Amtrak Cross-Country Train Ride Gets Grade A

I dislike the term “bucket list” because I don’t plan to kick one anytime soon. But I am a fan of keeping a “goals list” because I do believe we can speak things into being. So…one of my long time goals has been to take a cross-county train trip. And so at the tender age of 58, last week I did just that.

The last time I took a train trip of any distance, I was probably 6 or 7 years old. From adulthood, I have longed to board a train and see some scenery…a LOT of scenery.  

I took the Amtrak train from Houston to Los Angeles, and another from Los Angeles to Seattle. These routes are called the Sunset Limited and the Coastal Starlight, and encompass some of America’s premier visuals in panoramic scenery. All total, I was about 75 hours on the train. It was long, but so very worth it.

For those who don’t care for the details of which I shall shortly regale, here is the skinny on why I give an overall grade for Amtrak of an A. Everything was great, much better than expected many times. The only reason for less than an A+ was because there were many delays. For the most part they were unavoidable. I was very forgiving because, frankly, if you are on a super tight schedule, you probably aren’t taking the train. So here are some pretty pictures, then I will get into the meat of the matter.

So I guess my first surprise was just how engaging every aspect of the experience was for me. I expected to do a lot of reading, writing, (like, serious writing such as blogging, poetry, recently born narratives, etc) and perhaps some idle chatter. But from the moment I arrived at the Houston station, I was enthralled by the experience of people, motion, visuals and general novelty. I could not concentrate in any way. I was like an ADD jack rabbit without my meds.

So here are my contributions to Life Aboard a Train, USA style.

I first arrived at the Houston Amtrak station about 2 1/2 hours early. It is not necessary to arrive more than 30-40 minutes, unlike the airport. You check in at the window, show an ID, and you’re done. Nothing checked or searched. It was quite liberating. Interestingly, there were a half dozen Homeland Security folks hanging around the area. I don’t know if this is normal or not. But I liked to think if there were bad guys/gals around, they might have passed on by with the presence of the Feds. When the train arrives, you get in line as follows: handi-capped and seniors, then a regular line, and finally those in sleeper cars. You are given an assigned seat if you are riding in coach, which I was. I was SO excited as I boarded that train!

I was lucky; on this train the very next car from mine was the observation car, which has the cafe in the lower level. I marched on down, got a drink from John, a most pleasant and cordial host, and sat at a table in the obs car as we pulled out of Houston. I watched the sun go down somewhere far west of the city. For you geography buffs, we followed old Highway 90 for much of the trip, even out into far west Texas.

So this post is turning into a rather unweildy process. I shall end this here and I ask you to read the next installment of the series. I’m not being coy, just practical in blogging management. Please read on!

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Posted in Amtrak, Coastal Starlight, Sunset Limited, Traveling, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Five Days and Counting

In a short five days I will be embarking on a three day, three night trip on Amtrak.

I plan to blog and share pictures of the experience. I will be leaving Houston at 6:55 pm Wednesday and arriving Los Angeles at 5:30 am Friday. From LA I will take the train north to Seattle and will arrive around 8:15 Saturday evening. And my precious daughter will be there to greet me!

So here is my first blog ever done from an IPad. Hopefully, the mistakes will be minimal. Thanks to Amtrak for the picture.

Posted in Amtrak, Bucket List, Coach, Trains, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

My Village People: A Tribute to the Cullimores

In family parlance, there are those who say it takes a village to raise a child. I wholeheartedly concur. Through the wonders of social media, I have recently been in contact with a family who, through their shear benevolence, helped shape me into the person I became, and the parent I continue to be. It is my purpose here to at last say “Thank you. You have no idea how important you were.”

I was parented by a fabulous, devoted, sacrificing, smart, and driven single, school-teaching mom. She was relentless in her devotion to my sister and me. And early in the process her sister came along and we added the equally awesome Aunt Marcella to our nuclear mix.

But I must acknowledge some people who played immeasurable roles in who I turned out to be. And that would have to start with the Cullimores.

Arriving from deep Appalachia to Pasadena, Texas in 1966, nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock. New climate, new people, new schools, new everything. But nary a friend. Until a little girl in the second or third grade reached out to me, and my life was blessed with De’ann Cullimore. But with De’Ann I got so much more than a friend. Because she shared her wondrous family with me.

And sharing is the word for the Cullimore family. They scooped me up and took me places I literally didn’t know existed. They took me berry picking. And then let me help them eat the cobbler Mrs. Cullimore prepared. So many Firsts with this family. They took me to see fireworks at Pasadena Plaza. We sat on the back of a giant car and I experienced the awestruck power of a million chips of color and light. They invited me to sleepovers and family dinners served with warmth and cheerful banter.

