Wednesday, December 13, 2017

MAGA -- improve railroad travel!

We've spent four of the past six days on Amtrak's Empire Builder and Lake Shore Limited, traveling from St. Paul to Boston and back after a couple of days and a surprise birthday party in Boston for a younger sister. If we were the type to believe in such things, and we're working on that, we could readily believe that the picture below, taken at St. Croix Chocolate almost exactly one year ago, foretold our recent train travel.

did this foretell, by a year, an upcoming trip?
did this foretell, by a year, an upcoming trip?
Photo by J. Harrington

We have vague recollections of other train trips, way back in the late 1940s or early 1950s, We think, but can't confirm, that train is how we traveled from Boston to Atlanta for a couple of years when our father was teaching at Georgia Tech. After our recent trip, and comparing it with plane travel, we'd really like to see Amtrak add some amenities and better market them. More comfortable seats and sleepers, more room in the compartments, some improvements in the menus, although the food was good, and some approached better, the offerings were uneven.

Polar Express at Union Station, Chicago
Polar Express at Union Station, Chicago
Photo by J. Harrington

Another noteworthy deficiency we found was the overall lack of decent wifi-internet access. It was entirely missing from St. Paul to Chicago on the Empire Builder and available from Chicago to to around Erie PA and then disappeared again. Also, lake effect snow managed to freeze closed the doors and stairs of several "first class" cars, so we had to detour through a couple of cars to de-train. That's not a fatal flaw, but lake effect snow can't be a surprise and obviously hasn't yet been included as a design basis for passenger rail cars.

Christmas Tree in Union Station
Christmas Tree in Union Station
Photo by J. Harrington

Enough of the kvetching. Union Station's Christmas decorations were superb. South Station, in Boston, triggered an ear worm of Jimmy Buffet's old song, as delivered by Willie Nelson. (see below)

We enjoyed the trip, especially the company we traveled with, returned slightly worn but not much tattered and are now trying to finish Christmas preparations and a few projects we left behind while we were gone. It was fun to go traveling and nice to get back home again.

Railroad Lady

by Jimmy Buffett and Jerry Jeff Walker 

She’s a railroad lady
Just a little bit shady
Spending her days on the train
She’s a semi-good-looker
The fast rails they took ‘er
Now she’s tryin’, just tryin’ to get home again

South Station in Boston to the freight yards of Austin
From the Florida sunshine to the New Orleans rain
Now that the rail packs
Has taken the best tracks
She’s tryin’, just tryin’ to get home again

She’s a railroad lady
Just a little bit shady
Spending her life on the trains
Once a Pullman car traveler
Now the brakeman won’t have ‘er
She’s tryin’, just tryin’ to get home again

Once a high balling loner he thought he could own ‘er
He bought her a fur and a big diamond ring
She hopped on for cold cash
Left town on the Wabash
Never thinking, Never thinking of home way back then

But the rails are now rusty
The dining car’s dusty
The gold plated watches have taken their toll
The railroads are dying
And the lady she’s crying
Now she’ tryin’, just tryin’ to get home again

She’s a railroad lady
Just a little bit shady
Spending her life on the train
She’s a semi-good looker
But the fast rails the took ‘er
Now she’ tryin’, just tryin’ to get home again

On a bus to Kentucky and home once again 

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

En transit

Am Trak wifi internet connections are about non-existent between Boston, MA and Erie, PA and slow and sporadic West of Erie. That's why today's posting will be brief. Plus, it's hard to report on much when you've been in a sleeping compartment for more than 24 hours. And typing is a pain as the car lurches side to side.

We aren't at the "Seen one farm field (or tree, or scrap yard), you've seen them all, but we can better understand how some folks might come to those kinds of assessments. The small towns and cities are different, except where they've been infested by national (global) chains. We're wondering if they reproduce through seeds, or spores, or rhizomes or...?

Is this charmer on "The Range" or in "The Cities?"
Is this charmer on "The Range" or in "The Cities?"
Photo by J. Harrington

Traveling by train, or auto, does give one a better sense of having travelled and of just how large this country is. No wonder we find it hard to get along. We may often agree on the same goals, healthy family, satisfying work, good friends, but have very different ways of attaining those goals. And we don't often understand how those different ways complement or contradict each other.

We have a suggestion for TPT. How about devoting 15 minutes of Almanac each Friday to having on location folks in Greater Minnesota talk about ("Show and Tell") what's important to them and why. Maybe then, the following week, more urban types could respond with how "The Cities" approach the same topic or theme. Maybe that would help more of us get out of our own bubbles. What say you @mlahammer or @CathyWurzer , care to help bridge an urban-rural divide? How do we get more Minnesotans talking about what we have in common?

                     The Two Hermits

Upon a lonely mountain, there lived two hermits who worshipped God
and loved one another.

Now these two hermits had one earthen bowl, and this was their only

One day an evil spirit entered into the heart of the older hermit
and he came to the younger and said, “It is long that we have
lived together.  The time has come for us to part.  Let us divide
our possessions.”

Then the younger hermit was saddened and he said, “It grieves
me, Brother, that thou shouldst leave me.  But if thou must needs
go, so be it,” and he brought the earthen bowl and gave it to him
saying, “We cannot divide it, Brother, let it be thine.”

Then the older hermit said, “Charity I will not accept.  I will
take nothing but mine own.  It must be divided.”

And the younger one said, “If the bowl be broken, of what use would
it be to thee or to me?  If it be thy pleasure let us rather cast
a lot.”

But the older hermit said again, “I will have but justice and mine
own, and I will not trust justice and mine own to vain chance.  The
bowl must be divided.”

Then the younger hermit could reason no further and he said, “If
it be indeed thy will, and if even so thou wouldst have it let us
now break the bowl.”

But the face of the older hermit grew exceedingly dark, and he
cried, “O thou cursed coward, thou wouldst not fight.”

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.