Arrival from Brussels
Years back when I started flight lessons to obtain my private pilot’s license I didn’t believe many hobbies could exceed the cost, aside from Richard Branson style activities like ballooning the world or circling the globe in fancy boats.
Everything I’ve done in between and since: commercial flying and travel, Spanish lessons, skiing, biking and photography, totals less per year combined than renting small planes and flying around the west every few weeks. For that reason I only fly sporadically with friends and instructors, but am still happy I learned..
Turns out there’s another super expensive fun hobby: Collecting old railroad cars. I was in Alamosa, Colorado for a weekend, at which time a group of private railcars owners were overnighting in town during their 2010 tour.
I initially thought the cars on a siding downtown were part of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, a tourist train which operates day trips through the San Luis Valley from Monte Vista to La Veta. On closer look I saw each car was a restored car from a past era – each with gleaming exteriors and beautiful interior appointments.
I was wanding around the tracks later that evening, admiring the cars, and chatted with several owners and their friends who were explained their group and trip while minding their cars.
This group was from the American Association of Private Railcar Owners. Their 2010 trip brought them to Albuquerque, touring to Raton (New Mexico), then Alamosa before heading over La Veta Pass to Pueblo then southeast to Amarillo. They have their cars delivered by attachment (renting space) on Amtrak or a freight company before link them together for the tour. At night they hang out on the
The stay on board their cars overnight, which are complete with bedrooms and galleys – a kind of luxury RV on rails. The only thing they didn’t have was an engine, so they relied on various companies to move them around, like Amtrak or in Alamosa they hired one of the Rio Grande Scenic engines to bring them down to Pueblo.
While I didn’t get invited on board any cars (they had family or friends with them) at night I could see the beautiful lamps inside, brass trim and curtains – amazingly restored to the early 20th century look they once displayed.
For myself as a railfan it was a real treat to see. Fortunately Alamosa is a small friendly town where no one’s concerned with tourists wandering around the small railyards.
The group was happy to engage my questions – the only thing I forgot to ask was where exactly one parks their railcar in the city. I certainly wouldn’t leave mine in urban railyard. Perhaps they roll it into a museum or something.
If you’d like to book a trip yourself they’re happy to share space: Here’s a list of future trips.
More photos below:
California Highway 74, or the Ortega Highway, is a thread of winding road passing through and over the Santa Ana Mountains to Lake Elsinore and the Temecula Valley.
I road tripped this Sunday morning, starting in San Juan Capistrano. After a few housing developments the road gains altitude, and becomes desolate and steep after Nichols Canyon. Nichols Canyon is home to the “Nichols Research Institute.” (Now the Quest Diagnostics Nichols Insitute,) some sort of biotech testing place.
Seven years ago I was on a similar road trip (sans camera) and I passed this building. Curious as to what was past the guard shack I simply drove in, knowingly waved at the security guard, and proceeded up the hill. All the doors were locked so I was only able to see a few buildings and lobbys, but there was a nice koi pond in the garden between the two buildings. You can barely see the secretive glass buildings atop the hill above the trees.
I was taking the turns at a moderate pace remembering warnings of “be careful – many accidents,” when traffic suddenly halted about 15 miles up. In no hurry I contently waited about 15 minutes. When we started creeping forward it was obviousy the accident had been a fatality, as they were loading the deceased into a van. Somebody’s life had ended here Sunday morning at 9:30am – while most likely out for a simple drive just like I was. Comments in the “Southwest Riverside News Network” and OC Register express the family’s emotions.
I stopped at the crest and took some pictures of Lake Elsinore, (above,) and a cool float plane down at the docks. I also swung by “Hells Kitchen,” a biker bar (I didn’t go in,) and “Lookout BBQ” – (it was closed.)
Driving through Lake Elsinore I stopped for coffee at the Circle K, and after pulling in noticed a flatbed tow truck with the mangled motorcycle, and a second two truck pulling a car – with no more damage than an out of place tire, deployed air bag and a crumpled front corner.
Eavesdropping I heard one of the drivers explaining the car was navigating a sharp turn too fast, came upon a slower car – and veered across the double yellow lines, (on a blind curve,) in order to slow down.
In the oncoming lane was a motorcyclist from Newport Beach.
In Lake Elsinore I enjoyed three tacos at Los Panchos, a Mexican restaurant and supermarket. I then headed back to Orange County via the 15, 91 and 241 freeways, instead of a return trip on Ortega Highway
I guess I should be pleased at this because it keeps the swine flu at bay, but I really don’t understand why people who ride Denver’s light rail trains insist on bunching up at the doorways and in the stairwell. (Bike guy excepted of course.)
There’s often plenty of room throughout the car, and standing in front of the doors only impedes those entering and exiting. On more than one occasion I’ve entered a car, elbowed into a pack, then realized ample space was found in the middle.
In this case from last week there were even multiple seats available.
For more subway/train etiquette tips read a favorite site of mine: Subway Blogger.com
And move into the car.
California is a great place. Living in California is also great, provided you work in or within three miles of your home. I was a Los Angeleno for five years. But eventually decided I didn’t want to spend my existence in a car, so I moved back to Colorado. Now I can bike most everywhere, can afford to fly out and VISIT my friends there, and with the leftover cash somehow stumbled into buying a house back when they were giving out loans to any misfit that wandered into a bank. (Surprise surprise – I still have my house.)
