Have you ever thought of exploring America’s western frontiers on railroad tracks? If the travel bug bites, why not ride the Southwest Chief from America’s Heartland to the Pacific Coast? 2,256 miles of spectacular scenery. That’s what one of my nephews did not long ago. Out of Chicago’s Union Station, riding across the wide-open plains of Kansas, under Colorado’s open skies, and down into New Mexico’s red painted desert, he finally hopped off the train in Lamy 24 hours later. Named after Jean-Baptiste Lamy, who became Santa Fe’s first Archbishop in 1853, the unassuming train stop in the middle of nowhere is just 18 miles south of Santa Fe off highway 285. Arriving in the muddy parking area steps from the tracks, I look around. Remains from recent rain showers are still dripping off the red-tiled train station, its sun-faded yellow paint having seen better days.
Stepping into the terminal feels like going back in time.Wood-carved benches crowd the lounge, departure cum arrival hall.
Two restrooms, men, women, sit opposite an old-fashioned ticket counter, the grey-haired ticket agent peeking through bars from his cage. Quite an amusing sight! Like out of old movies. Back in the 21st century, waiting on the one and only platform, I look up and down the endless tracks. No train. But then, a whistle blows, the earth trembles, and the sky blue Southwest Chief crawls into the station. Oh, no! It’s the wrong one, from the City of Angels to America’s Windy City. Loaded luggage carts drive up, people scramble to get on..
Minutes later, the train pulls out of the station, a whistle sounds and another Amtrak train rolls in from Chicago. Doors fly open, passengers disembark, but where is my nephew? My heart races. The train starts moving again. Then it stops again, more doors open…and then I see him. This handsome young man, tall, broad shoulders, and a head of blond wavy hair. 31 years old. Finally. We hug. It’s the first time we meet in person. But that’s another story.