Dr. Jean Picard, PhD. ……#247a (the 90’s)

Dr. Jean Picard, PhD. at Bellville

It had been over a week and Gary still awaiting a doctor’s release to return to work, deciding to  visit  an acquaintance in Wichita,  Dr. Jean Picard, PhD.,  a sociology professor at Wichita State University whom he had meant thru his new social endeavors and visited with on ICQ before his medical mishap.  Gary discovering that  Jean was a railroad  groupie, she loved  trains, their presence,  their cultivation in American history,  asking Gary if it would be too much for him to drive her to Omaha so she could travel the scenic route west thru the Rocky Mountains to Grand Junction Colorado on the California Zephyr.  Once arriving she would rent a car visit the Colorado National Monument, spend the night and retrace her travel back but this time continuing on to Chicago to visit relatives.  Gary wondering about the gravity of her thinking, a turn around trip to Colorado seemed a little much, but after giving it some thought and with nothing better to do agreed to drive her to Omaha.   The two meeting at Jeans residence near the University Campus, their morning spent touring the little known Great Plains Transportation Museum, a small hidden building with many photo’s of the state’s extensive railroad endeavors, the building was not the main attraction but the locomotives that were exhibited on the sidings next to the no longer used main line.  Gary not as enthused about trains as Jean anxious to get the Buick headed north on Interstate 135 toward Salina, never having driven to Omaha before.   Traveling north the couple finally saying farewell to the 4 lane I-135, at the junction of Interstate 70,  the highway designation returning to US 81, a two lane blacktop known as The Harvest Trail, the historic highway from Ft. Worth to Canada still anointing many of the small rural farming communities.  The couple making a brief stop at a small roadside sandwich shop at Bellville, Jean posing  a question, would Gary be interested in accompanying her on the journey to Grand Junction and back until she continued on to Chicago?

Old Town – Omaha

The California Zephyr

The early evening finding the couple arriving at  the Omaha Amtrak Station five blocks from the Missouri River.  Gary having decided to accompany Jean deciding to secure a coach ticket, Jean having already made reservation for a  Berth compartment.   With several hours before departure, the two deciding to  explore The Old Market  Town just north of the train station.  The area much like Old Town in Wichita with converted warehouses with sidewalk cafe’s and shops, the two enjoying some native India cuisine at an outdoor restaurant before their 11:05  departure to Grand Junction.  The iconic California Sante Fe Zephyr  known for it Chicago to Emeryville (Oakland)  California scenic journey arriving.   Gary ready to settle for the night in the lounge car, but Jean mentioned he could utilize the upper berth in the compartment. Gary discovering a major problem when attempting to climb into the upper berth,  halting and asking if he could  occupy the bottom berth as it had only been a week since his release from the hospital and his abdomen was still stapled together from the colectomy surgery.  Gary noticing a change in her attitude,  reluctantly agreeing but her classroom authority was beginning to show.

Union Station in Denver

The damaged California Zephyr in Denver

Experiencing a very uncomfortable night, Gary realizing his bad judgement in attempting the trip like this so soon, but was determined to make the best of it.   The two finding the dining car for breakfast, Gary seated facing the rear of the train when suddenly noticing some large debris passing by outside the dining car window and before he could say “did you see that” the train immediately coming to a sudden halt.  The conductor giving the passengers notice that they had struck a vehicle pulling a trailer at a crossing.  Soon more word about the event, the driver uninjured but the horses, numbering seven in a large trailer not surviving, the train setting motionless for two hours while the local Eastern Colorado authorities investigated the accident.  Once resuming the Santa Fe conveyance finally arriving in Denver over two hours late and then another delay in Denver,  Amtrak having to located a replacement locomotive for damaged Zephyr engine.  The travel to Grand Junction finally resuming the train no longer pulled by a sleek lined passenger engine but a work-horse freight locomotive.

A Amtrax view of the Rockies

Able to view the front from the back

mesa west of Grand Junction

Gary was more than impressed with the scenic panoramic view that the majestic Rockies provided between Denver and Grand Junction,  the winding tracks of yesteryear hugging the mountain through the gorges,  the sparkling rivers down below,  the narrow railway tunnels reamed out of bedrock by the workers of a bygone era.    Arriving after dark in Grand Junction,  the two taking a cab Jean having made a prior hotel reservation, Gary getting room more than ready for a night’s rest.  After breakfast Jean trying to maintain her original schedule, leasing a car to explore the Colorado National Monument, the prestigious canyons and mesas west of where two magnificent rivers the Gunnison and the Colorado acquaint each other.   Gary finding the excursion enlighten, but found it exhausting, having difficulty walking and preferring solitude in his painful discomfort not wanting to say anything that might hamper Jeans agenda.  The late afternoon found them boarding the train for the overnight return ,  Gary deciding he would be more comfortable dozing seated in the lounge car than laying down on hard surface of a berth.   The morning  finding Gary having breakfast alone not wanting to disturb Jean, but having lingering misgivings about the trip, later meeting with her in the observation car. It was a late morning arrival in Omaha, Jean continuing on to Chicago,  Gary’s only concern was the drive home, but once on the beckoning road feeling  the comfort of his surroundings,  noting the state line sign “Welcome To Kansas“,  the experience although unexpected would be a memorable as would acquiring the true personality preface of Dr. Jean Picard, PhD..

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