Happy Hour began the moment Carol and I located our berth, unpacked what we'd need for the night from our bags and turned the luggage over to a steward for stowing below. Our initial gales of laughter were less from the wine than from discovering the dimensions of our “bedroom” accommodations. Opposite of the TARDIS, it seemed somewhat smaller on the inside. Two people maneuvering around soon resembled a game of Twister. The berth contained everything you'd find in a master bedroom. There was a full-size bed, a sink, a bathroom and a shower. We eyeballed the total space at about 36 sq. ft., perfect for two pygmies built like #2 pencils.
I'm definitely not complaining or mocking in any way. Given that the panorama of the American southwest would pass before us like a National Geographic special, and that we had laid in sufficient wine to expand Happy Hour into Happy Days, we would enjoy a trip straight out of the Gilded Age. The dinner steaks were as tender as I remembered them, and the dinner conversation with total strangers was as forced and stilted as it would be if you were riding a crowded subway and decided to have a friendly conversation with all of your car mates. Even Carol resorted to her hard-of-hearing ploy, when the table talk fell to discussion of tableware and stainless utensils.
But back to the master bath. I wrote about some of the showers in my European hotels where the showerhead technique resembled wrestling with a boa constrictor, or bathrooms so tightly designed that one could do his business while at the same time brushing his teeth. Here you brush your teeth while sitting on the full-sized bed and grab a shower as you answer either of nature’s calls. In fact a cheerful label located near the shower head suggests sitting on the toilet for a more accommodating shower experience. (Or is that more commode-icating?) In either case my suggestion that I provide a live demonstration of the technique was nixed before I had a chance to complete the sentence.
The 6:00 p.m. departure of the Southwest Chief is designed to provide the maximum daylight hours for the desert and mesa areas of Arizona and New Mexico. But the route out of L.A.’s Union Station followed a familiar path for Carol, even in the dark. “This is how Mike and I drove to Vegas,” she explained. So we filled the evening with Mike stories and his “system” for earning casino points for room and entertainment freebies. Carol shared those stories while we listened to the Eagles Greatest Hits (the homage to the Winslow Az stop we'd be making coming from their hit “Take It Easy.”)
We retired for the night, the pull out bed providing comfort in the “just enough” range. I had to remind myself, though, that when Carol whispered to me that she “felt the earth move,” it was simply because we were sleeping together on a train.