On the Road in the Southwest

March 18, 2010

We’ve successfully finished screenings in Phoenix and Tucson. Yesterday Barry and I went to see the cliff dwellings at
Gila National Park and I even took a few minutes to sketch a view from the river. Spectacular! (The view, I mean.) Last night we drove to Santa Fe well in time for tonight’s screenings, but not without incident.

In his research for the New Mexico leg of our journey, Barry discovered that there is a train (the Rail Runner) that runs from Albuquerqu
e to Santa Fe. Barry loves a train ride, and the price was right at $6, so we decided that I could drop him off at the train in Albuquerque and then meet him at the station in Santa Fe.

According to our GPS though, we weren’t quite going to make the connection in Albuquerque, so we phoned up and found out what other places the train would stop along the way. I set the auto cruise to 80mph and we were making good time – 15 minutes to spare if we went to Rio Rancho. We noticed though, that the sun was getting low in the sky, so we decided to try to get to an earlier station (Los Ranchos de Albuquerque), so that Barry would get in as much daylight train-riding as possible. According to Garmin (our GPS) we had about four minutes to spare. So we go
t off the highway at the Los Ranchos exit and… traffic was held up. The train would leave the station at 6:45. I called and the cheerful woman assured me it was running on time. (Darn!). Garmin began changing its mind, saying we’d get there at 6:43, then 6:44, then 6:45, then a break in the traffic and we were back to 6:44… Pedal to the metal, we charged around the last corner and could see the arm of the level crossing rise up. The train was at the platform! We wheeled into the parking lot. Barry slammed the car into park and flew out the door, with his blue bag of Sudoku and train snacks flying horizontally behind him. 5 yards to go and the train started to move. I looked on as Barry leapt into the air and hauled himself up on to the ladder between the engine and the passenger car, disappearing from sight. A moustachioed man on the platform raised his fist and pulled it down vehemently toward his upward-rising knee as he grinned and shouted “Yessssss!” in my direction. With something between a grimace and a smile, I acknowledged his enthusiasm and then noticed that the train had come to a halt only a few feet from where my husband had so valiantly flung himself.

“Curious,” I thought with a mixture of concern and relief as I noticed a few other late-comers board the train in the conventional manner. I waited, but the train remained stationary. Eventually I inched out of the parking lot and began the drive toward Santa Fe. Then my cell phone rang. It was Barry. “They’ve kicked me off the train. You’ll have to come back.”

I felt so sorry that he had missed his train-riding opportunity, but once we were re-united, I learned that the plot had thickened … as with most good adventures. Apparently once Barry had arrived on the train's ladder, he faced a chain at the top barring him from climbing onto a tiny platform above the coupling. Concerned that he'd have to hang on until the next station as the train gathered speed, he decided to straddle over the chain so he could stand on the little platform and then push the bar on the coach door to enter into the passenger seating area. Once he'd done this, the train had come to a screeching halt. Trying to look non-chalant, Barry found a seat and feigned fascination with his Sudoku puzzle as the train attendants scurried up and down the aisle looking for the culprit. Eventually one of the uniformed men asked Barry if he had just gotten on the train – to which Barry answered “why, yes!”

“Get off my train,” demanded the Conductor, to which Barry responded that he was terribly sorry. Gathering angry momentum, the Conductor said “It's too late for sorry. As a matter of fact, stay right there. I'm going to call the head office. What's your name? Where are you from? I may even call the police.”

By this time, Barry was more than willing to exit the train, and as the Conductor made calls on his cell phone, a woman piped up from behind him and asked quietly, “Are you from the film?” To which Barry, confident that any publicity is good publicity, responded affirmatively.

“I thought so,” the lady replied with admiration. “When I heard you were from California, I just knew you must be a stunt-man.”

I’m not sure what film she was referring to, but presumably it wasn’t Sniff. And I'm not exactly sure how Barry extricated himself from the train situation either. But we both felt sheepish rolling into Santa Fe, thinking that at any minute the police might cuff him … the geriatric train hopper caught at last! I would have thought a little train-riding bravado would be well-received in cowboy country. I guess the spirit of the Wild West doesn’t extend to commuter choo-choo’s.



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