Blackness and cold greeted us when we stepped outside. Each exhaled breath appeared like a gray puff of smoke in the beam of our headlamps in the 15 degree air as we walked to the train station. The day has come to leave Flagstaff Arizona and as much as I’ve enjoyed this town and plan to return I’m also happy to be moving again. There’s a significant part of my being that loves the challenge, surprises and learning that comes with travel that keeps me happily rolling on despite being happy where I am.
At airports and train stations regional styles of dress are entertaining and often give insight to an areas weather patterns and occupations. In the Portland airport you’ll often see the locals dressed “business casual” and draped in hooded Gortex parkas ready for the rain and meetings at Starbucks. The style at colder and drier Flagstaff train station was denim, down and big hats. The cowboys had the brown or tan Stetsons with rolled edges and flat tops. The Grand Canyon boatmen had tan hats with broad brims and rounded tops that came to a sharp point on top. The younger crowd was wearing clothing with NAU or “Go Lumberjacks” logos. Navajos made up another significant percentage of sleepy eyed travelers filling the old station. Then there was the two older, white haired passengers that wore bright yellow bicycle jackets with all the shirts they owned layered underneath, a rather odd duo.
By the time we started rolling down the track the faintest gold light started to rise above the eastern horizon. The first sunrise and sunset were the best of the trip with brilliant oranges in the morning and pinks at night. We passed through Arizona and New Mexico pleasantly enough watching the tan landscapes pass by. At noon we went to the dinning car for “The Chef’s Special”, meatloaf and mash potatoes and enjoyed visiting with two retirees from Ohio. About 6 hours later while sitting in my coach class seat I felt the meatloaf start to rebel, it refused to travel any further south than my distal stomach. My abdomen felt as bloated as Louie Armstrong’s cheeks and my GI tract started to creak and rock like a wooden boat in a gail.
Within an hour things got worse, progressive abdominal pain followed by increased nausea, I headed down the steep stairs to the lower level where the heads (restrooms) were. I arrived not a moment too early. As soon as I sat down things started happening. Moments later the rebellious meat loaf came roaring up with a vengeance. That was followed by a burst of sweating and dropping of blood pressure commonly known as the vasovagal effect. The blood pressure falls too quickly for the body to correct and the vision starts to fade, the face turns pale and the patient passes out but can be quickly revived if you raise their legs to increase the blood return to the heart and head. As my pressure fell and my vision began to fade I dropped my head below my knees and started flexing and extending my ankles to increase circulation back to my heart and head. Lying down was not an option.
All things considered I was in a pretty good place to be feeling so awful. For those who have not taken Amtrak their restrooms are just like those of airlines, extremely compact. I had a sink within pucking (vomiting) distance to my right as well as a mirror to watch the color drain from my face and a support on each side to stabilize myself. The other good thing was all the symptoms and signs like heart rate and blood pressure were normal for the situation and therefore not alarming – just darned annoying.
After a few more pucks I rinsed up and felt much better with my stomach emptied. The next 24 hours I laid in my coach seat with my eyes closed so I can’t comment on the scenery. Unfortunately, as expected the cramps didn’t improve significantly with just the Pepto so I started antibiotics and within a few hours my symptoms markedly improved. I’m a little more than three days post “The Chef’s Special” and feeling normal again. It wasn’t the trip I planned but it was a challenge and learning experience filled with surprises – that I don’t need to repeat.