On the Shoofly - January 2020
- Story and photos by John M. Dumoulin
“Oh the places you’ll go!
There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.
There are games to be won.”
So begins Dr. Suess’s last book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” published exactly 30 years ago this month. The book is a favorite classic, as popular a gift for college graduates as it is one for kindergarteners. But the phrase stuck with me as Rosie and I started out on our train ride adventure to Los Angeles last September.
Someday, hopefully very soon, we’ll all be able to hop an Amtrak train from Bay Saint Louis to see the Pacific Ocean. Or Chicago, or New York City, or even Quebec City in Canada. In less than the time it takes to watch a movie at the Beacon, you’ll be able to show the e-ticket on your phone to the conductor here in The Bay and ride over to New Orleans to catch the Sunset Limited. Or, if you prefer, take Amtrak’s City of New Orleans sleeper car to Chicago – a leisurely 18-hour ride.
On the Shoofly
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For now, though, if you want to get to the Pacific Ocean by passenger rail, you’ll have to start in New Orleans. We did. And since it’s a two-night trip, you’ll really want to book a bedroom in a sleeper car. Your ticket includes a private window seat; grants you access to the first-class lounge at each train station you visit; provides you with a private bathroom and shower; and feeds you three meals a day in the dining car.
“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.”
We also met Richard, a North Carolina assistant professor, and his girlfriend, Pat, and I had a nice long talk with Phil on the platform in San Antonio. He noticed my NASA t-shirt, and we compared the NASA center where he worked with my experiences in Huntsville, Alabama, from where I recently retired.
The trip wasn’t incident-free, but what vacation would be memorable without unexpected turns and surprises? At one point Amtrak routed us by bus around floods from a tropical storm, and our departure from one station in California was delayed after a cook injured himself in the kitchen. But we always seemed to arrive in time -- although sometimes a few minutes later than planned -- to catch the excursion bus or hop back onto the rail car to our journey’s next stop.
Once in Los Angeles, we toured by bus and rental car, exploring the city from the Santa Monica Pier, to Hollywood and the Griffith Planetarium, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. We walked in the Pacific Ocean along Muscle Beach and drove south towards San Diego along the scenic western slopes of the Santiago Hills. From Los Angeles, we transferred to Amtrak’s Southwest Chief for a side trip to the Grand Canyon and eventually Yosemite, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. But those adventures will have to wait to be included in another article!
“So…be your name Buzbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”