenty of room to spread out and sleep fairly comfortably.

It is almost dark when we enter Denver and certainly dark as we enter the state of Nebraska - so I have no pictures of that state. We pass through McCool, Holdrege, Hastings, Lincoln (@3:30 am) and Omaha (@ 5:00 am). Few people get off or on, the stops are brief, and I sleep through most on this state. Nebraska is mostly flat farm land with few trees, few cities, and not so much to see even in daylight. They grow much wheat, soybeans and cattle.

I start taking pictures again in Iowa. We cross Iowa in a little over 3 hours making stops at five towns. This state is known for growing corn and cattle so there is mostly fields that have been plowed and are ready for the Spring planting. The train can make very good time traveling across Nebraska and Iowa because the land is flat, there are not many curves in the route, and there are few cities to stop at.

At Burlington, we leave Iowa, cross the mighty Mississippi River, and enter Illinois (the Land of Lincoln). We are near the end of this leg of the journey. We will cross this state in 3.5 hours, stopping in Galesburg, Princeton, Naperville, and arriving at Chicago at 2:50 pm.

Much of Illinois is agricultural - but it is also industrial since it has many cities in the shore of Lake Michigan which gives it access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. America is truly blessed with FOUR coasts - West Coast (Pacific Ocean), East Coast (Atlantic Ocean). South Coast (Gulf of Mexico), AND a North Coast (the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean). In addition, the Mississippi River running down the West side of Illinois gives water transportation through the heart of America allowing for the movement of goods, grains, and raw materials to and from much of the central United States.

The land in Illinois is much more hilly with lots of hardwood trees. It also produces plenty of corn, cattle and other crops but the fields are not nearly as big as those in Iowa and Nebraska. This state has a much larger population than than any of the states we have passed through since leaving California and the towns we pass through are much bigger. The train makes a little longer stop so that passengers can get off, stretch their legs and smoke. I have my picture taken by the door of my car - you can see that the train is two stories high - while the trains on the East Coast are usually standard and one story high.

Riding the train lets us look in the "back yards"and small towns of central United States allowing us to see America as it really is. There is all kinds of stuff in the back yards. Sometimes, there is a garden, often a swimming pool, and usually some small building where people keep tools or old machinery. Most of the houses are for a single family, the city buildings are made of brick, and usually only 2 or 3 stories tall. Often there is a water tower with the name of the city painted on it. Usually there are several churches with bell towers, sometimes a small college, and some public city or county buildings.

We approach Chicago from the West but circle around the city on the South and come to the train station in the center of the city from the Southeast. We pass many rows of apartment building and town houses - this is a large city by American standards but not so large compared to cities in China. The city is ranked #3 in the US with 2,600,000 people which is much smaller than JiNan.

I wait in the station until 4:10 pm and then I get on the train to East Lansing, Michigan. This train is not two stories high like the one from San Francisco. The trip is 3.5 hours long but we loose and hour since we are now on East Coast time. All of us talk freely now because we have the common bond of being "Michiganders" (people from Michigan). I tell people that there was a train - truck wreck yesterday near the city of Battle Creek but my friend in Lansing tells me the track has been cleared and there should be no delay.

We get to town at 9:30 pm and my friend is there to pick me up. I will stay at Dottie Schmidt's house where a Chinese couple from Qingdao / Jinan has been living for the past three years while they get their docterates in Chemistry. So I will stay in America with both American and Chinese friends - the best of both worlds and cultures.

Next: Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, living in Dottie's house