Garrison Keillor on the Southwest Chief

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
656
Location
Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA
Sounds like the ex-Prairie Home Companion host and writer will be riding the Lake Shore and the Southwest Chief this week. Precisely because he and his English visitors deplore the pejorative phrase, "flyover country." From Looking forward to a week of uninformation - Garrison Keillor: "I look forward to the imminent arrival of my English relatives who love this country so sweetly. They are hikers and in America there’s more to hike. For me the visit is a vacation from listening to people bemoan Mr. Mar-a-Lugubrious and despair about what they read in the morning paper. My Brits can talk your ear off about the depredations of the Tories and they look on the monarchy as a malignancy but they love America in all its splendor, and so I’m taking them to visit [the] Grand Canyon and gaze at geology and descend the Bright Angel Trail into the depth and then learn a great lesson — it is harder descending and easier coming up — which may be applicable in life generally — and we won’t be flying to Arizona, we’ll take the train out of New York and up the Hudson and over to Chicago so they can see the splendor of Ohio and Indiana, and then the Southwest Chief for the splendor of Missouri and Kansas. Most Americans would prefer to fly over Kansas. My Brits will be awestruck at the prairie, the little frame houses on the vast flatness."

I know AU members will respect Mr. Keillor's and his party's privacy, but if they just happen to strike up a conversation at, e.g., breakfast in the dining car while the Chief chugs over the invisible Kansas-Colorado border, let's hear about it. (This easterner marveled at the vast flatness. A "horizon" isn't something yinz see much, growing up in Pittsburgh.)
 
That is great that Mr. Keillor is taking the train, the perfect way to introduce his British relatives to the USA in a way that you can truly see it, from a train. We did that exact trip back in 2021.

It's a shame that even Brits don't understand the value of the Monarchy but then that is a discussion for another forum.
 
The invisible Colorado-Kansas border is marked on even the most under-utilized highways, such as US36.
View attachment 33371

When I was a kid and we crossed state lines, from PA to OH or WV or wherever, I actually expected there to be dotted or dashed lines, like on a map. And for everything to look "different." Like maybe another color. Children can be so literal-minded.
 
When I was a kid and we crossed state lines, from PA to OH or WV or wherever, I actually expected there to be dotted or dashed lines, like on a map. And for everything to look "different." Like maybe another color. Children can be so literal-minded.
Upon returning from Salem and the State Fair to Portland, we would see the sign denoting the 45th parallel. Our dad would ask, since we were halfway there, whether we wanted to go the rest of the way to the North Pole. Answers depended on how tired we were.

The Washington--Idaho border is usually crossed in the night, but on the Mainstreeter in 1966 I didn't know we had crossed it until we rolled through conditional stop Athol, Idaho.
 
When I was a kid and we crossed state lines, from PA to OH or WV or wherever, I actually expected there to be dotted or dashed lines, like on a map. And for everything to look "different." Like maybe another color. Children can be so literal-minded.
When I was a kid, we used to take US 1 from Philly to Baltimore. When we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, you could see the difference in the pavement and the shoulders of the road were different, too. The roads in Maryland were always in better shape than those in Pennsylvania, something that holds true even to this day. I also used to like riding through the Lincoln Tunnel, where they put the New Jersey-New York State line right into the tile lining the tunnel.
 
The Washington--Idaho border is usually crossed in the night, but on the Mainstreeter in 1966 I didn't know we had crossed it until we rolled through conditional stop Athol, Idaho.

It's a curious coincidence that that is one of rather few state line crossings that is marked with a railside sign today: see the white sign at right, in the attached Google Street View shot of the place where WA-290 turns into ID-53. Cant make it out in this view, but if memory serves, the wording on the railside is "Washington-Idaho State Line," in letters somewhat less than half the size of the usual siding names, since it's a lot more text on the same size of signboard.
 

Attachments

  • Capture.JPG
    Capture.JPG
    104.7 KB · Views: 0
The invisible Colorado-Kansas border is marked on even the most under-utilized highways, such as US36.
View attachment 33371
My Wife took US 36 to get the out of Sulphur Springs Indiana on her way to California 1960. Thinking about it now, I once traveled on 36 from Springfield Illinois to Colorado. That scenery does look familiar. 👀
 
My Wife took US 36 to get the out of Sulphur Springs Indiana on her way to California 1960. Thinking about it now, I once traveled on 36 from Springfield Illinois to Colorado. That scenery does look familiar. 👀
US 36 is four lane all the way across Missouri now and I've heard it's a good route.

There aren't any big metro areas between St. Joe and Denver but parts of the highway are extremely straight for miles.
 
Years ago, the largest US motor freight carrier was Consolidated Freightways. In order to avoid high fuel taxes, especially in Iowa, they ran across US 36 between Colorado and Illinois, rather than I-80. Another reason was Iowa restricted "doubles" to 60', while the national average back then was 65' It used to look like they "owned" that highway.
 
