Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

Old Curiosity Shop for August 2020

And I feel like I gotta travel on…  (With credit to Paul Clayton)

Bobby Boy hasn’t ventured far from the Old Curiosity Shop lately, observing “shelter in place” instructions and venturing forth mostly in search of food and medicine (although our local apothecary has been supplying us with the help of the US Postal Service.)  So now is a good time to recall travel to far corners of the USA:

States visited list:

Over the last few years, I have posted articles about states in the USA that I have visited and some where I have yet to set foot.  There was another “been there, done that” list in Facebook recently; among other things, it mentioned that the average American has only visited eight states, and some have never left the state where they were born.  I must be ahead in this game, because there are only nine that are still on the “to do” list.  One oddity is that four of them are in North-South pairs, the Dakotas and the Carolinas.

One of my travel memories is from the time I was coming back from Chicago in 1985.  I didn’t have enough vacation time to use Amtrak to get there for the Railway Museums convention at Illinois Ry. Museum, and, since this was going to be my first interstate flight, I asked a colleague who had a private pilot’s license for advice.  He recommended Delta, and I found flights that used Ontario Airport, thus avoiding LAX.  Going eastward, I had some layover time at Dallas-Fort Worth, so I rode their unique inter-terminal guideway system just for the heck of it.  

Coming back, the connection was a bit closer, and both the arriving and departing flights left the same terminal.  Transferring passengers were loaded first onto the plane headed for ONT, then people from Texas were boarded.  I noticed a group of about ten young men, and thought they might be on a sports team.  One of them was my seat mate for the trip, and I noticed that he was carrying a department store shopping bag.  I found out that he was the squad leader for the US Marine Corps recruit squad from Central Texas, and they were on their way to San Diego for boot camp.  The bag had all of their orders and other paper work. I got the impression that the leader took his assignment seriously, and those papers couldn’t have been any more secure in an attaché case with a handcuff.  We chatted for a bit, and he told me, “I’ve been around the country a few times, but some of us have never been further than the county seat.”  As we left the plane in Ontario, I wished the squad good luck, and added, “May you have adventure, but not too much adventure.” 

Alabama:  I have yet to be “Alabama Bound” and it’s fairly low on the “must see” list.

Alaska:  I finally added the 49th State to my list in 2017 when Pat and I took a Holland American cruise from Vancouver BC to Seward and visited Denali Park.  I added two more railroads to my life list. 

Ketchikan, Alaska, where I learned that friends don’t let friends eat farm-raised salmon. 

Arizona:  I had been through the Grand Canyon State on the train in 1951, but the first time I set foot there was to bring back my first wife’s Toyota in 1969 (long story).  In 1971, I got off the train in Winslow for photos, back before the Eagles made the town famous.  First major exploration was in 2004, when Pat’s cousin and his wife were visiting from New Hampshire and wanted to tour the Southwest—nothing like visitors from Back East to inspire a tour of places one hadn’t thought about because they’re not that far away.

Arkansas :  “Tell your mama, tell your pa, I’m goin’ back to Arkansas.”  We visited the northwest corner of the Razorback State in 2007 so I could ride and run one of the streetcars at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum.  Then in 2011, I went to Little Rock for a family gathering and to ride the Little Rock streetcar line.

 

After an absence of many decades, streetcars returned to Little Rock in 2004 

California    The heart symbol indicates that I was born here, so my “California Saga” has many chapters.

Colorado:  First time I set foot in the Centennial State was during my 1971 cross country trip.  Got off the train to stretch in La Junta; it was just getting dark and I could barely make out the Rocky Mountains on the west and the Great Plains to the east.  First overnight stay was in Limon in 1990, when the town was recovering from a terrible tornado.

Connecticut :  Memories from the 1951 train trip: the heavy duty overhead wire structure on the New Haven RR and the A. C. Gilbert plant (home of Erector Sets).  First visit, July 1977 to see the Shoreline Trolley Museum (and run one of their streetcars).

Delaware:  First set foot during the 1990 cross-country drive, stayed overnight in 1994 while visiting DuPont sites.

Florida :  The Sunshine State (but we have plenty of that in California) does have some interesting railway operations, but it also has unpleasant insects and large reptiles.  If I ever do visit Florida, and encounter one of the latter critters, it would be “See You Later, Alligator” time.

Georgia:  I’ve only been in Georgia long enough to change planes.

Hawaii :  I missed my big opportunity to visit the Aloha State when I had relatives living on the Big Island, but it might be interesting to ride the Honolulu rapid transit line when it’s done.

Idaho :  Back in 2001, we went through Idaho during out Western States tour after visiting the Golden Spike Historic Site in Utah.  In 2006 we attended a Life on Wheels session in Moscow, assuring friends that we would be nowhere near the Kremlin or Red Square.

Illinois:  My first memory of the Prairie State was seeing the State Prison in Joliet on the way to Chicago, long before it became the abode of the Blues Brothers.  In Chicago, I set foot because back in 1951 there were about half a dozen railroad terminals, and many cross country trips required a limo ride to make connections.  In the following years, I made Chi-town or the suburb of Evanston my base for day trips.

