Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

Bobby Boy’s Old Curiosity Shop for Sept. 2020.
States Visited Part 2 

Time to get out the road maps again and get to “Goin’ Up the Country”

Montana:  The Treasure State is still on my “to do” list, although the demise of the Milwaukee Road electric railway operation lowered my interest by quite a bit.  But our younger daughter visited Glacier National Park and came back with photos of Great Northern Mountain Goats and a model of one of the White Motors tour buses.

Nebraska:  My first encounter with the Cornhusker State was crossing it under cover of darkness on the way from Chicago to San Francisco in 1971.  But in the Dog Tired Tour, I headed eastward in the daytime, taking a break in Grand Island and then changing buses in Omaha.  Then, coming back from New England in 1990, we went the other way in DN 121, stopping overnight in Grand Island.  Pat took a photo of the passing scenery—an area so flat that the only elevation in evidence was a power line structure.

Grand Island is  a great train-watching spot, although this scene has changed—there’s now a bridge to carry BNSF trains over the UP main line, so the tower in the distance is long gone. 

Nevada:  After the 1951 cross country tour, I didn’t leave California until Oct. 1959, when my first wife and I eloped to Las Vegas to be married at the courthouse.  (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)   My next visit to the Silver State was crossing the northern part at night on the train from Chicago to Oakland.  Didn’t set foot again until a rest stop in Vegas on the Dog Tired Tour.  In 1979, I worked for several months on and off at the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, at the southern tip of the state as an Edison Comm Tech.  Other trips have included riding the Las Vegas Monorail and the Nevada Northern RR in Ely, and after that driving on US 50 “The Loneliest Road” from Ely to Reno. 

New Hampshire:  I first went through the Live Free or Die state in 1977 when Paul Ward took me on the pilgrimage to the Mother Church of Electric Railway Preservation (Seashore Trolley Museum).  Next visit was in 1990, when I went with Pat to take care of her mother’s estate.  Since then I’ve been to her home town of Portsmouth, ridden historic railways and even spotted a moose.

New Jersey:  As a day trip while visiting Philadelphia in 1971, I rode the then-new PATCO transit line to Lindenwold NJ.  As part of the Dog Tired Tour in 1977, I stayed in Hoboken, using it as a base for exploring New York City and northern NJ.  As part of the No Scene Twice Seen Tour in 1981, I visited the Edison Historic Site in West Orange, traveling there on DC powered trains.  Since my last visit, new light rail services have opened.

My first visit to New Jersey—on the PATCO rapid transit line to Lindenwold, where the cars at ground level were waiting for the afternoon rush to carry commuters to Atlantic City and other southern NJ locations.

New Mexico:  The 1951 family train trip went through the Land of Enchantment but bypassed Albuquerque and went via Belen and eastward through Clovis, which is probably best known as the home of Norman Petty Studios, where some of Buddy Holly’s records were produced.  But this was in the future; my next encounter was in 1971, on the Goin’ to Chicago Tour, which did stop in Albuquerque.  The 1989 tour to New Orleans and Chicago with the square dance clubs stopped there on the way back so we could ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway and get a look at the Balloon Festival.  One of the boxes in my Life List was checked off in 2011 when we drove the motor home to Chama so I could finally get a Colorado narrow gauge steam train ride.

New York:  Another part of the 1951 trip, we stayed overnight in New York City before taking the New Haven RR to Boston (that’s the way the train times worked out).  The hotel was near Times Square, so we got to see the marvelous electric signs before calling it a day.  Heading home, we took a direct train from Boston to Chicago, and I remember following the Mohawk River upstream and seeing a section of the Erie Canal.  In later years there were more train trips, and in 2007 we found how long the Empire State is west to east when we drove across on the eastbound RV trip. During the 2011 trip, we finally visited Niagara Falls.

Here I am at the feet of the master—the man whose development of the polyphase AC system is basis of all commercial electric networks in the world: Nikola Tesla.  The statue is in honor of his AC system being used to transmit power from Niagara Falls to the industries of Buffalo NY in the 1890s.

North Carolina :  I haven’t been to the Tarheel state yet, but do want to visit Wilson (my SCE supervisor’s home town), and ride the new Charlotte light rail line.

North Dakota:  Not high on my to-do list, one place I’ve thought about is Jamestown, original home of Peggy Lee.

Ohio: The Buckeye State is another place I first saw on the 1951 trip.  It was pass-through country until the 1977 Dog Tired tour, when I visited Cleveland eastbound and Columbus westbound.  One of the high spots of the 2007 RV trip was parking the Lazy Daze at one of the terminals of the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit lines and riding the light-rail train to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame near downtown Cleveland.  Also on this trip, I got the VIP tour of the US Air Force Museum near Dayton with a retired test pilot.