Last edited:
Sounds like the ex-Prairie Home Companion host and writer will be riding the Lake Shore and the Southwest Chief this week. Precisely because he and his English visitors deplore the pejorative phrase, "flyover country." From Looking forward to a week of uninformation - Garrison Keillor: "I look forward to the imminent arrival of my English relatives who love this country so sweetly. They are hikers and in America there’s more to hike. For me the visit is a vacation from listening to people bemoan Mr. Mar-a-Lugubrious and despair about what they read in the morning paper. My Brits can talk your ear off about the depredations of the Tories and they look on the monarchy as a malignancy but they love America in all its splendor, and so I’m taking them to visit [the] Grand Canyon and gaze at geology and descend the Bright Angel Trail into the depth and then learn a great lesson — it is harder descending and easier coming up — which may be applicable in life generally — and we won’t be flying to Arizona, we’ll take the train out of New York and up the Hudson and over to Chicago so they can see the splendor of Ohio and Indiana, and then the Southwest Chief for the splendor of MiHeyssouri and Kansas. Most Americans would prefer to fly over Kansas. My Brits will be awestruck at the prairie, the little frame houses on the vast flatness."

I know AU members will respect Mr. Keillor's and his party's privacy, but if they just happen to strike up a conversation at, e.g., breakfast in the dining car while the Chief chugs over the invisible Kansas-Colorado border, let's hear about it. (This easterner marveled at the vast flatness. A "horizon" isn't something yinz see much, growing up in Pittsburgh.)
 
US 36 is four lane all the way across Missouri now and I've heard it's a good route.

There aren't any big metro areas between St. Joe and Denver but parts of the highway are extremely straight for miles.
US36 has major stretches in Colorado that don't parallel a railway. (Railhead in Kansas is St. Francis.) It was intended to be the fastest route between Denver and Kansas City. There aren't enough people in the straight stretch to populate a Lake Wobegon. Here's the rest area.

Summer05b 022.jpg
 
Here’s a quote from Garrison Keillor’s article from earlier in the week about riding the Keystone from Lancaster: link below.

==============================

RIDING THE TRAIN FROM LANCASTER
by Garrison Keillor (excerpt)
August 2023

“I am obligated to be an optimist because I’ve had a lucky life — I had a big career in a field for which I had no aptitude, my heart got surgically repaired, I married well on the third try — so it’d be dishonest to sing about the water tasting like turpentine and wanting to lay my head on the railroad line so the 4:19 can ease my troubled mind, so I don’t, I sing Van Morrison’s “These Are the Days of the Endless Summer,” but I respect skeptics and I’m glad that investigative journalism is at work shedding light on dark corners.
Take the recent piece in the Times about the NRA’s transformation from an organization of sportsmen to a powerhouse lobby that ruled Congress and expanded the Second Amendment so that we now have 400 million guns in the country and mass killings are a routine matter that has poisoned urban life. You read the piece with disgust at the machinations of politicians, and then you set it aside and enjoy the day. I got to ride the Keystone Express out to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and do a show at which I sang, with my friends Heather and Christine, Jerry Garcia’s “Attics of My Life” and Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” and the audience joined in on the “Sha la la la la la la la la la la la de da,” which we repeated several times until we got the correct number of las. You cannot allow the existence of evil to overshadow the beauty of life in this splendiferous world we walk around in.
Pennsylvania: you have to love a state with towns named Blue Bell, King of Prussia, Wissahickon, Mount Airy, Flourtown, Conshohocken, West Conshohocken, Swedeland, Schnecksville, Lumberville, Plowville, Normal Square, Jim Thorpe, Mount Joy. The map of Pennsylvania is a testament to individuality. The developers of suburbia prefer generic names, such as Riverside and Lawnview but the Keystone State is a land of proud originality.
Not far from where we sang, we saw Amish boys and girls in solemn traditional garb playing volleyball and whooping and laughing and this, rather than the latest shooting, is the real news, the happy persistence of independence and the acceptance of it by the neighbors. The Amish set up tents in cornfields and offer dinner to the tourists, fried chicken and corn on the cob, and I hear that it’s very amiable and the corn is fresh off the stalk and fairly fabulous.””

Here is the link to the rest of Garrison’s wonderful story.
Riding the train home from Lancaster - Garrison Keillor
 
Last edited:
I'll be on the SW Chief this Thursday with my 3 grandkids, CHI to ABQ.......(my birthday on 8/11, celebrating in the diner!!) .returning on 8/20. Looks like we missed the boat (er the TRAIN!) ..he was riding Last Week!?!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLYN!
Here’s something from Garrison to add to your celebration !!!
 
A postcard from Keillor. He and his party of nature-loving Tory-detesting Brits boarded the westbound Lake Shore, on their way to catch the Southwest Chief. "Friday afternoon, I boarded the Lake Shore Limited in New York, bound for Chicago and then the Grand Canyon, along with my Londoner stepdaughter and her husband who are ambitious hikers and eager to experience one of nature’s great erosion projects. We chugged through tunnels under Manhattan and then emerged along the mighty Hudson, on our way to Schenectady and Syracuse, and along Lake Michigan* through Ohio and Indiana, not far from the route my ancestors David and Martha Ann Powell traveled 150 years ago with a milk cow tied to a wagonload of babies, including my great-grandpa James Wesley....I love trains. The food was bad but the conversation was good. Something about motion stimulates talk. I come from people of few words; they should’ve gotten on bicycles, it would’ve loosened them up. The train stopped for maintenance problems, then hit top speed to make up the time, so it was a rough ride, a lot of bucketa-bucketa, which stimulated a wild night of interesting dreams."

I'm not stalking Keillor but I'm thinking this was last Friday, August 11. The details fit, because according to our invaluable Amtrak Status archives, train 49 left New York 18 minutes late, was an hour behind schedule by Syracuse, and neither gained nor lost much time between there and Chicago.

* And yeah, in Ohio that oughta be Lake Erie.

Read the full post at A happy summer clears the air.
 
Back
Top