I love trains. I don't collect toy trains, I don't know the names and types of engines or cars. For me, it's the romance. It's the sound of the whistle, nowadays the horn, off in the distance. It's witnessing a train navigate the Tehachapi Loop, one of the wonders of track engineering. And it's the sound of the train rolling down the track and how it's permeated into the Rock and Roll, Folk and Blues music I love. Trains have stoked the fires of free wheeling spirits, my own included.
Watching trains brings me back to an older, slower time. A time before Google. A time before we had smart phones, and every answer was at our fingertips. Watching a train cross a trestle, go through a pass, or even navigate the famous Tehachapi Loop takes some pause in these modern times. But it's impressive how much is getting done, how many hundreds, even thousands of tons are passing by you, moving from one destination to another.
The opening track on my album, So Long City, is called When You're New to Town. It opens with a train coming up the tracks, a couple of horn honks followed by the Doppler Effect of the passing engine. I recorded it myself in the Columbia River Gorge. To me, the sound of the train established movement, which is what that song is about at it's start....but by the end it's about trying to find roots. These two elements play out inside my heart all the time. I long for the road, but once I'm on it, I can't wait to get home. That lonesome train whistle, or again these days a horn, perfectly captures that feeling for me.
I can't remember how we found this Navajo market off of I40. I think Susan was driving. She probably saw a sign and pulled off. Once we exited the interstate, we were in a much more interesting world. It could have been an old section of Route 66. It was at least an old country road. The pavement was cracked but it ran straight both east and west as far as my eyes could see. Power poles running parallel to the road gave the distance an even eerier and lonelier perspective. I stood out on the road with our dog, Paco, for about half an hour. No other cars ever passed. Susan was in the store shopping for moccasins. After one quick spin through, I was bored. But that empty road and the fantastic, "HERE IT IS" billboard on the other side, was drawing me in. I took some pictures, but nothing seemed to completely capture the magnificence of this sign. It was both ornate, for a billboard, and dilapidated like an old barn. I stood there for a long time, taking it in. I mellowed.
We crossed back over the road to the store's parking lot. I thought about going back in the store to see what was taking Susan so long. I looked one more time down the road to the west and to the east. No one coming still. But way off to the east, I saw it. A train was lumbering down the tracks. Here it is, for you. I find this soothing to watch. Take your time. Watch a train.