As I prepare for my third Southwest Chief round trip between
California and Missouri, I am reminded of the words of Mark Twain:
It is hard to make railroading pleasant, in any country. It is
too tedious. Stage-coaching is infinitely more delightful.
Once I crossed the plains and deserts and mountains of the West, in a
stage-coach, from the Missouri line to California, and since then all
my pleasure trips must be measured to that rare holiday frolic.
Two thousand miles of ceaseless rush and rattle and clatter, by night
and by day, and never a weary moment, never a lapse of interest!
The first seven hundred miles a level continent, its grassy carpet
greener and softer and smoother than any sea, and figured with designs
fitted to its magnitude--the shadows of the clouds. Here were no
scenes but summer scenes, and no disposition inspired by them but to
lie at full length on the mail sacks, in the grateful breeze, and
dreamily smoke the pipe of peace--what other, where all was repose and
contentment? In cool mornings, before the sun was fairly up, it
was worth a lifetime of city toiling and moiling, to perch in the
foretop with the driver and see the six mustangs scamper under the
sharp snapping of a whip that never touched them; to scan the flue
distances of a world that knew no lords but us; to cleave the wind with
uncovered head and feel the sluggish pulses rousing to the spirit of a
speed that pretended to resistless rush of a typhoon! Then
thirteen hundred miles of desert solitudes; of limitless panoramas of
bewildering perspective; of mimic cities, of pinnacled cathedrals, of
massive fortresses, counterfeited in the eternal rocks and splendid
with the crimson and gold of the setting sun; of dizzy altitudes among
fog-wreathed peaks and never-melting snows, where thunders and
lightnings and tempests warred magnificently at our feet and the
storm-clouds above swung their shredded banners in our very faces!
--Writing The Rails, From The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
(1835-1910), P. 41.
I'll bet that Ol' Mark Twain wouldn't believe that you can still
see today, the splendid scenery he saw nearly 200 years ago, and from a
Isn't he like you and me, comparing the newer form of
transportation of the time, the train, with the older, trusted, form of
transportation, the stage coach, and writing how he likes the older
form better? Don't you and I prefer the older form of
transportation, the train, to the newer transportation, the airplane?
And don't we admit that
we prefer to make the 2,000 mile trip from Missouri to California on a
train, referring to the trip on the Southwest Chief as, Two thousand
miles of ceaseless rush and rattle and clatter, by night and by day,
and never a weary moment, never a lapse of interest!
Those are the thoughts I have as I start this journey on the Southwest
Chief from Fullerton, California, to LaPlata, Missouri.