And Mr. Cullimore taught me to fly a kite! Oh, how I will never forget the first feel of a kite pulling strongly at my fingers. And it wasn’t just the flying part. Mr. Cullimore taught me everything. How to construct the kite. How to put on a proper, functioning kite tail. How to let your string out at just the right time. How to bring one back, and even what to do when a kite got treed.

And, oh! The swimming! Mr. Cullimore was a chiropractic student and their nearby school had…count them…THREE swimming pools their students and families could use! Because I was clearly the luckiest kid in the world, the Cullimores took me swimming many times. And again, Mr. Cullimore taught me so many things. I was savagely afraid of opening my eyes under water. He was so patient, yet so convincing in his argument as to why I should face the fear and open my eyes. And I did! And the bubbles were beautiful! And he was right again!

But even more than the experiences they allowed me to join them in, the Cullimores taught me what a functioning mom/dad/kids dynamic looked like. When I would ask De’Ann if she could do thus and so, she would say, “Well, I must ask my dad.” And Dad would respond, “Well, it’s okay with me, but you must ask your mother.” Wow. What a concept to little lost me. Two parents. Collaborating. Like friends.

Needless to say, I owe much of my own functioning family dynamics to the shared teaching and behavior modeled for me by this family. Our kids are grown and off to college now, but through the years I never forgot how to strive to behave like a family someone would want to be a part of. There have been many kids who have wandered through our doors. And those doors were worth wandering through in large part because of the Cullimores.

Share your family love. Be a part of the village. And maybe you will be the Cullimores to somebody’s kids someday.

To the Cullimore family, my deepest thanks.

 

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Posted in Children, Divorce, Family, Friendship, Fun, Motherhood, Teaching, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mrs. Hagan’s Allegory

So as I am teaching my lively 7th graders about allegories today, this idea arrived. Mrs.HagansAllegory

Posted in Allegory, Badgers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Poems for Because

Poems for sorrow
Poems for joy
Poems that somehow must employ
Words that matter
Rhymes that zip
Cadences that roll off lips.

Poems for laughter
Poems for mirth
Poems that make you question worth
Of putting words
In certain form
To harken back to “Nevermore.”

Dare you say it
Dare you try
To put out meanings for all and I
Find challenges
In all such things
Dare to see what joy it brings.

Go to bed now
Sleep must come
Must be ready for then and some
Renewal days
And weeks and months
Careful to avoid the slumps.

Dorothy Hagan
March 20, 2017

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Posted in cadences, edgar allen poe, Emily Dickinson, Female Poets, Poems, Poetry, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Skipping the Dam Tour

On driving in…rocks, rocks.
Lots of rocks.

Mountains majestic…and desert bare.
Rocks, rocks. Lots of rocks.

My origins from East
Make West alien.

Arresting, rugged, tall, these rocks.
Mighty H dam is dizzying in scope.

So the tour…signage thus:
DO NOT enter if you…
Have a pacemaker.
No, but I plan to need one.
Have a defibrillator.
No, but also on my to-do list.
Are claustrophobic.
Bingo! No dam tour for me!

But no worries…none.
Sitting outside taking in sun.
People watching while sipping the bean,
Contemplating in a state of serene,
How they tamed these rocks and made them mind,
A more interesting place you’re not likely to find,
Amid rocks. Rocks.
Lots of rocks.

Dorothy Hagan
March 13, 2017

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Posted in Desert, Fun, Hoover Dam, mountains, Poetry, Uncategorized, YOLO | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Healthcare Solution: CongressCare

It’s so simple. The solution to our access to healthcare dilemma is right in front of us: CongressCare. Why shouldn’t every person in the United States have the same access to healthcare that our members of Congress enjoy? I mean, really, why not?

How is it that the elected leaders standing there pushing ways to limit our access to healthcare are the same ones who can use their government insurance to go anywhere they want?

And before anyone says, well, the country can’t afford that, understand that Congress is being paid by our tax dollars. They are on the government payroll. All of them. And somehow we taxpayers can afford to pay for their insurance.

And before anyone says, I don’t want no government insurance, it seems to be working fine for members of congress, their spouses and their children. Has anyone in the US Senate not been able to get their child to the doctor? No, I didn’t think so.

Fellow Americans, I am as serious as I can be. Call your members of congress and your senators and your president to demand CongressCare for everyone. Flood them, overwhelm them, convince them that the American people are just as deserving as they are when it comes to access to healthcare.

CongressCare

Where US citizens get the same access to healthcare as the elected leaders we employ.

Demand it today.

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