Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Experiencing Some of the Truly Important Things

There are some 30 citrus trees growing in several different areas on our place and there’s a row of seven orange trees in a small pasture up at the front of our property near the road that runs past us. My task for yesterday afternoon was to weed around the base of each tree, add some fertilizer and give them all a little extra water.

About an hour and a half into the project, a small party got started at our neighbor’s place across the street. At first there was some conversation and a bit of laughter, but then the music started. Someone had a guitar and there was an ukulele or two, and pretty soon they began singing some old Hawaiian songs … in Hawaiian, of course.

It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny with a few clouds and a light breeze. Our two horses were grazing in the pasture nearby and there was a hint of sweet ginger fragrance in the air, coming from another neighbor’s yard.

I put down my little weed digger and lay back on the grass listening to the music, remembering that there were a couple of cold beers waiting for me back at the house, and thinking about … no, almost overwhelmed by … our good fortune.

Those of us living in this amazing place often have moments like this and, when we do, we look at each other and repeat a favorite expression here, “Lucky we live Hawaii.”

Lucky, indeed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guest Blogger Criticizes Amtrak … Really Hard!

Hi, folks!

Jim’s off workin’ on his book and he asked if I would write something ‘bout trains and stick it in here ‘cause he’s too busy.

Well, by golly, I’m happy to help him out and – wouldn’t you know it? - I have a big gripe about Amtrak I been wanting to talk about. I mean they’ve really gone and done it this time. It’s shocking and disturbing, and I’m gonna have to really pray on it before I feel comfortable ridin’ one of them trains again.

See, I pay close attention to whatever it is the Family Research Council says and I try real hard to think the way they want me to think … without thinkin’ too much about whether or not that’s a good idea … or not.

Anyways, the Family Research Council has found out that Amtrak has started to advertise in magazines and newspapers that are read by – ‘scuse me for speaking frankly here – gays and lesbians! I mean, if those ads work, I could find myself on a train actually sitting next to one of … them. Yes, actually!

While I’m thinkin’ about it, it’d be a good idea if those God-fearing folks at the FRC got on Amtrak’s case about some of the other anti-American groups we don’t want ridin’ our trains. I mean, they better not be advertising to no Muslims! Or Hindus, neither … or whoever it is that wears them turbines on their heads. And no atheists. There’s lots of other weirdos, too. How about vegetarians, especially vegans? I mean, everybody knows they’re weird.

Well, I could go on and on about this, but I gotta go. Time for church.

Your friend,


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why I’ve Been Neglecting This Blog

Over the past several years, I’ve tried to post something here at least four times a week and have managed to meet that goal most of the time. But I haven’t come close for some time now, for which I apologize.

The reason – note that I don’t claim it as an excuse – is that I’m trying hard to finish up a careful review of a copy editor’s changes and corrections to the manuscript for the 3rd edition of my book, All Aboard – The Complete North American Train Travel Guide.

This is a preview look at the new cover, designed by the publisher, Chicago Review Press. It’s quite different from the cover on the first two editions and I like it!

In the book, I write about what I find fascinating in train travel and that makes it quite different from the usual rail guides. For example, there’s a chapter about how railroads began -- the building of the transcontinental railways in both the U.S. and Canada -- one on how a railroad operates, and another describing the job of the operating crews – engineers and conductors and all the on-board service people.

There’s also a lot about planning a train trip, what to expect when you’re traveling and some suggested rail itineraries for the U.S, Canada and Mexico.

Now, after all that shameless self-promotion, it's back to the double-checking of the manuscript. I have just a half hour until the Red Sox game starts -- because I have my priorities, after all -- but will be back at it later this afternoon.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Clarification: Amtrak Daily Service, LA-New Orleans

A week or so ago, I posted an item about the proposal for Amtrak to increase service between San Antonio and Los Angeles. The current three-days-a-week schedule is now being provided by the venerable Sunset Limited. The new arrangement would increase that service to a daily schedule. After a reader raised a question, I re-read my original post and realized that some of the information was not correct and, compounding the felony, the writing was confusing, too.

Amtrak’s Harris Cohen was kind enough to send me the correct info. Here’s how the new proposal would work, if implemented.

The Texas Eagle's schedule would be expanded for the train to run daily in both directions between Chicago and Los Angeles via San Antonio.

Amtrak would add a daily train to provide daytime service in each direction between San Antonio and New Orleans.

Texas Eagle passengers heading east to New Orleans will be able to make a smooth connection to the new daily train in San Antonio. Likewise, westbound passengers coming from New Orleans will be able to make that same transfer in San Antonio.

In addition to the expanded service, there are other benefots. For one, nearly seven hours would be shaved off the schedule between LA and Chicago.

Nothing is definite yet, but it is possible – Note: I say possible – that this new service could take effect as early as this Fall.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If You Add It, They Will Come

After much prodding of state, local and federal governments – and Amtrak, too – rail service between Boston and Portland, Maine, was begun in 2001. Since then, ridership on the Downeaster has steadily increased with new records being set every year … more than 475,000 last year with projections for yet another increase this year.

Comes now the latest bit of good news: Downeaster service will be extended some 30 miles farther up the Maine coast to Brunswick. New track will have to be laid, but the extended service should be in place in a bit over two years. Estimates are that another 36,000 passengers should then be added to the Downeaster’s ridership.

Meanwhile, Amtrak has added another daily train to its Piedmont service, operating between Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina. The result? An increase of some 10,000 passengers in the month of June compared to June of last year.

This happens over and over again. The more frequency you add, the more passengers you will attract to rail service … and the more cars are taken off the highways, which reduces congestion and pollution and saves money and … and etcetera and so forth.

Yet the anti-rail ideologues persist. Because, of course, they are ideologues.