Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Stateside: Rosalea Goes To Washington (Part 1)

Stateside with Rosalea

Rosalea goes to Washington (Part 1)

Okay, so what are the odds that your faithful correspondent would be checking into the Hinckley Hilton (as the locals here in DC call it) just as Ronald Reagan was checking in for his final flight to California?

Actually, we both left California for DC on the same day - he by plane direct to DC and my by plane to Albuquerque to pick up the Amtrak Southwest Chief where I left off back in October 2001. At that time, ALB's Sunport was the first airport in the country to have armed National Guardsmen patrolling the terminal (because of its proximity to Kirtland Air Force Base), but now it has the normal complement of Transportation Safety Authority security screenersw that you see at every airport in the States.

From the Sunport I took a $10 cab to the city's Amtrak station, which hasn't yet been upgraded, although the local transport centre next to it has. Across the corner from that centre is the most interesting restaurant I've eaten at yet in the US. The Tucanos is a Brazilian grill with a $9.95 all-you-can-eat buffet that has choices ranging from lettuce to Mexican-style beans and rice, to Brazilian items and Southern food like collard greens. Even mashed potatoes.

On your table is a tricolored wooden dowel - turn it so the green end is at the top and servers will come around in procession with vertical skewers of freshly grilled meats - chicken, pork, etc - which you can accept or pass up. Turn the dowel red end up and they'll pass by your table without asking. Lay the dowel on its side and they'll offer you dessert. Frankly, the complimentary appetisers of fried cactus root (like wide, fat potato chips), fried mozarella balls and fried banana, served with a delicious raspberry dipping sauce was a taste delight on its own.

Perhaps because it was the last week before the summer school holidays or perhaps because Amtrak ridership is up, the train was pretty much full. Albuquerque is always quite a long stopover because it's a trading post for local Native American handcrafts, but we had an extra long wait before leaving, because the drug squad came on board and asked everyone to identify themselves and their luggage. One woman in my carriage complained to one of the police officers that it amounted to harassment because the train had already been gone over end to end by Amtrak police with sniffer dogs before it left LA.

The Southwest Chief route in the 1930s was the glamour mode of transport between Chicago and LA for movie stars and magnates, as an article in the June Architectural Digest attests, but it's the views rather than the accommodations that are its selling point today. Still, it's comfortable enough to travel coach and sleep in your seat overnight if you don't want to pay the extra for a sleeping car.

Having instead flown over the rumply ridges of Arizona, and the red cliffs of New Mexico that the train passes through between LA and Albuquerque, my journey began with the New Mexico desert in the early afternoon, then across a corner of Colorado, the whole of Kansas (mainly in the dark during a lightning storm), Missouri, a corner of Iowa, and Illinois. The difference between the landscape and the weather on the Wednesday I left and the landscape and weather I woke up to On Thursday was remarkable: from sunshine and sage green to drizzle and corn green.

A conversation in the cafe car with the grandson of a corn belt corn farmer elicited the information that the old saying the corn should be "knee-high by the Fourth of July" is not such an old saying after all: before the recent advent of new strains of corn, the Fourth of July was when corn was planted. From the same young man I learned how hugee an industry corn and soy crops are to that part of the States. He leapt up to grab a fistful of the small packets of condiments in the cafe car to show me how many contain corn and soy byproducts, and assured me I could safely cook a hamburger wrapped in the USA Today newspaper sitting on our table because it's printed entirely with soy ink.

His enthusiasm stemmed from working as a builder of the huge storage and treatment plants dotted across the countryside where corn and soy seeds have pesticides, fungicides and insecticides added to make the crops more profitable. He was quite a contrast as a travel companion to my seatmate, a young woman from North Carolina who was on her way back home from New Zealand, where she'd been working on organic farms.

Besides Dodge City, Kansas (home of Gunsmoke), the train passes through Marceline, where Walt Disney spent his childhood. Legend has it that Main Street USA at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is based on that little town's main street. The route also crosses both the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, the latter just before Galesburg, home of the poet Carl Sandbug and site of one of the famous 1858 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas seeking to represent Illinois as US Senator. Although Lincoln lost, the debates launched him onto the national stage as a political force to be reckoned with.

By mid-afternoon on Thursday, I arrived in Chicago, with just a short layover before joining Amtrak's Capitol Limited to Washington DC.

(to be continued)


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news