A Tale of Two Cities

66 Diner on Old Route 66 in Albuquerque
66 Diner on Old Route 66 in Albuquerque

Albuquerque

Albuquerque is the southernmost of the two cities and with a population of nearly half-a-million, it is the largest city in New Mexico. The University of New Mexico is located here along with Sandia Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base and Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. The city is noted for its location on the original Camino Real (Royal Road) that ran all the way into Mexico and old Route 66, which passed through the city on its East-to-West path. Even today, some of the Art Deco highway architecture can still found within the city limits. Currently the new NM Railrunner passes through the city on route from Santa Fe to the southernmost point.

Poster of ongoing art show on display on the exterior of the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe

About 50 miles to the north of Albuquerque at an elevation of 5,000 feet, sits the state  capitol of New Mexico, Santa Fe. Once this frontier outpost was the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail start began in Independence, Missouri and crossed the Kansas prairie to northern New Mexico. Once trade routes were established with the US, merchants here were able to do business with both the US and Mexico and as a result the town flourished. Much of that heritage can be seen today among the numerous trading posts, restaurants, stores and inns that abound in this high altitude city of only 70,000 residents. Despite its small size, Santa Fe is a busy business hub that sees much commerce and trade.

Nm Railrunner Emblem
A bold image of the roadrunner marks the NM Railrunner train.

The Rail Runner 

Linking Santa Fe and Albuquerque by cheap rail has done many things for both cities. The rail cost between 300 and 400 million dollars and was first opened in 2006 with a run between Albuquerque and Belem to the south. In 2008 the train began servicing Santa Fe, so nowadays almost 300,000 one way passes are used every month. Price of a roundtrip same-day ticket are just under $10 dollars, while a one way is only a little bit less.

The railrunner has a been boon to tourism because of the ease of access between the two cities. Also it has created work commuters, who can ride the rails and save fuel and wear and tear on the vehicles. The number of daily riders has risen each year, yet the rail still falls 10 million short on being self-sufficient every year. Considering the rail line between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is less than five-years old, the overall outlook of the rail service is bright and encouraging for other places that might want to consider setting up rail connections between closely located cities. It should be noted that this is not a high-speed service as maximum speed is somewhere around highway speed.

How It Works 

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Night Train

daybreak
daybreak from a train window

This past weekend I was in New York city for the first time in over 20 years. The main function was a family event that took place on Saturday afternoon, so I didn’t get much time to explore the city until about 5 PM, when all my people hopped on a charter bus back to PA, while I got a chance to wander around the city for a few hours until my train pulled out of Penn Station at 3 A.M. As it turned out it was a most fascinating few hours. NYC is like that; a great place no matter what the time of day (or night).

First stop was the Whitney Museum, where the “Abstract Paintings of Georgia O’Keefe” were enjoying their last weekend, before they got taken down. As a result the place was mobbed, and I had less than a hour to enjoy the exhibit, but as far as I was concerned there was not much else to see. That’s because the museum curators had taken down the permanent collection and were preparing to display the Biennial in February. Actually, this was a blessing in disguise for I got to spend the whole time wondering through the multitude of people who had packed the third floor in a sometimes successful effort to find an unobstructed glimpses at one of  the many wonderful abstractions of Ms. O’Keefe.

sunrise from a train
sunrise from a train leaving NYC

Her abstract really is quite unique, for it is nothing short of visual poetry. And this exhibition had a few of her real classics. Included were some of the small intense watercolors she made while teaching art in West Texas (one of the most visually unique places in the country), some botanical abstracts, the tiny black sphere on a large black plane piece, clouds, desert doors and more. To round out the show, there were even a few of Stieglitz’s photographs with Georgia as the au natural model. No wonder the place was jammed; it was a very intelligent show.

From the Whitney I headed downtown wandered around the East Village for a cold half hour in search of the former art scene that once graced this part of town and found little. Instead New Yorker pizza and a warm place to sit pulled me inside. Then back into the cold again and across Houston Street to Soho. Did not get as far as all the Soho galleries, but instead found a nice book store with a coffee bar, definitely a sign of the times, if there ever was one.

night train 2
smoke from a power plant viewed from the Amtrak train

Then it was back on the subway and up to 23th street, where I stopped by my bed and breakfast to pick up my luggage and then on to Penn Station, where I had a reserved seat on the 3:10 to Boston. Since I had a few hours to kill, I swung  by Grand Central just to take a peak at what a real train station looked like. After checking out the classic late 19th century architecture I arrived at the modern and low ceilinged Penn Station and hunkered down for the lengthy wait.

