I have just recently returned from visiting my son in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I took the number 4 Southwest Amtrak train from the downtown station to Fort Madison.
Such an interesting place, with breathtaking scenery and a totally different culture! I can’t say I love the food but the people seem to be friendly, diversified and accepting of strangers. It’s hot there, so the town virtually shuts down during the afternoon. Most retired people barricade themselves in their houses, where they take “siestas”, which is a Spanish word that means, “naps that one takes that will disrupt your sleep pattern at night.”
But enough about Fort Madison. Albuquerque is also a very interesting place. For one thing, it is about as far away from Keokuk as one can go. There is some sort of a time/space worm hole that one enters somewhere in Missouri, that lengthens the entire trip to a trillion miles. It looks like it is closer than that on a map. Closer, say, than Australia, but don’t be fooled. It is a long ways away, and made even further away by Amtrak.
Now don’t get me wrong. Amtrak train travel beats the heck out of driving your own vehicle down rough roads, through construction sites that bear signs that say “Open Trench.” What is an “open” trench? Is that different than a plain trench? Isn’t a “closed” trench not a trench at all? I digress.
You don’t have to worry about that if you take Amtrak. The ride is amazingly smooth, and you are sitting in comfortable upright seats that are placed close enough together that you really get to know your fellow passengers very well. You learn what they have been eating, and when they have been showering.
If they are the talkative, wordy, verbose type, (unlike myself), you will find out all about their life, various occupations, close relatives, pets, and reasons for traveling. My seatmate was a 26 year old man from California, who was meeting his Fayette County, Iowa parents. He is a philosophy teacher in California. He was what I would call, “a bit on the dry side.” He was reading (for entertainment) a lengthy book by Sumyun Moon entitled something like “Democratic Models of Contempory Confucianism in East Asia”.
This is what this kid was reading for fun! He was able to expound, at length, about philosophy, and especially about Confucianism. Prior to this, I figured that Confucianism consisted of a portly robe-wearing oriental fellow that was best known for making up corny jokes that began with the phrase, “Confucius say…..”.
The nice thing about Amtrak is that you can eventually excuse yourself from such discussions and stand up and stretch your legs. You can go to any of several restrooms at anytime, which is worth the price of a ticket alone. You can go to an observation car, a place enclosed like a bubble, with glass on all sides, where you can watch the world zip by somewhat nauseatingly.
And you can go to the diner where you can spend a month’s income on macaroni and cheese or purchase an 8 dollar candy bar.
So, you see that there a lot of traveling options that are available to you on the train that you would be missing out on if you were stuck driving in your old Ford Escort listening to a radio auction and crossing and uncrossing your legs as you frantically search for a service station with a restroom.
On the other hand, Amtrak might have a few small drawbacks to consider. For one thing the estimate of your arrival and departure may be slightly incorrect. In my case it was “off” by about 5 hours on both ends of the trip.
I am sure that the Amtrak rail system is actually laid out in a series of loops, like a stretched-out Slinky. In Albuquerque, I believe we actually passed the same depot about three times. This is done to heighten the experience of the train traveler and to sell more macaroni and cheese.
Also, I did not realize that Amtrak would stop the train in the middle of nowhere to allow freight trains to pass. We passengers never actually saw these trains. For all we know, maybe our engineer had decided to halt the train while he played a short game of Monopoly. (All engineers love Monopoly. They buy every railroad they land on.) It was as if some god-like being was looking down upon us while playing with his personal model railroad.
“Oh-Oh, the number 4 Southwest Amtrak is making too good of time. I’ll just reroute this 200 car Southern Santa Burlington coal train through its route a few times. That should slow things down!”
Eventually, however, you reach your destination, stumble off the train, where you fall upon the ground, bend down and kiss the good Iowa soil. Home at last!
Having had a total of about 4 hours sleep in the last 48 hours makes one a little groggy, so forgive me if I am a bit incoherent or if this article is too brief.
What I really would like to accomplish is this: I would like to thank everyone who helped to make the fundraising event at the Grand a huge success. The country theme went over extremely well and we had wonderful crowds both nights. Now, if you were unable to attend, we understand completely. But you owe it to yourself to talk to anyone who was there. This could be performers, theater commission members or audience members.
In short, it was a fantastic performance. You probably have met someone from the area who has a great voice, right? You have heard them at church, or the Karaoke bars, or at some other venue.
Well, we assembled a dozen of the best voices in this area. Some were deep voices, some were high voices, but all of them were voices that were as smooth as hot honey on a homemade biscuit. The talent of these performers is amazing! But don’t just take my word for it. Ask around.
The success of the show was the result of the hard work of many, many talented people. We thank you all. David Wendt, Diana Kraus, and Bobbi Lutzen were instrumental in producing the show, and to them, I reserve the greatest thanks of all.
The success of the raffle ticket sales was also dependent upon the diligent commission members that peddled them, and, of course, the community members that bought the tickets. Many people bought raffle tickets not really expecting to win the four beautiful prizes, but knowing that they were supporting the Grand Theater and helping us keep it strong.
Four lucky ticket buyers went home that night with special items as well. Tom Gardner won a beautiful “Standing Strong” quilt. Steve Bryant won the huge rustic wooden American flag. The terrific “Star Rail” quilt was taken home by Terry Amenell. And the fantastic farmyard photo was won by Kealyn Fuller. My congratulations to them!
Whether you bought raffle tickets, or show tickets, (or both), you are a winner in my book. Unlike my train ride, I think you found this to be “just the ticket” to a wonderful experience. Again, thank you.