Indiana:  My first visit to the Hoosier state other than passing through on the train was in 1971, when I rode the South Shore electric railway from Chicago to Hammond.  For someone who grew up in Los Angeles County, the idea of getting on an interurban car, traveling 21 miles and being in another state was weird.  From where I live, the nearest state line is an international boundary.  In 2007 and 2011, we stayed overnight in RV parks, and visited the RV museum in Elkhart, but that’s about it.

The RV Museum in Elkhart IN—this exhibit had me re-writing an old Beach Boys song: “It’s my Little Deuce Truck, with a house on the back…”

Iowa:  I passed through the Hawkeye State in 1951 and 1971 on the train, and 1977 on the bus, but didn’t visit until 1990, when we routed the cross country motor trip through Mason City so I could see one of the few electric-powered freight railways left in the US and ride the Boone and Scenic Valley line, which crosses a river on a rusty steel bridge that did not inspire confidence in Pat.

Kansas:  The Sunflower State is special because it’s the native state of my sister-in-law.  My first set-foot moment was in 1981, when I did the No Scene Twice Seen trip from Pasadena to New York on Amtrak.  When the eastbound train stopped briefly at Dodge City, I stepped off for a stretch.  It was after midnight, and the town was very quiet, rather like Marshal Dillon had done a very effective job of rounding up or running out the bad guys.  I finally got a good look at Kansas in the daytime on our 2011 cross-country RV trek.  Had some good railroad experiences and visited a telephone museum with reminders of my old day job.

Kentucky:  Our only contact with Kentucky has been going through Fulton at 0-dark-30 on the Amtrak City of New Orleans in 1989.

Louisiana:  The same 1989 tour took us to New Orleans on the Amtrak Sunset.  While the rest of the tour group took a boat ride through a bayou, I visited the carbarn where the vintage streetcars were kept and maintained, with not one but two guided tours of the facility.

Maine:  My first visit to the Pine Tree State was in July 1977, when I was staying with fellow streetcar fan Paul Ward in the Boston area, and he took me to see the Mother Church of Electric Railway Preservation, Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport.  I visited there again in 1990, with the Dodge Aries that we brought back to San Gabriel, and which I later drove to Imperial Beach CA at the opposite corner of the US.  Because Pat has relatives in the area, we’ve been there several times.  The most distant excursion was to Owl’s Head Transportation Museum, which is about halfway up the coast to Canada.

Maryland:  The Old Line State has a peculiar configuration; there’s one location where one can go from West Virginia to Pennsylvania through Maryland traveling only about five miles.  We haven’t visited that part, confining our exploration to the area northeast of Washington DC.  We visited Baltimore so Pat could visit one of her college classmates and I could ride the light rail line.  We also visited the hamlet of Unicorn, although no mythical beasts were observed.

Massachusetts:  Back in 1951, my mother, grandmother, brother and I took the train to Boston to visit some of our relatives.  We only had one ride on the MTA, but we did get a ride on the Edaville narrow gauge railway.  I remember being amazed at seeing a rainstorm on the 4th of July— something unheard of in Monrovia CA.  Next visit wasn’t until 1977, mentioned above under Maine.  Then there was the Fight Fiercely Harvard tour in 1990 and many visits to “The Land of the Bean and the Cod” since then, using planes, trains and the motor home..

Michigan:  Our first visit to the Great Lakes State was in 1990, when we were driving through the northern part of Indiana and diverted northward to set foot and photograph a junkyard and a substation in Sturgis.  Next visit was in 2011 as part of our RV trip, when I visited the Henry Ford museum complex in Dearborn, and Pat spotted a groundhog in Mt. Clemens at the Transit Museum parking lot.  One visit to the Henry Ford wasn’t enough, so I took the train to Dearborn in 2013.

One of many memorable experiences at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village: A demonstration of an 1879 Edison phonograph. 

Minnesota:  Our only visit to the land of 10,000 lakes was when we changed planes at the Minneapolis airport.  I would like to go there to ride the light rail line and the historic streetcar operation.  But I probably won’t see Lake Wobegon.

Mississippi:  We went through the Magnolia State in 1989 on the way from New Orleans to Chicago, but I didn’t set foot there until my visit to Memphis in June 2011, taking a day trip to Clarksdale to visit the Delta Blues Museum and the Blues2Rock Museum.  I stopped at the Crossroads (Old US 49 and 61) on my way out of town, but since it was daytime, the Devil didn’t show up and offer me fabulous musical talent in exchange for a lien on my soul.

“I went down to the Crossroads….” 

Missouri: I went through the Show-Me State on trains before setting foot there.  Heading home on the Dog Tired Tour, I changed buses in St. Louis around 6 a.m.  Also in the station were four men in work clothes, and their occupation was no mystery— two of them had brakemen’s lanterns.  They were about to take the bus back to their Conrail terminial in Ohio; in the old days, they would have “dead-headed” on a train, but rail traffic was low in 1977.  In 2007, I finally had some time to visit, seeing the Transportation Museum and riding the light rail system.

That will do for now, we’ll reopen the US atlas in a future Old Curiosity Shop.

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