Running Down the Tracks
“Rail Runner, the coyote’s after you; Rail Runner, if she catches you you’re through!”
That’s the message from New Mexico Governor, Suzanna Martinez, who has threatened to cut the expense of running the Rail Runner train, to sell the trains, and count coup for her vastly conservative administration. But it would hurt all who anticipate the future (with vastly increased gasoline prices), the government center in Santa Fe, and the community spirit of this stunningly beautiful, and remarkably liberal town.
It’s a cool run from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, past a prairie dog colony, down by the flat roofs and tiny windows of adobe dwellings, beside the old Santa Fe Brewery, travelling across the chamisa desert, passing rabbitbrush, juniper trees, and arroyos, cows, windmills, and solar panels along the way. The Rail Runner, the train that was financed by Congress, connects Albuquerque to its richer, more famous neighbor to the north. The round trip price is eight dollars and it takes roughly an hour to ride each way for the 300 or so people who regularly board; the riders travel in comfort on this train that the former governor supported with zeal. As a visitor (I used to be a resident of Santa Fe), it is a pleasure to travel by train and to have the luxury of seeing the landscape that I’m visiting. The train is more than a luxury though, for the riders who take it for transportation to get to their jobs and it runs through the Kewa pueblo, where native Americans can use it for connection to the rest of New Mexico.
The land is dry and windy across this expanse of the state, which accounts for the windmills bringing up water, as it is very, very hot and sunny. The mountains, the Sandias, are a high dinosaur’s crest immediately out of Albuquerque and the mountains around Galesteo creep to the east, providing a lonesome look of the shadows-and-light, crenulated view of the parched New Mexican landscape. There are also five locomotives for this short run. The trains were built in Boise, Idaho, and occasionally run more than 100 miles per hour running on diesel and electric power. The government is looking into running the trains on biodiesel.
On the way back to Santa Fe, the sunshine warmed my shoulders in late afternoon, lit the Rio Grande like a coppery snake and the snarled and bent cottonwoods which graced the extended plain. An arroyo cut through as we lifted beyond the river plain with purple, charcoal, and chalk colored cliffs that led to a juniper dotted mesa. It was very scenic! The short trip was full of surprises that ended with the Meep! Meep! call of the roadrunner, a gentle warning to mind the rail.
I gotta think that the Rail Runner is going to outsmart wily ol’ Governor Martinez with little more than the sweet little Meep! Meep!, like the warning little buzz of a rattlesnake.
If any are interested I will provide the financial and political analyses for you; just let me know.