The Texas Eagle: Austin to St. Louis



And we’re off and rolling. More comfy and roomy than I imagined. If it stays like this, voila. The train was supposed to leave at 10:30, though.

Some kids four seats up are making noise and coughing. An old man behind me is coaxing a lung forth from his esophagus. Everybody’s coughing. Maybe we’ll leave these lepers in Dallas. Who know’s what other rip-rap we’ll pick up there, though.

No, that’s my Ignatius Reilly routine. Kids drie me nuts, though. Who’s got the roofies?


Heading straight down MoPac (Loop 1) North. Ride is pretty smooth, a little rollicking. I feel like I’m about to lose a day going forward across the International Date Line. When I get to STL—the point of this whole endeavor—it’ll already be tomorrow. Where will this day go? I hope I can sleep it all away. Dinner is at 5:30 pm. Something about it being by reservation.

Judging by cars driving by parallel (we’re running about even), by Texas standards I’d say we’re going 60/65. There’s some MoPac congestion. Ahh…brought a green 3/4 inch binder with me—makes a nice lap writing surface but we’re picking up speed and bouncing some now. Braker (Lane), Braker (Lane), oh-one-niner, do you read?


Going by some folks’ backyards, blowin the horn. It’s wake-up time. Imagine that. A lot of conform homes up here. Not much to speak about; now a little woodsier, slowing, smoothing out. Scrub forest. Brown, very brown. Dessication. Central TX is some 10 inches behind its normal rainfall amount for the year. Burn advisories in some areas. What’s this? Coal looks like. Oh yeah. Black coal, right by the railroad. Loaded up. Piles of it. We’re in quarry land, methinks. Very open. Flat. An old crappy fireworks stand. An old man in boots, jeans, flannel shirt just passed by. The train whistle blows.

A crane. Highway construction. Bouncier again. Mike Robinson for County Commissioner, District 1. Christmas lights hanging like icicles from a green wood house. A fat kid shuffling back from the dining car. The train whistle blows.

A cell phone. From a pocket, then unleashed and louder. The woman in front of me. Talking soft, now louder. A significant other. Phone flipped back to inert. She is resting. Round Rock Super Storage. Bud Light. Citgo. Capitol Bearings. Slowing now, quite slow. Don’t believe we stop here. In Austin station clerk said, “If you don’t have a ticket, you don’t get on board. Next stop is in Taylor, TX and it wil cost you $50 to get back to your car.” Putzing along. Fire station truck & camper route. The train whistle blows.

Under a road bridge. Warehouse metal plywood flatbed trailer conveniently positioned along railroad. It’s how people used to move things. A cell phone in the distant confines of a passenger’s pocket…ballfields, dirt looks good and infield grass is somewhat green. I want to say “Move, move let’s get this rig going.” I guess this is normal, I hope it is. One small pitiful dried up town at a time… A truck hauling an orange Johnny on the Spot a church steeple Round Rock Church of Christ Davey Plumbing sand gravel Mailboxes lined up by the side of the road Dell Diamond Capital Excavation flatbed hauling crushed rock the train whistle blows

Can’t outlaw those things Love the Sound Love It… Like a Train in the Distance, Everybody knows it’s true Paul Simon. Paul Simon former senator died recently. Classmate Richard Raymond, Dem. stat rep worked for him. Raymond a neat guy. Doesn’t drink, not even coffee. 42 years old. Affable. Now some farm fields. Sky is absolutely clear. People making sporadic forays to dining car. I want to hold out. Regions Bank American & TX flags. A little rocky (as far as writing goes…) a water tower Taylor 7 miles away says a green sign with white lettering. Quite tired Hutto Covert Ford Three Hours of Sleep was it for me last night Time for grog Stage Call Corporation Passenger at 2 o’clock rustling through his duffle. He has a book about Van Gogh. Could be prints. Frame switch? says the sign. TX 3349. Braking? The train whistle blows…

Someone asking someone about going to Virginia for Christmas. Mm-hm, to see my husband’s family. That’s a haul. Maybe catching a Chicago to D.C. express? Quite slow now. Must be a brake it’s like something clutches at our momentum for a second though we continue ahead. The VA X-Mas convo couple…oh yeah (talk louder please) something about (blank) all the way to DC and then in coach after that… Same here says the stentorian.


