Thursday, March 06, 2008
Living out in the open
I am here in Oklahoma .... finally. It took more then 45 hours from Los Angeles.... A bit harrowing because of the long ride in Texas. And I DO think trains are the answer to much of our nation's problems (economically and globally as per climate change). However, I spoke to the conductor of the Oklahoma connection, and I need to check if the all the details are correct.... It is owned and operated and run moment by unresponsive moment by the Federal Government ......
Oklahoma pooled its money and upgraded and rebuilt their interconnects and now they can run their trains above 100 mph ... Also, they modernized their switching stations so that they can monitor WHERE the trains are and were they are going.....
Most of the Texas Amtrak is in dire need of upgrades and because of that, trains are not allowed to go much faster then 45 mph (quite a difference). Most of the tracks are in very bad shape - broken ties, steel spikes sitting next to and not in the rails.... Texas is an accident .. and a terrible one... waiting to happen.
The train to Oklahoma runs along the border between Mexico and Texas. The Texas train sat at crossings, or poked along well below 15 mph, or spend nine hour lay overs in San Antonio. The train in San Antonio is there just to "switch this car to this train, and that car to that train, and the put this car back again...." Why? Because it would take to long to transfer the luggage...." Right. I could not find a single person at Amtract who could give a convincing reason for all that hullabaloo...
When the train moved in Texas it went 35 mph maybe 45 mph (like the cargo trains) and along the open stretch along the Rio Grande. The little towns and scrubby living conditions pepper the open space like my grandparent's old photographs of the turn of the 20th Century... or of the 30s Dust Bowl.
Ranches of cattle and sheep in the dry surroundings were isolated.
But the sky above the stratified mountains were beautiful.
What I liked about the train over other means of travel across the nation was the opportunity to meet and talk to so many different people. One couple from Michigan, who were a Mennonite, were coming back from Mexico. They were teaching German and learning Spanish. One lady was going to Fort Worth because of her sister, I think she said she was 36, and was dying of cancer. Another lady (about 66) was traveling to see her dying mother who was over a hundred. The first lady hated to travel by plane the second had burned her lungs. ~ The older woman had poured Chlorox into her new house's tub and then turned on the hot water. The chlorine wafted up in the hot steam and she breathed it in... She ended up in the hospital and then found out about her mother. Her doctor told her not to fly so she took the train. She had called Amtrak for tickets and to make sure there were no any lay overs - her mother had such a short time to be alive. The Amtrak Customer Service person said, "No." However, there was a lay over - a nine hour lay over in San Antonio. The conductor on that train said, "They never tell people about the layover. Everybody is told it goes straight through..."