“There She Blows”
“You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles.” I love them all. From my house window here on the bayou, I watch boats sail up the Mississippi River, I interpret the whistles of trains climbing up the Huey P., and we are on the flight path of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Although others find it noisy, I’m in agreement with George Bailey. While he may have been delighted by the modern machines of Bedford Falls, I enjoy getting stopped front and center at a set of tracks, I roll down my windows when low-flying planes scrape over my vehicle, and I stand spellbound as the boats and barges navigate the big river that segments the country, because I love these mighty beasts.
I’ve travelled by all these modes, and I tell stories of my adventures accordingly by train (see Overnight On The Amtrak from April 2012), by watercraft (see Life Vests Optional from April 2021), and by airplane (see In-Flight Homework from February 2013). For some people, these are every day occurrences and become tedious redundancies, but I enjoy the exciting excursions and celebrate the adventure of each. I look out plane windows, I wave at passing diesel engines hauling miles of boxcars, and I wear pirate hats aboard cruise ships for the fun of it.
Come take a grand adventure with me on narrow rails that hug the granite walls between Durango and Silverton, Colorado. Steam engines may be fading from our present, but while they still run, travel their clackity clacks uphill. I’ve enjoyed the Cumbres & Toltec (see Cumbres and Toltec from June 2013) and the White Pass Line (see What Would You Do For The Klondike? from February 2013), but this mountainous climb was spoken of in my childhood home in optimistic tones as an outing to be taken, yet as I plan for our vacation, my aging parents still failed to ride the rails. As I booked our accommodations, I likewise purchases five rather than three tickets. Now they just have to get themselves to the station.
Whether uphill or down, the scenery doesn’t disappoint, and even the leg-stretching in the town of Silverton whisks us back to the American West as it once appeared. We saddle up to the bar, on literal saddles at the bar, and we wander through the shops built just past the end of the terminus. We hang out the windows of the moving cars, and we keep pace for a while with a black bear running alongside us. When the whistle blows, we imagine we are living in an easier time, on a harder path beaten down by the paved ease of passenger vehicles and more direct modes of transportation. For a moment, we step off the road and onto the rails and find ourselves somewhere far away in a wonderful life.