I board the California Zephyr on Friday for a 49 hour ride to Galesburg. Jon said he and/or Sonja would pick me up at the station and bring me back to Moline. Thinking about the fact that I’m going to be riding the rails for two days, I decided I needed a plan. I rode from Little Rock to Chicago on the train last summer and the biggest disappointment was the breakfast I choked down in the dining car. Part of my planning process is preparing for how to pass 2 days without being able to cook (or depend on the dining car). I planned a little menu that accounts for every meal on the trip. I may break down and give the dining car another chance, but I want to have a fallback option, just in case the food is as inedible as that breakfast on the Texas Eagle.
I have to plan around the fact that I can’t refrigerate or heat anything. The menu includes a heavy rotation of apples and olives. Some cheese and a little salami will be in the mix. Grapes seemed like they’ll travel pretty well, If I put them in a container to keep them from getting crushed. I also plan to cut up a bunch of celery. Of course I’ll take some peanuts and a chocolate bar.
My other concern is overnight comfort. The cost of a sleeper is a bit steeper than I can afford for this adventure, so I’m making due with a regular seat. My experience on the Texas Eagle makes me confident that I can manage for two nights, as long as I have some accessories which I did not have on that trip. I popped down to IKEA and picked up a cheap feather pillow and a little fleece blanket.
The last item on my planning agenda is deciding what kind of coffee beans to get for Jon. I want to get beans that are very recently roasted so that they’ll still be pretty fresh when I arrive on Sunday. My friends at Modern Coffee in downtown have a pretty wide variety of choices from different roasters, but I’m concerned that the beans will be slightly older than what I can get if I pop down to Blue Bottle for beans roasted on Thursday. Of course the optimum time between roasting and brewing is a fuzzy line. There are some beans that seem to improve as they age for a few days after being roasted. Maybe I’ll bring him a couple of different kinds — an Oakland coffee sampler. (I’m also packing a little Fenton’s chocolate and carmel sauce.)
As I think about this, I realize I totally neglected to factor coffee into my menu plan. I think I may grind a few good beans for myself and take my tiny, single-cup french press and a good mug with me. Surely I’ll be able to get some hot water somewhere on the train.