ABOARD AMTRAK'S EMPIRE BUILDER -- We're traveling through Nowhere, I mean Norwich, N.D., on a brutally cold but sunny Friday. It is -4, with a wind chill that makes it feel like -14. I won't be getting off for a brief walk anytime soon.
It's so cold and still outside the train that I am reminded of the voice of the late NFL announcer Ray Scott welcoming viewers to the "frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin." (Note to family and friends: I only watched the game if the Packers were hosting the Bears.)
It was an uneventful night of sleep in my cozy roomette, but we awoke to news that we're now running three hours late on our journey to Spokane. The delay is a response to frozen track switches and cracked rails. We also learned that some of the shower and sink drains are frozen and off limits until things warm up. And you thought the Donner Party faced struggles.
The North Dakota landscape is flat and expansive, but the snow-covered contour has a beauty of its own on a bright day.
My dinner companions last night were a funeral director and a retired Navy veteran. The funeral director is moving from Cincinnati to Whitefish, MT, while the former sailor is returning home to Seattle after spending the holidays with a nephew in south Florida. They each ordered a steak for dinner, which they said was "not bad." I detected unspoken envy of my veggie burger.