Saturday, December 31, 2005

My 100th Post, Happy New Year and All Aboard!

This is my 100th Post here, who'd have guessed?

I flew home early yesterday morning and have hurriedly finished up some things before the end of the year. That being done, I took down the Christmas tree that had dried out considerably in my absence. I’ve put away the ornaments and lights, retired the train for another year, and vacuumed all the needles up (well, I won’t go that far, I’ll be vacuuming needles until it’s time to put next years tree up). Tomorrow afternoon, I’m hopping on a real train, for the run down to Chicago and then southbound to New Orleans. I’m taking some students with me and we’re volunteering for a week of backbreaking work, cleaning up of that city from Katrina. I’m not sure what we’ll find when we step off the “City of New Orleans” and into the “Crescent City” on Monday afternoon. I am also unsure if I’ll have time for blogging or if I’ll even have easy internet access. So if you don’t hear from me for a week, don’t worry, I’ll be back.

The “City of New Orleans” is the only long train in America that I haven’t ridden. At one point in my life, I’d take a two-week train trip every year, taking advantage of the three stops they gave you to see new cities. I’ve ridden on the “Sunset Limited,” running just above the Mexican border through the desert southwest, the “Southwest Chief,” on the Sante Fe line across northern New Mexico and Arizona. I have made at least seven runs on the “California Zephyr,” providing a gorgeous view of the Colorado Mountains and the Sierras. And then there’s the “Empire Builder,” running across the top of our nation with views of the vast plains of North Dakota and of Glacier National Park in Montana. I’ve even traveled on some trains that are now defunct: the “Desert Wind” that rolled from Salt Lake City, through Las Vegas on its way to LA, and the Pioneer, that broke of the California Zephyr at Denver and raced across Southern Wyoming to Ogden, Utah, then northwest to Portland.

On the Eastern side of the country, I’ve ridden the Pennsylvanian many times from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, travelling across the great horseshoe bend west of Altoona. I’ve also taken multi-rides on the “Capitol” from Chicago to Washington and the “Lake Shore Limited” that hugs the Great Lakes as it runs from Chicago to Washington following New York Central’s “20th Century Limited” route. One of my favorite rides was taken in October on the Cardinal, from Chicago to Charlottesville, Virginia. Its tracks snake their way through the deep valleys of West Virginia, along the New River, passing abandoned coal towns. The Fall colors was just a bit before peak when I made this run. I’ve also been blessed to having had opportunities to ride the north-south trains. The Silver Star and Meteor run down to Florida, the Cresent to Atlanta (It goes on to New Orleans) and the Coast Starlight that rolls down the West Coast from Seattle to Las Angeles. There’s a wonderful section on this route, a hundred or so miles between Oakland and Las Angeles, where you can look out your window and see the Pacific surf below you. And there’s the Texas Eagle that runs across Texas and up to Chicago, stopping at St. Louis.

Now, at last, I’ll get the chance to ride the train Arlo Gutherie made famous when he recorded Steve Goodman’s song, “The City of New Orleans.”

Riding on the City of New Orleans, Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,

Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin' trains that have no names, Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good morning America how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

All Aboard! (And may you experience many blessings in the New Year!)

Pictures from


  1. Michele sent me your way, Sage,

    Volunteering down in New Orleans sounds like an interesting way to greet the New Year. I'd not heard of most of the trains you mentioned but The City of New Orleans is quite famous due to that Arlo Guthrie song so I had heard of that one.

    I've ridden some trains on long trips in Europe but never here in the States. Here the longest I've ever done is Amtrack down the East Coast. Not much history there.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Hi Sage!

    Happy 100th Post, and Happy New Year to you and yours!

    (here via Michelel today)

  3. I'm envious, Sage. I've never ridden on a train.

  4. It's one of my noir dreams to take trains through America but flying always works out cheaper in both time and money

    I'm learning so much good about you, Sage. Hope that you can blog from New Orleans; it's always been one of my favorite cities. Have a severe allergy to mold and dust, have been told not to volunteer by my doctor--kind of threatened that if I went,he wouldn't be my doctor anymore!

    Let us know what people need aside from labor, and I will be happy to post it on my blog

    Have a wonderful New Year, Sage

  5. Will you sing while you ride?

    Happy New Year, Sage! :)

  6. I've never ridden a train, but I remember Arlo's song well ;) Hope you enjoy and that the students truly understand the importance of what they're doing.

  7. I have only taken 2 train rides, Sage: from WV to NYC and from Raleigh to Richmond, but I have always wanted to do the kind of train travel you have done. I want to do it all of the US and Canada and Europe too.

    I think you are starting off the new year in a wonderful way; helping NOLA on its' path to greatness again. Here's wishing you the best year ever in 2006!

  8. Have a wonderful New Year, and what a great way to start it doing something for others. I hope it is rewarding for all of you. Blessings :)

  9. Keep us posted. Literally!

  10. I've made it here safe and sound. We took a tour of the city this afternoon and ate down in the French Quarter. It's odd going through neighborhoods where no one is living and all the houses will probably have to be torn down. I'll try to post more about the ride, etc, later.

    For those of you who said you'd like to take a train ride, I encourage it! Yeah, you can often fly as cheaply, but you won't have time to read a book and a half (which I did) nor time to take in all the scenry nor meet as many people.

    Chana, I did not sing. I did not have any drinks as I in charge (as much as that's possible) of folks not yet 21. And I would have to have had a lot of drinks to have gotten up the nerve to sing... but I did sing in my mind!

  11. Hi Sage--i could have SWORN I left you a comment on New Year's Eve, but I don't see it here.

    I was wishing you well on your trip, and thanking you for helping clean up New Orleans. You are such a swell guy!

    Happy New Year!

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  13. Although I have traveled this country extensively, I have never done it by train nor have I even considered it until today. It sounds like a great way to see the country especially if they allow you to stop now and then to get out and walk.

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