State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.


by Natalia

Bored? Looking for a new mode of transportation? Join thousands of Americans in this brand new discovery of railroad travel. No, I am not talking about switching from car to train for a daily commute. This is about train as entertainment. Everyday use of trains is in the same sorry state it has been since the demise of steam locomotive.

We’ve encountered this type of diversion twice so far: in Chama, New Mexico and in Durango, Colorado. Commercial application was abandoned in the 60s due to the usual reasons of cheap gasoline and better roads. In 90s is became tourist attraction. Clearly there are enough people willing to don dark clothes (to avoid staining by airborne soot) and spend a few hours in a densely packed open-air gondola cars chatting with strangers, which is advertised as particularly enjoyable. Upgrade to an adult-only parlor class available - obviously the organizers thought about anti-social types like us who are not overly fond of children. The railroads are engineering wonders. And they traverse one of the most picturesque parts of US. But if you buy a ticket be prepared to spend couple of hours traveling to nowhere: Osier, Colorado or Silverton, Colorado. Both are ghost towns.

I have nothing against spending one’s free time any which way one desires - whatever floats your gondola. I would go farther yet: let’s ditch mobiles and put nice rotary phones in to use for weekend amusement. Express bullet trains and smart phones with 100% coverage could be left to Europeans while Americans focus on what they do best - entertainment. And if it means sacrifice like living without chasing spotty reception so be it. More time to ride steam trains and to chat with strangers.


Anasazi or Ancestral Pueblans as modern Pueblo Indians prefer to call them lived in the Mesa Verde for hundreds of years until late 1200s. And then they disappeared. More exactly they stopped building. Quite abruptly as testified by an unfinished Sun Temple. And similarly they abandoned the Chaco Canyon about hundred years earlier. What happened to them? Why did they leave? Where did they go? Professional and amateur archeologists have been attempting to answer those questions for 120 years now. No theory is entirely satisfying. For various reasons including political. Overpopulation and depletion of resources, advocated by Jared Diamond, doesn’t gel with the myth of Indians as good stewards following Mother Earth principles. When it is presented to Mesa Verde visitors it’s qualified by the occurrence of an ice age at that time. Drop in temperature is strangely at odds with artists’ renderings of mostly naked Indians peppering the park sites. But naked means savage and we, the descendants of the European settlers, are used to this excuse of the atrocities committed in the name of civilizing the indigenous population. Scholars disagree if it was great drought or ice age that explains the worsening of climate and forced the natives out. But you’d never know there is a controversy by reading literature provided by National Park Service.


We’ve learned a new verb: jeeping. Well, in our case it’s probably nissaning and we are obviously not doing it right. As far as I can tell it involves taking your unsuspecting car on a deadly, narrow, mountain road in search of breathtaking views and an adrenaline rush. Our truck is more than happy to oblige, but the driver and the pilot (otherwise known as I and Natalia) not so much. One problem is you never know what awaits around the corner. We wonder if the road marked in a guide as moderate jeeping is easy enough for us? (It isn’t). Once you commit to a road there is usually no turning back. And I don’t mean it in a metaphorical sense. The road is literally too narrow to turn. I suppose one could just back off all the way down.