Friday, January 28, 2011

Riding the Rails
All Aboard!

On the second day of our New Mexico trip (Memorial Day) we had tickets for a scenic train ride through northern NM and into Colorado - State # 6.  (I love my husband and he did go to 5 Broadway shows with me!)  The train departs from Chama; which is a 2 1/2 hour drive north of Santa Fe.  Much of the highway to our destination ran through Indian reservation lands.  We noticed two specific things during this journey:  (1) the Native Americans maintain their roadways beautifully (see the typical overpass below) and (2) they are very politically active. 

New Mexico was holding their primary elections the next day and most of the Hispanic candidates were using the same tag line...

"Let's take back our state."

And in every town and village we passed, people were on the street corners campaigning.  Native Americans take their right to vote seriously.  Did you know the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally made it legal for "Indians" to vote in this country?

The Road To Chama

I was completely overwhelmed, or should I say enchanted, by the natural beauty we encountered with each new vista.  First of all, I expected a desert...for all of Guy's stories I've heard and Georgia O'Keeffe paintings I've seen you would think I wouldn't have been surprised.  What can I say, nothing can really prepare you for the sheer beauty of this state!

We boarded the train and promptly pulled out of the station at 10:00.  Breakfast is included in the Parlor Car and Guy always likes the rear car. 

Do you know why?

Let me show you...

Railroad tracks

My husband loves to photograph the symmetrical beauty of train tracks. 
FYI:  The water pump and loading structure in these photos are movie props. 
Any of you trivia experts care to guess which movie they were built for?* 

Through 32 states we have enjoyed many train rides (and endured a few) so we have standards for our rail excursions.  First, we love trains that do NOT run right alongside the highway...we can drive our rented Tahoe there!  A train ride is truly scenic when it takes you through countryside that only the train and a few stalwart hikers have ever been.  And the Cumbres-Toltec took us higher than any other railroad in this country.  Seriously, the locomotive works its hardest to pull the train to the 10,015 foot high Cumbres Pass.

At noon the train pulls into a small village (4 buildings) called Osier, Colorado.  Here you are treated to a delicious lunch, served cafeteria style, of all-American cooking.  We had "Thanksgiving dinner" with all the trimmings.  And buttermilk pie for dessert!  The other train that departed Antonito, CO meets here and passengers can change trains here for the return trip back to Chama, NM or continue on to Antonito, CO.  We changed trains and headed back to state # 31. 

Now you might not be a train enthusiast, but we recommend this rail excursion, if you are traveling to NM.  And parents, if you are traveling with the kids the Cumbres-Toltec offers shorter train rides with their mascot Cinder Bear on board and special activities for little fans of choo-choo trains!

* The answer to the above trivia question: 
 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

In my first post about NM, I mentioned the many fine museums in Santa Fe; I would like to recommend 2
of them.

The Museum of New Mexico History and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.  The history museum has fascinating exhibits outlining the extremely colorful past of this western state.  And a beautiful museum store that vigorously displays only works from their citizens.  (We love that!)

Before visiting NM, I was not really a fan of Georgia O'Keeffe...but I am now a convert!  Her museum, the only one in this country devoted to a female artist, is filled with her works and features an eye-opening video interview with her.

Although the museum played a part in my "conversion," I think I really understood her work once we visited Guy's father's ranch.  So, next time...

The Flying S Ranch

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