_ Minister Joseph from Chicago spreads the gospel of Obama on a jam packed train ride to DC_
Forces were working against us on our way to Washington. First, before ever boarding the sold-out, Sunday night Capital Limited, we were delayed for nearly 4 hours by a series of weather issues, mechanical snafus and, finally, an engine car that didn't want to work. Then, once we did get underway, we faced a daunting slog east on the rails where our train, due to the extreme late start, was now forced to yield to any and all other rail traffic while we were en route. The end result was a slow, stop filled- albeit remarkably scenic and inspiring- crawl for the Obama Express during its last leg.
Luckily for us, spirits remained high on-board as passengers, though visibly tired and out of sorts, popped, buzzed, and smiled with excitement as we took our own Whistle Stop Tour from Obama's home state of Illinois onward thru Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and, finally, our nation's Capitol. To say that the good vibes were running high would be an understatement- the train was absolutely electric. In fact, as we pulled away from Union Station and the Conductor announced that he too "had a date with history", the capacity crowd broke into a goose bump-inducing cheer from coach to first-class- the train horn blasting perfectly on cue to emphasize the point.
] Even though the train ran out of coffee,water and all sorts of lunch and dinner items there was no dampening the high spirits of an entirely pro-Obama crowd on the overnight ride to history
Sun up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, found the Express steaming past the steel mills of eastern Pittsburgh. A USA Today slipped under our door anonymously- showing Obama and Vice President elect Joe Biden on their Whistle Stop Tour a few days before- helped place us firmly in the river of history.
Looking to put a modern twist on a now famous journey to Inauguration by another lanky, well-spoken Illinois Senator- a dude named Abe Lincoln who happened to help abolish slavery- Obama and his running-mate were also riding the rails in the days leading up to their Swearing In ceremony. Reading the article with the soothing che-chump, che-chump, che-chump of the Capital Limited as my soundtrack, I saw a clean line though history leading straight to the moment we presently find ourselves in. No matter your political lean, it is hard to deny the mojo rising.
] The view at sunrise just east of Pittsburgh and, for the record, "the writer" took this shot
Sitting at a late breakfast later that morning, a picture perfect snow covered Pennsylvania countryside outside our window, Kodi and I had the opportunity to break bread with a mother and son duo traveling from Chicago's south side to DC. Lorna and her son Marcel, who is currently a senior at De Saul University, were making the pilgrimage together to Washington after having worked for the Obama campaign last year. Leading busloads of people to the rural outskirts of Indianapolis, Indiana in order to walk the neighborhoods and preach the gospel of Barack to ears that were typically anything but enthusiastic, this mother and son duo were, much like us, making a last minute journey to history after getting tickets from their Mayor only a few weeks ago.
During a break in our conversation, Lorna looked out at the virgin white forest blurring by and remarked to no one imparticular, "I am just so excited I can hardly wait." Then, after I agreed with her, she turned her gaze towards me, and said firmly in a tone that spoke volumes of her decades of activism, "I just still can't believe it. I'm gonna have to see it to believe it, if you know what I mean."
_ This is Anthony Macon and he has been riding the Obama Express since California. "My main reason for being here is not only for myself," he explained, "But also for my father, my mother, my grand parents and my great grand parents. Just like them, I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime. I had to make sure one of us got here."_
_ Pennsylvania- Ain't it perty?_
A few hours later, nearly 6 hours later than scheduled, the Obama Express, with its standing room-only crowd of church groups, campaign workers, University of Chicago professors, mothers, fathers, children and grand children, pulled into Washington DC. Though I had braced myself for chaos upon arrival, nothing could have prepared us for the heady high of arriving on the eve of history. Tens of thousands of people, most of them wearing some sorts of Obama paraphernalia swarmed outside of the train station as roadblocks, FBI details, Secret Service agents and legions of DC police officers presided over the overwhelmingly jovial scene. Carrying our packs and hustling up Massachusetts Avenue to meet Lois Capps' Press Secretary Emily Kryder, the fatigue of the journey quickly broke away and was swallowed whole by a city, that for the next 24 hours, will have the eyes of the world fixed upon it.
_ The Capitol Building in DC about 12 hours before Barack Obama officially becomes the 44th President of the United States of America_