This project may alleviate what was the source of misery for myself and still is for many others: traffic and congestion. I spent some time poking around the site of the California High Speed Rail Authority. First time I’ve seen this – its a beautiful, sexy look at what “tomorrowland’ might bring us. The plan is to connect the urban areas of San Diego, Los Angeles/Orange County, and San Francisco and Sacramento by high speed bullet trains which will travel on grade separated routes at upwards of 200 miles per hour.
This site is chock full of extreme detail including routes, trip lengths and planners, station architecture and videos a plenty. It asks and answers almost every question about high speed rail in this region – from city selection to seismic concerns, and touts the benefits high speed rail has brought to countries around the globe. (As if we need to be told.)
The animations are enough to make any train geek (like me) salivate. Imagine riding from downtown L.A. to San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes – speeding through the central valley farms and whizzing in and out of mountain tunnels. Imagine living in South Orange County and being able to maintain a job in downtown L.A. without sitting on the 5 freeway three hours each way. The interurban possibilities alone are amazing, and while not mentioned I see many opportunities for sprucing up connecting regional rail and improving transit inside of these metro areas too.
The good news is that this is one step closer to reality. In last week’s election voters approved Prop 1A, which will start funding for the project. This will be in the best interest given California’s current population of 37 million and the projections for future growth.
Here’s the general project video. Skip ahead since the first two minutes just goes on about how great California is. You can find more animations at cahighspeedrail.ca.gov Best part of the video: The guy clearly explaining “This is NOT Amtrak.”
Rather than wait until 2020 when projected to be complete, I think I would have quite the happy life just living Matrix style in this sexy urban virtual animation world created by Newslands and Company – the group behind these amazing video realities. So long as that hypnotic female voiceover follows me around.
For roadgeeks and those interested in signage and infrastructure…
These were taken while driving up the A10 / E22 motorway from Amsterdam en route to Bolsward, Freisland. The drive is only 120 kilometers.
After the Amsterdam suburbs in North Holland the motorway passes through farmlands while bypassing small towns. The Afsluitdijk (dike,) connects Noord Holland to Friesland.
The second group was taken biking up to the small island village of Marken, northwest of Amsterdam.
I haven’t driven this stretch in over 10 years when I moved to Denver from Michigan. Back then I would drive the full 1,200 miles straight through with numbing exhaustion setting right in around the most congested areas of Chicago and Indiana. Not one of my wiser moves in life.
Along with the Iowa 80 Truck Stop west of the Quad Cities, (pics forthcoming,) another interesting sight is this gigantic quarry southwest of Chicago just east of 294 North. Interstate 80 actually passed over and through it, and its dug out to what looks at least 200 feet deep on all sides. I’m not sure what they’re mining, but this Google map photo doesn’t do justice to the size. (It wasn’t a safe place to pop out for a photo.) It looks like one of those mines you see in South America when Modern Marvels is featuring the world’s largest trucks.
Among some memorable license plates are Michigan’s Child Abuse Prevention Plate which reads “Kids: Just Love ’em” I couldn’t find a picture but I always think – “Well yeah I should hope so…” And, this plate from Indiana.
I’m not sure if this plate speaks for the entire state, or is limited to the occupants of the car – but I guess it doesn’t matter since no foreign visitor has ever bother asked me whether “In God We Trust” on a quarter speaks for me or the entire country either.
For my friends and strangers over at misc.transport.road – some photos of interstate 70 as it winds Glenwood Canyon, Colorado.
I haven’t visited or posted to this group in a while, but there is a usenet board full of folks who are interested in roads, highways, and general infrastructure. If you’ve ever wondered about arcane topics like font styles on overhead signs, new versus old gantry design, and why highways and freeways are numbered the way they are it’s worth a visit. And like any good message board there’s plenty of heated arguments and flame wars too. I’m more into trains and aviation, but it’s very impressive to see the way flyovers and interchanges are designed and put together. Especially if you’ve ever navigated the 105/110 interchange in south Los Angeles.
Even if you’re not into it, it wouldn’t hurt for more people to go take photos of bridges, airports, and train stations in order to ensure your right to admire and photograph them still exist. For more info on Glenwood Canyon and the history of interstate 70 check out Mathew Salek’s comprehensive site.
From December 2006
Above: Park Meadows Mall
Below: 25 and 470 Interchange
Union Station is the terminus of the C, E and H light rail lines. At the west end of downtown is Union Station, which is on par for a major redesign as it becomes the hub for the Fastracks plan, which will expand rail services to the west and north surburbs, as well as the airport and Boulder, (which the “A” and “B” line designation is reserved for).
Currently the station for the C, E, and H lines is on the far side of the Amtrak boarding area on the east side, with a pedestrian tunnel through Union Station to the Lower Downtown (LoDo) neighborhood. To the west side of the station is Platte Park, an area that is being rapidly developed with new high rise condos surrounding Platte Park.
Also served is the major sports complexes: Mile High Stadium, the Pepsi Center, and Coors Field. A bridge is currently being built over interstate 25 to the Highlands neigbhorhood, which will allow access to downtown and the station via a short walk.
Above: Looking west to Platte Park