The scene at Penn Station was definitely unique, for the cold weather had forced quite a few homeless into the large labyrinth of walkways, fast food joints and waiting areas. The city police were not in  a mood to force loiterers back out onto the street, so they just dealt with the troublemakers of which there were only a few. Because I was a ticketed Amtrak rider, I got to sit in a special lounge and wait for my train to leave, an event which kept getting postponed.

Finally, at 6:30 the Boston Special pulled out of Penn Station with only several dozen passengers to fill the long line of cars. Free food and drinks were offered to all to compensate for the long delay, so I had a beer and hot dog for breakfast, as I got to watch the horizon turn red above the Long Island Sound. The sunrise actually made the wait worthwhile, as it created a surreal world of solid black shadows, shimmering lights and an indigo and crimson sunrise. My amazing little point-and-shoot digital handled the dark exterior scene as well as can be expected. (you can view the results above) It was a perfect complement to the O’Keefe show.

Buon Anno, Everett Autumn

day view
view from a train window

Bike Ride To The Coast

Sign for Wells Beach, Maine
Wells Beach Maine

Wells Beach is in Maine and it has a beautiful shoreline really. This is the just the sign you’ll find when you disembark from the Amtrak Downeaster that runs between Boston and Portland. The train depot is in the middle of the Maine woods, but I guess they had to put the sign there anyway, so that passengers would know when to get off the train.

Head east for a few miles and you will come across Highway 1 that endless ribbon of blacktop that runs from Maine all the way to Key West. On the other side of the highway is the real Wells Beach, complete with the rollicking surf of the Atlantic Ocean.

This week on a glorious autumn day, I boarded the train in Portland along with my trusty 10 speed and headed for the little depot at Wells.

Upon my arrival at my train stop, I exited the train along with my bicycle and headed for the town of

fall colors
The colors of fall

Wells. At route !, I turned right and went south with my final destination being the Ogunquit Art Museum in the town of Ogunquit.

It was an enjoyable ride down the highway to get to the small Maine tourist town. I did not encounter any wild animals except maybe this wooden sculpture of a bear by Bernard Langlois, a wonderful Maine sculptor, who lived and worked in Maine through much of the latter half of the 20th century.

This bear guarded the premisesof the Ogunquit Museum along with several other of Langlois’ sculptures. For those of you wishing to visit a wonderful, small, American art museum that sits right by the sea, you might appreciate this museum. The collection as well as the location are hard to beat. Be aware that like the Whitney in New York City, this institution deals exclusively with American art and artists. It’s a real jewel of a museum, especially on a colorful autumn day.

Wooden sculpture
Wooden sculpture of a bear

The view of rocky coastline and the ocean at Ogunquit is quite beautiful, as you can see here in the picture. It is a wild and windy landscape dotted with expensive homes, like the ones that are visible across the little cove. Nearby is Perkins Cove a picturesque Harbor where tourists flock to look at the boats and the shoreline or perhaps visit one of the several seafood restaurants to enjoy clam chowder and boiled lobsters.

Even though the day was overcast the woods were very colorful. In fact, the cloudy conditions only added to the intensity of the fall colors. Contrasted with the steel gray skies the colors just seemed to jump right out of the leaves.

Since the season was late the number of visitors and travelers were quite low, but the coast of Maine at Ogunquit everyone seemed content to ride around and visit the few shops and restaurants that were still left open. It was a good day for people who enjoy the peaceful view.

Maine Coastline
rocky coast at Ogunquit, Maine

The coast of southern Maine is noted for its rocky shores but actually in Southern Maine there are many places with wide stretches of sandy beaches. Obviously this is not one of them, but nearby at Wells one can find a wide sandy beach to stroll along.

All in all it was a very nice day to spend along the coast of Maine and it was a real pleasure to ride my bike through the small towns of York County, that small piece of real estate, located at the southern tip of Maine.

red autumn leaves
the fall colors

 

surface of a pond

pond surface in autumn
Line of small boats
boats on a grey day