I took the Rail Runner recently for the first time. My eyes have long forgotten the beauty of New Mexico, as it is easy to just focus on the troubled parts.
I was impressed by the whole operation: the cleanliness of the station (Montano), the cleanliness of the train (three levels!) and the friendliness of the staff. There were even hipsters sitting at the tables with their coffee and laptops and many bicycle people talking about concerts and hikes. It made me think I had somehow been sent back in time and was living in Portland again. However, the best part were the tourists.
Tourists? Really? People actually plan, save up money and look forward to their trip to New Mexico? Why? Did they somehow miss all the negative news?
As the trip began, it was hard not to start seeing New Mexico through a tourist’s eyes. I heard the many comments about the ever-present Sandia Mountains, which are truly majestic, the clear blue sky with the one perfect little puffy cloud, the exoticness of passing through so many pueblos on our short trip – “What is Tewa? Honey, get a picture of the Sandia Pueblo sign!”
A large group of beautiful kids got on the train at the Sandia stop. They were all so engaged in listening to one of the older kids telling some random story that you could feel the familiarity, safety and connection they felt toward each other.
I heard comments about the beauty of the art our graffiti artists have left behind. When we passed the obligatory cows and horses, which was often, they all looked content and healthy.
The kids grew excited about going through the various tunnels situated along our route, even though the longest one is like 30 seconds max. I heard the surprise in people’s voices as we passed several lakes along our route; I was actually surprised as well. I heard a kid say “Where are the cowboys and dinosaurs? Don’t they live in rocks like that?”
Finally we entered Santa Fe, The City Different – a moniker that always made me want to gag – realizing, holy cow, it is different. That got me thinking about how New Mexico is different and unique in so many beautiful and positive ways, so full of culture and art and community that it’s easy to forget about it all when we are constantly reminded of the negatives.
I must say it was worth every penny of the $2.25 I paid for my little adventure.