The Late, Late Travel Blog

So… not as good about blogging on the trip as I was hoping to be. Usually when we travel, we stay in hostels, which usually have free wireless. On this trip, I had pricelined a few nicer hotels, which all, without exception, make you pay for internet. Lame. Anyway. Here’s the condensed version:

A. Amtrak was amazing. If the train doesn’t go there, neither do I from now on. Considering how crappy the whole experience of flying has become, I’m surprised that everyone hasn’t figured the train out yet. The seats on the long distance trains give you slightly more space then first class on a good Asian airline, meaning with the seat reclined I could put my feet straight out. However, except for sleeping, we usually spent most of our time in the observation car watching movies, playing cards and drinking wine. People watching was also pretty cool. An interesting combination of people take trains. There are the old train nerds, a healthy smattering of the Amish, a few crazies (and by the way, do the old men who like to tell people about Jesus really think that we don’t notice that the only people they want to tell about Jesus are girls in their late teens? Be creepier.) and a lot of people with small kids, which makes a lot of sense to me. Why stuff poor children in a car or a plane for that long when they can be up playing and making friends.

Part of what was so interesting for me, though, was getting a new perspective on the US. Whenever I’ve taken long road trips, I’ve always been struck by how homogenous the US can be. Every interstate and strip mall looks a lot alike. Well, it turns out that the interstate itself must be the homogenizing influence. On the train, you almost never see a car and most of the small towns that you pass through are way off the interstate. So you see a lot of cool stuff, from elk grazing in southeast Colorado to tiny farms in the Appalachians to a small town in southern Iowa where rowhouses seemed to be the dominant building type (rowhouses west of the Mississippi!)

So, yes. We shall be using Amtrak again. In fact we’re floating the idea of Christmas in New Orleans. Plus the Crescent (the train we’d take) passes through every state east of the Mississippi that I haven’t visited before.


B. It’s been almost 5 years since we had been to Chicago, so it was nice to see that we still love it. Chicago was one of the first places where I really began thinking about urban life as a kid and it’ll always have a place in my heart for that.

Ben and John showed us an awesome time, featuring rooftop 4th of July parties with 360 degree fireworks shows and some Southside brunch and White Sox fun.

I also really enjoyed Millennium Park, which had opened since my last trip. I have to admit, I’m a little skeptical about corporate funding for public place and about over programitization of urban space, but I was pretty well convinced that that’s a really successful place. I could go on, but I think I may write more on the topic later, so I’ll save it.

Santa Fe

C. New Mexico was a very interesting place, and very much not what I expected. Despite the fact that about half the population of the state is Latino/a (more in the cities) and the food and architecture was very Mexican influenced, you really didn’t get the feeling you were in a Latin American place. In fact, if anything Santa Fe was the largest colony of pretentious-middle-aged-art-collecting white women that I’ve ever seen. Albuquerque was a little better, but I still felt like I hear and speak Spanish more often in Boston then there. The main annoyance to me was how much Indian and Spanish history was white washed and the conquest treated like it was mere act of transfer. Kind of an “oh well, they just had to send their taxes to DC instead of the DF, no one really cared,” which I just don’t buy.

So yeah, Sante Fe was small, but we did see some cool art (both high and folk, whatever that means) and J’s friend Megan from Viet Nam, which was great. Los Alamos was the creepiest place ever. ABQ was pretty nice for as small a city as it was, but I think we managed so see pretty much everything of interest in about a day and a half. The Albuquerque Isotopes have one of the nicest minor league stadiums that I’ve ever been too, and we had a great baseball experience, although there are no buses running on Sunday nights and finding cabs wasn’t working out, so we ended up walking about 3 miles in the middle of the night to get home. Visiting Taos Pueblo was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. I’ve wanted to go there for a long time. I was very struck by how much the Pueblo Indians have influenced American architecture. Here’s a few pictures to prove it:

Taos Pueblo:

Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright

Habitat ’67 by Moshie Safdie
Montréal, Québec
I could go on...

So that was our trip in short form. I put some more pictures on Facebook. (I didn’t put up pictures of Taos because I only got a permit for personal use. Ask me if you’d like to see them).



Only 36 hours left until we board Amtrak for our cross-country vacation sojourn, first via the Capital Limited to Chicago for the weekend and then the Southwest Chief to Santa Fe. Although we do get away to the other big cities of the Northeast like New York and Montréal pretty often, we usually only go for a short weekend. This is the first long trip we've taken in several years. I am, accordingly, pretty excited.

Cloud Gate III, originally uploaded by Craig S.

Before we even decided where we were going, we decided to make the trip by train. We are both rail fans, and the idea of making a trip across country seemed like both an interesting experience as well as more in-line with some of our core values relating to transportation. We wanted to see what travel is like in a much slower, but much more sustainable trip. Chicago was a natural jumping off point, as most of the countries rail lines pass through, and both of us like the city and wanted to spend some time there anyways.

My interest in New Mexico comes largely through my interest in general in Stateless Nations. Although, taken as a whole, the settling of the United States was, of course, a colonial act, there are only really a few places in the country where the populations of people living there were great enough for them to remain a force in intervening years; Hawai'i, Alaska and Nuevo México being the most apparent three (and not accidentally, the last three states admitted to the US). Even today, the state is roughly 45% Spanish-speaking, 45% Anglo and 10% Indian. I find this intersection of varying populations extremely interesting, especially as, like Québec, the state can be said to function both as a sort of internal colony, but also enjoying all of the powers and freedoms that any other state would have. Of course, my main interest is to see how this is inscribed in physical space.

I hope to blog relatively frequently and (though to be honest I haven't been feeling the photobug lately) to have pictures uploaded as we go.

Now let's just hope that the rain in the midwest stays down long enough for the train to get through Iowa and Missouri.


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