Memorial Stadium, Schram, Harper, State Fair Park, Cornhusker, Havelock, 84th U-Stop, Waverly, Greenwood, Ashland Gretna, the same Lincoln-to Omaha jugular that we could drive blind. I'm sure your perfectly free to commute from Lincoln to Omaha via Amtrak, just pay fifty dollars to leave Lincoln at 4:30, and get dropped off right under the Dodge Street bridge around six or so.
The line wonders listlessly through the Omaha metro, from Gretna to the industrial area between Ralston and Millard, Ralston, South O, under the freeway bridges, the station, back south along the river, Bellevue, Offut, and than finally crossing into Iowa at Plattsmouth, a solid forty miles within the Omaha area.
The track wraps around the west edge of a new subdivision near Gretna, the residents tend to have very big back windows, we were rolling at no more then thirty miles an hour. It was about 6:30 at this time, and I could clearly see women organizing their purses, men straightening their ties, parents serving their children breakfast.
This is what you get from the ludicrously slow California Zephyr, intimacy. No generic Days Inn and Burger King tourist strips here. Instead it's backyards and dogs and professionals getting ready for the day and endless lumber yards and filthy gravel pools of water that the eye can follow to the point where whatever is leaking out of the wood and junk piles flows into the local stream, abandoned hotels, decaying wooden long buildings, junkyards from every curve and angle, like the one the one between Ralston and South O, the one that covers acres, the one I'm not sure that even the locals are fully aware of, or the one between Naperville and the inner ring of Chicago suburbs, that covers at least a dozen square miles.
It was cloudy and gloaming when we reached the Omaha station, so it was impossible to tell whether it was officially sunrise or not. 6:50: It was a ten-minute long "smoke stop" the others coming at Osceola and Galesburg. Other than that it was two minutes at some market town in Iowa or Illinois, a Casey's a Dollar Store, churches, lumber yards, and polluted runoff. The landscape consists of this and corn, five hundred miles of corn, unchanging until you reach the Chicago metro. the idea that the parched matchhead yellow of the western Nebraska hills is less interesting than the true flatness of the eastern plains is nonsense. Here is true dreariness, it was cloudy and rainy and no more than forty five degrees for the entire trip.
The line goes right down the banks of the Missouri, and the illusion of the water dancing in and out of your line of vision is fascinating. There were only two other people awake in my car, playing with their cellphones, shining white light on their faces, the darkness of the night lingered in the car for the entire trip.
I went to the dining car and got the cheapest proper meal available, seven dollars for rubbery scrambled eggs and "breakfast potatoes." (cold, unhashed hashbrowns.) I had my camera primed for the Missouri crossing, right next to the US 34 toll bridge, but then it came, and I realized that this had to be the ugliest Goddamn major river crossing in America. Western Iowa was corn and powerlines.