Welded Rails, Sleeping Closets and French Toast

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".

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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.

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Independent Discussion Guidelines

Dude, did you bring along your redneck-chic trucker's hat??

Keep posting lots of photos and thanks for reporting!!

David_Pritchett (David Pritchett)
January 16, 2009 at 1:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

photos are amazing...they capture the surreal memories of my own train travel adventures.

i think its great to be confined in a small space with so many americans during such an american moment. in your red white and blue train! gather those stories!

? are people feeling a part of this impending new chapter the way they felt a part of the election? what do they see as their job in this new era of change?


westernmass (anonymous profile)
January 17, 2009 at 9:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"This train is bound to glory". Good stuff. Can't wait to hear about the party train from Chi City to the District. Keep on trucking..err...chugging.

capecodloc (anonymous profile)
January 17, 2009 at 10:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Not only is the train you guys are travelling on headed for glory, you can't help but get the sense that this country is once again poised to regain it's glory as well! The pictures are amazing, truly adding a train ride across this country to my TO DO list. If you guys are looking for interesting people to interview once in DC (surely won't be hard to find), but I was just telling a friend about how you guys are taking the trip cross country to cover the inauguration when he told me his great uncle got invited to sit on STAGE during the inauguration. He was one of the first black pilots at Tuskagee...anyways, let me know if he is someone you wanna meet while covering this...nice analogy there as I liken Obama to a jet fighter who is going to pilot his way and OUR way to a new frontier...Also, I am following the frenzy through the media and wonder where the buzz truly lies? Is it that he will be our first african american president or is it that he truly represents change and has the desire to get after what the people really want? He really has done some flexing (and no, I am not talking about his sexy abs ladies) this past week throwing around terms like "veto" when it comes to getting that other 350 bazillion dollars already...just wonder how people would have reacted if GWB tried a stunt like that pre inauguration! One more tid bit I'd like to add is that if you check out ITUNES and look up the new "Obama Song" by Michael Franti and Spearhead you will find that the reviews have nothing to do with the song really, but more to do with people wanting to be heard...their opinions needing to be affirmed...It's gonna take a strong president to do as much listening and information taking as Obama will endure!!

Speaking of endurance...keep the diesel smoke high in the air on the Obama Express and see you at the next stop!

whambo (anonymous profile)
January 17, 2009 at 11:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks for letting us live vicariously through your clear, concise descriptions of your journey. From the physical to the human landscape, the prose combines with the beautiful photos to tell a compelling story. I dream about flat iron steaks flowing like water!

paulniles (anonymous profile)
January 19, 2009 at 10:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Guy's .. you both rock. What a great story and awesome pictures. Not sure how you got the windows clean on that train to make such lean pictures, guess someone did some real magic Sorry we had trouble with the internet connection but reception as you know was none existent at times. I am looking forward to your next posting. It was a pleasure meeting you both! Hans

Bothfly (anonymous profile)
January 19, 2009 at 11:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Isn't it wonderful to see the countryside? I think it's great that you're traveling across the US by train; it's too bad that most people don't get to experience train travel here in the US.

Gaijin (anonymous profile)
January 20, 2009 at 12:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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