Monday, May 16, 2011

Riding Amtrak, Dreaming Santa Fe ...

Sounds like the title for a book.

Wherever I am, away from the pits of Oakland (not really, Piedmont Avenue is charmingly civilized), I might be gazing out a window, drawing from today's trees yesterdays memories on the Shasta Daylight up through Oregon, across the border at sunset one summer. Soft. Dreamy. Floating. Most beautiful train ride I ever took. On those Southern Pacific rails, I fell in love with the passenger train experience. Now, on whatever "Superliner" I am riding under the witness protection program, I either dream of yesterdays superior cars, or I dream of what tomorrow might bring, if ever high speed breaks ground in the United States of Indecision. That is, if the USofA is still around by that time, and not a Ward of Division or Collective Factory of China, Inc.

Might not be bad thing, for the Chinese would know how (remember when we once knew how?) to spread fresh trackage from the Golden State to the Big Apple, and then I could get there on rocket rails, far faster than it takes Amtrak to say, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've been informed that we will be waiting on a siding up a mile for a few minutes owing to a freight train that is approaching." The LateShore Ltd. through Ohio is the King of Rattletraps, if you dig washboard navigation.

I started this thing out to serve you some random midway rumbles and rumors, and here I am, still waxing hysterical about my favorite from of travel (theoretically, if you please). In China, Boyi and I sampled semi-high speed from Shanghai to Beijing. The train floated around 110 mph, I'd guess. We missed sampling rails between Guangzhou (aka: Canton, nicer oriental sound) and a city north, the line said to be the fastest train in the world, but the Chinese are planing to lay steel streams clear across the Middle Kingdom, across Old Europe and New Russia, across Britain, and, how knows, maybe all the way to Mars ... Now, that would get me back into one of those airplanes that always lust after turbulence whenever I am in them. Flight to China was so precarious, sometimes feeling like a wild carnival ride in the sky, that I turned off the movie I was trying to watch, West Side Story, fearing the jets and the sharks at war might add to the turbulence. I kid you not.

Let the circus stuff wait till tomorrow. John Ringling North II, a cool dude, said it's okay not to whistle him on just at the moment. He's not in a whip-cracking mood, anyway. You may have heard he made a cameo in his own show, Kelly Miller. I read it on Steve's neat blog. "A Ringling in the Ring," worded joey Steve. Cool going, guy ... Oh no, I'm not falling back into my House of Ringling obsession. Help me, somebody! One more thing during this station stop. North the Sequel must enjoy air travel, for seems he goes back and forth between his circus biz and the cows he grows somewhere in Ireland ...

All aboard, like it or not! That's how I feel sometimes boarding Amtrak, but as they say it's the only thing we have. And a big perk is starting out in my personal cathedral in Tinsel Town, Union Station ...

It's now Monday evening. No, I'm not even around the PC. Told it in advance to issue this make-do post when I should be about now in the diner, assuming they deign to open it on time. Last trip, they held us back for an hour, sitting in there and sulking about there being only one cook to work the microwave, even though that's Amtrak policy.

Over old Santa Fe rails, I trust old rust. I'm going to ask the conductor if, in fact, any of these silver threads are original Santa Fe. I rode the Super Chief once, when Ike was aboard in his private car and, during a stop in the arid desert, poked his head out the window to send us an Ike smile and wave.

OK, maybe tomorrow for Mr. North. Now, maybe this ring thing is going to his head, he wants more money, so he has to ask James Royal, whom, I understand, will have to take the matter up with one John Ringling North II for final approval.

Such a small world out there under little tops! Cho, cho! Ding ding! Here comes the Ringling of Ringlings ... First-Time-in-America!

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