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Edition of July 2, 2004

Departed  Newton KS  May 25, '04  6:30 am, Southwest Chief  over 3 hours late due to  waiting out a tornado warning in Illinois. From Fullerton California returned to Newton June 10, '04 arriving about 3:30, approximately half an hour behind schedule.

Returning to Kansas was in coach 34058, no superliner lettering on at least one side. had a two lower level compartments I had not seen before. One an ex small snack bar, closed. The other a larger than the other coaches baggage area.

Read two great books on my trip, going west it was "Tough Calls : NHL Referees and Linesmen Tell Their Story" by Dick Irvin and coming back it was D-Day by Stephen E. Ambrose with numerous oral history quotes.

While at my son's I read most of a huge huge pictorial book with lots of original writings  published 'as they were' on Abe Lincoln and the 'Civil War' which was about as 'uncivil' as any war.  I concluded that most of his lesser known speeches were balderdash. I couldn't get through them.  I wonder who 'had him taken out'. The south certainly had 'motivation' and opportunity but I suspect it was the 'international intrigue cabal'.  The 'lone assassin' cover baloney was used then as in most modern recorded history.

On Monday June 7th I went to Disneyland with my daughter in law Karrie and grand daughter Sarah, 3 1/2 years old. I hadn't been there since about the mid '80's and frequently mentioned 'the way it used to be' back into the sixties when we lived close to it and visited it frequently, usually in the 'offf season'. It is truly amazing, very well done, well maintained. Very  friendly atmosphere. Karrie was surprised it was filled to capacity but schools had just let out.  She has season passes which enabled us to avoid some long lines. I actually  enjoyed some rides, Pirates something, Tiki room great animation. They go there frequently when there are no crowds. I was amazed to learn the twins who won't be 2 till Sept 2004 had enjoyed the long 'boat ride' through "Pirates", dark cave atmosphere, scary displays. They are  'all eyes' everywhere you go. Very alert and draw grins, smiles and hellos everywhere we go. I spent all the time I  could with them, simply fascinating in themselves at 20 months. One already has started fighting back at her older sister, 3 1/2 who has always been too playful (ofen too rough) with  them . More than once I had to 'play linesman' and separate their fighting. Emmie has learned to pull Sarah's hair, kick and bite at the same time.   One joke I had was 'gee I don't think your girls  will need 'assertiveness' training.

I had a 'major adventure' on my way to Newton. About 2:30 pm in Wichita, north on I-35 I pulled off, down an offramp to a bunch of franchise places and parked in an open area behind an I-Hop restaurant. My purpose was to cool down some, the temperature being about 98 degrees fahrenheit and make sure I was going in the right direction.  Well the van would not restart, crank over normally but no spark. I panicked with instant realization of what a 'pickle' I was in. I yakked with some customers and employees in the I-hop and took breaks drinking the ice water they gave me. Thoughts of where to have the van towed, whether it would restart, what the problem might be, how to get to Newton by 3 am to catch my train raced through my head. I also didn't feel 'up to' this situation, kinda shaky. I called a friend in Mulvanne about 18 miles south of my location and she sent her son in law, Mike. We worked on it or rather he did and I answered questions since I was 'in a nervous fog'. We drove several miles to the nearest auto parts store and got a coil. That didn't work so we decided to tow it to Mulvanne to a repair shop near my friends homes, a guy they trusted and whose lot was safe from vandalism. I declined due to my nervous state to drive my van while being towed. The thought of no power assists in 4 pm Wichita traffic was 'too much'. Then I recalled that I had tow insurance.  So Mike drove me to my friends house in Mulvanne and we rested till about 1:30 am, drove to Mike's and Mike drove us to the Newton RR station. However it wasn't to be a simple 'quiet night ride'. Very heavy rains and wind hit us just south of Wichita and we got somewhat lost in south Newton and a friendly policeman 'noted' an odd u-turn and pulled us over. However he gave us explicti directions to the station where we took a break 'from all this'.

