Archive for March, 2008



In the second week of March Jane and I jumped on the California Zephyr in Oakland (Emeryville, actually) and rolled to Denver Colorado for Left Coast Crime.

I love trains. These days train travel makes an environmental statement, since it is a much more efficient way of moving human beings long distances, and contributes less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than driving or flying. And I’m glad about that. It can’t hurt to be a little less destructive than usual.

But I do it because I love it.

Train tracks follow the path of least resistance when possible, and often end up tracing the path of older transportation–rivers, wagon trails, mountain passes.

And rails are usually laid in the marginal areas now, back behind the scenes, cutting through rundown neighborhoods, right into the heart of the countryside. There is a strong sense of passing through the country you travel, rather than over it as you do in a jet or even blasting by on a freeway. In a train it’s always backroads travel, and all you have to do is watch.

Most beautiful part of trip: going over the Sierra, long views over wooded mountains, vertiginous glimpses of deep canyons right under us, the long descent past Emigrant Gap, Donner Lake, Truckee and down into the long alkali flats of Nevada.

Equally beautiful part of trip: Nosing into steep narrow canyonlands in Colorado, where past Glenwood Springs the train follows the Colorado River up into Glenwood Canyon. Steep, craggy, rock walls, close enough to reach out and touch. The river always there. And wildlife: literal hundreds of deer, big herds of elk, dozens of bald eagles, one moose.

The rest of the trip was merely fascinating.

Left Coast Crime was fun, smaller than Bouchercon or Thrillerfest, my two previous experiences with crime get-togethers. Perhaps because there were fewer people there, I talked to more of them.

I’ll write more about LCC when I recover from the parting gift Denver gave us–a nasty bout with an evil flu-like illness which after a week of coughing that sounded like the death rattle of a sick elk, and fever, and other ingenious miseries, morphed into a really ugly upper respiratory infection. Over the last two days I’ve noticed that the last-gasp wheezing has finally stopped. So maybe I’m getting better.

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