Forty-five years ago I traveled by train from Sidney, Nebraska to Sacramento, California, on the Spirit of Los Angeles, from Sidney to Reno, with cars switched to another anonymous train to Sacto.
The depot at Sidney glowed in the hot afternoon sun, as I sat on the hard wooden pew, listening the futile bumping of flies against the wavey glass of the windows looking over empty tracks. I was nervous, heading out across half the United States on my own, ticket firmly held in my sweaty hand. My parents were goinf to meet me the next evenng in a trsange place called California.
The Spirit of Los Angeles was a sleek aluminum train with a streamlined engine in front, not the ugly diesel electric that pulls the AMTRAK trains these days. I rode in coach, in a reclining seat with a big view of the world passing by. I don't remember much of the trip, other than eaking up to bumps and clunks in the middle of the night as my car was switched to the western train in the Reno yards.
Riding AMTRAK now days has little of luxury of train travel that still existed forty years ago. Meals are meager, barely above airplane fair. Trains are often delayed, spending great swats of time hunkered on country sidings waiting for more important fast freights to zip by.
But it's still a most civlilized way to travel, moving at a human pace through largely unroaded parts of the country, into and out of the back doors of our cities. You can feel the change in the countryside, take time to adjust to the climate, hear the local patois that still exists among the common folk.
As with anything good and worthwhile, George W. Bush and his gang of hired criminals are against AMTRAK. If the Spirit rover discovered a race of cyrstalline faeries on Mars, the Bushies first reaction would be to blast them into shards with nuclear missiles.
Michael, near the tracks