Then the announcement came that the train would be late, the amount of 'late' increased several times to a full three hours. I yakked with a Wichita State student from Pakistan for quite awhile.

I wasn't sure my cell phone worked but I attempted to call my son from the train in Albuquerque. Turns out he got the call but I was so unfamiliar with my Tracfone I didn't know what to push to 'talk'.

While visiting my son's for two weeks I was plagued with concern about my van. The first bill was for
$646.64 for a new computer, coil, rotor and distributor cap. Then I got emails from Mike that it was not charging a full 14 volts so authorized him to buy a  new alternator for  $112.13.  He had some tests run to find out why it was not charging properly but it ran fine while he used it and so they delivered it to the Newton RR parking lot.

I was greatly relieved to see it there, crawled in and slept on an air mattress which filled the back for 2-3 hours. Woke up and figured, 'might as well get going'. It ran fine and I declined to stop even for coffee till the first rest stop on 400 going east. I might have snoozed 20 minutes there and got going again.  Studying the ammeter I noticed it gradually was declining in charge and 'within' hope of reaching Parsons it started into the red. The car had gone ok for about 160 miles so I was now increasingly worried. I made it into Parsons just as my clock and turn signals quit, pulled into an open parking place in front of a rental store across from a gas station at a  main intersection  with a phone booth on the corner. Of course it started to rain lightly. I called former neighbor from Anaheim whom I knew via emails was visiting his folks in Parsons. He showed up in about 20 minutes, studied the schematic for charging system I had been trying to fathom in my factory manual. He spent about 5 minutes on that and about five minutes under the hood and 'presto', like 'the Fonze' I had proper 14 volt charging. A connector near the battery had separated just enough to cut off the alternator charge but not enough to be visible disconnected. Our theory is that when the shop removed the battery to install the new computer, enough pressure was put on that line to separate the connector since the plastic lock bit was broken. I drove home, quite relieved after that.  I even was relaxed enough well out of Parsons to stop for coffee and a sandwich.

It all turned out very well. The van runs better than in about the last 5 years. Appears either the computer wasn't 'quite right' or the alternator wasn't 'really' doing the job. Van shifts better, starts with instant key on, no rolling rpm, nor inclination to stall at any time. I had done a lot of homework trying to pin down the stalling and rolling idle and I only could alleviate, not stop it even with the advice and analyis of some very competent mechanics.

My return trip was pleasant except for the following incident which annoyed me to the point of sending the following letter.

Gilbert Gallegos Chief of Police
Law Enforcement Center
400 Roma NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102                                            June 13, 2004

June 9, 04 around noon.
Southwest Chief eastbound at Albuquerque station.

My fourth roundtrip on the Southwest Chief, Newton Kansas to Fullerton CA.

An annoying persistent 'beggar', between 18 and 20 yrs old, 5'11", 165 lbs, anglo, dirty, dirty clothes, white tee shirt, jeans, sloppy 'sneakers', ball cap on backwards. soft spoken but very direct in soliciting 'money for food' from every person on the platform and parking area, every single adult person. Rejected by all but one when I was watching. Train was close to leaving. Guy gave him a few dollars after a long conversation. The 'beggar' then went past the lunch wagon to pester people in the parking lot, approaching them up close as they were loading their vehicles. He then 'loped', walks with a 'loping motion' possibly a slight limp, gives the appearance of a 'ne'er do well'. In my opinion (and I was with a police department in So California for five years in the 70's) I suspect he would be quick to burglarize any car with anything in it. He walked around and between cars parked across from the station, to the west, where there is some shade along the street.

The plea that he was hungry simply does not make sense. I'm sure Albuquerque like nearly every city has something like a Salvation Army kitchen. Amtrak conductors could easily see this young man but they have a job with passengers and I did not mention it to the one's near my coach.

I had interesting conversation with a former California,  resident in Derby KS about many subjects on which we seemed to have similar views. Like me he had not had much success in getting California friends or family interested in living in this green, 'where it rains', laid back, rural area of small cities and wide open countryside.

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