The badlands of New Mexico are outside our window. Snow covered, red plateaus stretch for miles save for the occasional wild pony, herd of cattle or long since abandoned mud brick home. Oasis' of junk and rusted out dead car graveyards suggest a turn in the tracks as the Southwest Chief bends ever so slightly, steering us back parallel with the historic Route 66. A spotless blue sky welcomes us as the track turns from the bumps of a traditional steel rail to a more modern, welded one with concrete ties. The ride is smooth here on the outskirts of Albuquerque. Our Conductor, Antonio, reckons we are "doing 70 mph easy".
The Lounge Car fills up early and stays up late._
Overnight, as Kodi and I crashed out in our closet sized bunks, the Obama Express left an oddly summer-like Southern California behind. From Needles, we rocked and rolled our way into Arizona- the modest lights of towns like Kingman and Williams Junction fading anonymously into the dark. Feelings of being buried alive flashed as I drifted off to sleep, the ceiling 4 inches from my nose and a weird, full body seat belt locking me to my bed.
First light brought Flagstaff, AZ and then, two hours later, Gallup, NM- with it's firework stands, naked looking Wal-Mart and mild Friday morning rush hour traffic- was our view. Eating French toast with a retired couple from Philadelphia it dawned on me just how vast and still wide-open much of our Country remains. The cramped, smog choked bowels of Los Angeles seem like a foreign country compared to the open air and forever views of the Southwest.
_ Somewhere in New Mexico_
We share the purpose of our adventure with everyone we meet. And, while talking politics with strangers- especially in cramped settings- is something I have long since learned to avoid, it has been remarkably easy and inspiring thus far on the Obama Express. People are excited and they are excited for us. Hans, the Dutchman sleeping in the room next door with an internet connection we covet, put it best. Cherub faced and smiling, he told us, "Wow- how lucky you are to be a part of history:Many people- not just Americans- have waited a long time for this. I don't think you will be alone."
In that regard, already we have met two other people D.C. bound. One was an Obama campaign worker from the Burbank area and the other is a married, father of two rolling solo on the Express to the Inauguration. For the latter, while he says he doesn't support all of Obama's views, the lure of participating in history was too much for him to ignore. With a mouth full of flat iron steak, he told all who would listen last night in the lounge car about his pilgrimage. "This is about more than Republicans or Democrats. It is about trying to be a better Country." I almost snarfed my Budweiser out of my nose upon hearing his cliche filled rant but then I noticed the color of my beer can and couldn't help but smile. Red, White and Blue baby! The Obama Express> rolls on:
]"> This is where the flat iron steaks and french toast flows like water.