Last Blast of Winter Trip – April 1999 Part VIII

As I continued along Route 287, I suddenly realized that I had never seen the B & N tracks so busy. I was remembering a week ago when I noticed an inordinate amount of traffic, and now, there seemed to be even more highballin’ freights. It was the consummate crowning stroke of the trip, waving at the engineers and giving the ol’ “pull the cord” gesture, identifiable as “please, blow your horn”. It always stupefied me how much time and revenue was wasted on having one train sit idle on a spur to allow the other train to pass by. It seemed to me as long as they were laying one track, why not go ahead and lay double tracks at the same time. Surely, the added cost of an additional track would be overridden by the savings in time. I don’t know…it’s just pure speculation. All I know is, from my annual stockholder’s report, Union Pacific R.R. cannot lay track fast enough to accommodate all the increase in freight traffic (some stretches in Nebraska have three and four track intervals). That is reassuring.

The northwest winds that had whipped through Colorado were finally catching up with me, as I rode a slight tailwind with a glorious sun setting in my rear-view mirror. It was one of those serendipitous settings, gliding along quietly into the advancing darkness. Poetically, the rest area that I had been anticipating came into view, and I pulled off for a final night’s sleep on the road. It was still twilight, and I noticed a camper-on-back-of-a-cab with New Mexico plates, obviously parked for the night. A glow of light from within revealed an elderly gentleman reposed with a book. I went over and knocked on his screen door, and asked, “What part of New Mexico you from?” He obligingly came out, and said he was from Rio Rancho. I immediately recognized it as a suburb north of Albuquerque. Turned out, he was on his way to Marshall, Texas, to visit his brother. We talked for about a hour, mainly about what was going on in Bernalillo County. Of course, the gist of the conversation centered around the inexorable growth of Albuquerque. We both agreed it was out of control. I said, “You know, Cliff, I wish Albuquerque would put a moratorium on their development, like Boulder, Colorado has done, but I premonish that will never happen. The Chamber of Commerce will always promote that ‘bigger is better’. The trouble is, the only thing bigger will be the traffic jams.” Having exhausted my diatribe, we said good night, and the coal trains kept rumblin’ on by about thirty feet away.

I awoke the next morning, disappointed at seeing my Rio Rancho friend had packed it in and moved it on out. I had hoped we could share a few more minutes together, but it wasn’t meant to be. “Over a cup of coffee” was usually the signature of the road, when wanting to get together the next morning. Now that was one ritual I was not missing – firing up the butane burner to heat the pot of water to mix with the instant Folgers and Coffee-mate and Sweet n’ Low. I never liked coffee anyway…it was just something hot to drink to accommodate smoking. Since I had jettisoned the nicotine craving, my new addiction was a glass of cold orange juice. And besides, what a great feeling in my mouth…no more Scope-swishing.

As I rolled onto Route 287, I could still feel the remnants of the nor’western’ that had blown through Colorado two days before. What a blessing…it had kept me refrigerated just enough for a good night’s sleep, and now the north breeze was raisin’ my rear end and pushin’ me on home. I rolled up to apt. 415, 1900 miles and 8 days wiser. I thanked the Good Lord for getting me home safely.


  1. S. I sold the El Dorado a week later. What a relief.

William C. Early © 1999