Stops made at Taylor (one person), then Temple (plenty of people & resignation to someone filling the empty companion seat beside me—didn’t happen). Just passed through McGregor, which could have been a stop, but no one was there. Took a slight nap. Lots of noise. People trafficking up to the café car, where there’s a screeening of “Freaky Friday.” Lots of kids on the train. Guy w/ Van Gogh book at my 2 o’clock single-handedly my attempt to rest by exploring-to-hell a bottomless bag of Lay’s potato chips. Does anything frustrate otherwise relative silence like that plastic packaging used to keep Lay’s potato chips greasy? I had an Odwalla bar, which comes in similar packaging. I made perhaps 1/75 of the noise. Took a bathroom break. Been looking out the window: cows, fences, dogs. They all look at the train, recognize it; I know it’s part of their routine; I know they enjoy it. The train whistle blows.

Trash lots of trash along the railroad. Law question: is this an easement we’re traveling over or was it public land to begin with? Probably both. More cows. So placid, so austere. I can see why they might be sacred. That said, I’m craving a steak. Been months since I had one. Moving slow. The big stop is gonna be Dallas/Ft. Worth. Turn-over or filling up? Or both? “Your immediate area is your home,” says the conductor. “If you go out of your immediate area, put your shoes on. The Café Car is in service.” The dining car is not operational until we’re passed Dallas, due to budgetary restraints. Scrub-land. Leave-less trees. Reduced speed ahead. A mossy brook. What about Brook? Has she gotten my B-day card to her? I left it in her trunk where I hoped she would happen upon it. A spelling lesson for one of the children up front. Moving slow. Dairy Queen, steak fingers, $2.99. This just in: Lung trying to escape from older passenger just behind me. Who had two empty Budweisers on his tray table. Train was predicted to be an hour late to Dallas. The train whistle blows.

Silos. BNSF437137. Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway. Stopping cars crossing streets. Our train is the #22, the Texas Eagle. Headin to Chicago. Cracked open Portnoy’s Complaint. It is not what I anticipated it would be, but the topic is somewhat apropos. The section called “Whacking Off” brought tears to my eyes; I actually had to close it a bit because I didn’t want to get hysterical w/ laughter. The detail about taking two socks to bed was too much!


Ladies & gentleman, Cleburne, TX. The train whistles blows.

Guy behind me opened a third beer and has a fourth in tow. I saw him come back with them from the café car. Stopped in Cleburne. Cleburne the constitutional law case is a rare example of a state/local ordinance regulating a non-protected group (retarded citizens) being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court under rational basis review. The Court will uphold the regulation as long as those authoring it can provide a rational/reasonable basis for enacting the law. This law sought to keep retarded citizens’ homes from being built in the city/county. There was, according to the Court, no rational basis for its existence. I don’t know for sure that it refers to Cleburne, TX but I wouldn’t doubt it.

Ft. Worth, or Fort Worth, folks. A few skyscrapers here. Plenty of people de-training here. Train will be stopped for 15 minutes. Headache setting in. Probably due to not enough food (though I just ate a peanut toffee buzz CLIF bar), not enough water (should have brought my Nalgene—damn!), no caffeine to speak of today (besides that from the green tea extract in the CLIF bar), and the same position my body & muscles have been contorted into fpr five hours. The water spout here dribbles out a few molecules at a time and on top of that, Spaz-o-John fumbled with the provided child-sized cup and spilled it on the floor. Had to go down to the bathroom and get some paper towels. All this while wearing the grey flatcap, though un-snapped so I look like a Civil War Yankee (at least I’m hoping that was the Yanks and not the Confeds, though it could be either). Some people are getting out to stretch but I’m not. Let’s get this freight train movin. Put the coffee on and send some back to me. Give me the key to the sleeper, too; I need a nap.

Dallas, TX.

Dinner: 6:30 or 20:00. I reserved 20:00 for 1. The choices:
+ 10 oz NY strip steak
+ filet catfish
+ chicken cordon bleu
+ braised beef
+ … alfredo


Mineola, TX. From a few seats up front an annoying child machine voice spelling game. Too loud not to be rude…ridiculous.

{Got into St. Louis at 8:25 that next morning… Only fifteen minutes late after being an hour late at the beginning.}

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