Thursday. Three miles ahead, a freight, fourteen cars on their side, three in the water. First thought: It could have been us in the water. The buses will come in three hours to carry us north. All the way to Seattle on a bus? Dunsmuir on the California border to Seattle on a bus? I'm not so old and tired I can't see the adventure, the opportunity for photographs, but this is going to be a long day.
Two hours later, two or three short walks with a camera later, the rest of the passengers sitting in small groups on curbs and stairs where they've found shade. I am feeling a certain amout of vertigo, been feeling it for days or I'd be up the street shooting the locals. I know Dunismuir, I'd made it a point to stop and walk along the street right up above on my last trip in the rental car, great little town, wonderful stone and wood buildings you really need to shoot in color. Now they say another hour for the buses. I don't believe them, but it doesn't matter, I'm here for as long as I'm here. The thought reoccurs, better spilled freight than passengers. Then the second thought, the thought you wish you didn't have to have, what if it wasn't an accident and they'd simply nailed the wrong train?
All the buses are going to Eugene. I get on one of the later buses, having waited at Dunsmuir now for five hours. It takes another five hours to reach Eugene. Another hour and a half at Eugene as they finish preparing the train, but I figure what the hell and cross the street to eat an order of fried rice and drink a very good bottle of very cold beer at a table in a Chinese restaurant rather than wait in the crowded heat of the station. We are ten hours behind schedule.
The train we are on now, the "second" Coast Starlight, the one that was heading south from Seattle to Los Angeles while we were heading north from Oakland (the freight train derailing between us) has unloaded its passengers and put them on the buses we arrived on and are now heading back to Dunsmuir (the poor bastards) to get on our train and continue their journey south. I am sitting in a compartment on a sleeper that is exactly like the one I've left behind, except it seems nicer and in better condition. I do not worry about this. I sit and wonder, as I often sit and wonder, and watch the people passing my window.
Maybe I was wrong about these trains being fully booked, by the way, thinking since it's the middle of summer it must be full. After leaving Eugene, I'd gone forward to the lounge car, a car set aside for sleeping car passengers, passing through three sleeping cars to get there, all of them half empty. The dining car beyond the lounge car was full, since none of these people had eaten since breakfast, but other than a couple who were banging down wine spritzers at one of the small tables toward the back and a young kid running up and down the isle, I was their only customer. There was a movie playing in a car farther forward, maybe everybody was there hunkered down watching or maybe they'd cut out looking for an airport when we arrived in Eugene. I have a hotel reservation for tonight in Seattle. Maybe I'll get there by four in the morning tomorrow. Maybe they've held the room. Maybe they haven't. I buy a Jack Daniels and water.
I don't feel like reading. The head is aching and the ears are ringing and I'm thinking this doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the train. Take a pill, say I, except I hadn't thought to bring a pill. I started the day with the head aching and the ears ringing and the chest sore, the symptoms receding I'm thinking as the day has gotten longer, but I'm not sure. The head is not clear, the ears are ringing, but not as bad, not as loud. A friend at the office, a younger man, developed vertigo and ringing ears earlier this year. He was told first thing by his doctor: "Cut the salt". I will cut the salt. I will have more tests. I'm harboring concern and moving toward fear.
An announcement. We've been sitting at a siding now for 30 minutes after running for an hour. The Union Pacific freight we are waiting on to pass us from the north has still not arrived and it won't arrive for, well, they're not sure. I half thought, as he was talking, I'd hear him say the freight had derailed (cars on their sides, some in the water), but no, this is real life, double derailments only occur in movie scripts heavy on the special effects and light on the writing. The Union Pacific freight roars by, two engines, maybe eight, maybe ten cars.
Time for bed. More, maybe, tomorrow.