From my visit to Cleveland in July 1977—one of the Rapid Transit cars on its way to the main airport.  A service that Cleveland had over 40 years ago, and Los Angeles hasn’t done yet.

Oklahoma:  I went through what had been Indian Territory on the train, but first set foot during the Dog Tired Tour when the bus stopped for a meal break in Tulsa.  After looking at the Post House and not being impressed, some of us went down the street to a storefront taco shop.  This was not a “vibrant downtown”—I felt like we did well to avoid getting our toes caught when they rolled up the sidewalks.  A more interesting visit was in 2007, the Oklahoma Statehood Centennial Year.  Our RV trip that year stopped in El Reno, where Union Pacific had their preserved steam locomotive 844 on display,  and the El Reno Heritage Trolley (actually a modified interurban car with a propane-fueled engine) cruised the streets.

Oregon:  Considering that Oregon is the next state north of California, it wasn’t until 1973 that I visited the Beaver State.  But when you consider that it’s almost 700 miles from San Gabriel Valley to the state line, that’s a long haul by road or rail.  But my first wife wanted to visit Butchart Gardens near Victoria BC, and I wanted to see the Yakima Valley electric railway.  So we rented a car, packed our camping gear and headed north.  I’ve forgotten some of the details, but I think we went north on I-5 and returned on US 101.  This was before there was any notion of Portland getting light-rail service, and SP 4449, the Daylight Northern steam locomotive was still sitting in a park on static display.  My next visit was in 1987, when I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight to Portland to see the new Tri-Met MAX light rail line.  Part of this line runs on an abandoned interurban right of way, and in its early days, it went by a lumber mill with a mill pond in Gresham.  Pat and I have gone to Portland on the Coast Starlight twice, and we’ve visited the are in our motor home, finding an RV park with a nearby bus stop for service to downtown.

Pennsylvania:  It’s hard to miss the Keystone State if you want to visit New York or New England.  The 1951 train trip went through Erie PA in the wee small hours; I didn’t set foot in PA until the 1971 cross country trip, when I visited Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with the help of Greyhound.  After brief visits to those cities on the westward segment of the Dog Tired Tour, I spent a few days in Philly in the 1981 trip, which used the former Pennsylvania RR route across the state and included a look at the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.  In this century we’ve crossed the state in our motor home.

Those of us who played Monopoly ™ when we were kids may remember the Chance card that said “Take a Ride on the Reading.  If you pass GO collect $200."  I did take a ride on the Reading, arriving at this great terminal in downtown Philadelphia from Norristown.  But I didn’t pass GO, so after just two days in Philly I had to head for home before money ran out.  This scene is gone forever—the Terminal is now a “festival marketplace” and the trains run through an oversized subway.

Rhode Island:  The smallest State has the longest name: Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, although that may change this year.  The term “Plantations” has a negative connotation connected to Southern agriculture and slavery.  Part of the 1951 family trip included a stay at Aunt Stelle’s summer home on Prudence Island, the third largest island in Narragansett Bay.  In more recent years, Pat and I visited Quonset Point, home of the Quonset Hut, a World War II invention that is still found in many places, and nearby Davisville, where the electrification of the Amtrak line between New Haven and Boston was in progress.

South Carolina:  Lots of history here, but not high on my must-see priority list.

South Dakota:   I suppose Mt. Rushmore is worth a look, but I think my days of long-distance driving are drawing to an end, and nearly everyone has seen pictures of the monument.

Tennessee:  I’ve only been in the western part of this long, narrow State, and would like to see Nashville, Dollywood and Bristol.  We went through under cover of darkness on The City of New Orleans in Oct. 1989, but I wouldn’t set foot until June 2011, when I spent five days in Memphis, visiting Sun Studio, the recreated Stax studio, the Gibson Guitar plant and the Civil Rights Museum, as well as riding the heritage streetcar lines.

“Go cat, go”  Bobby Boy gets in touch with his inner rockabilly at Sun Studio in Memphis.  They have a “karaoke” program where visitors can record themselves with a recorded backing, but I looked around, thought of all the immortals who had cut records here, and thought “I am not worthy.”

Texas:  Jimmie Rodgers’ first Blue Yodel was “T for Texas, T for Tennessee”, since we’ve already covered the Volunteer State, it’s time to recall a song from 1941, “Deep in the Heart of Texas”.  My first look at the Lone Star State was on the 1951 family trip.  I remember going through Hereford (near Amarillo) and looking out both sides of the lounge car and seeing nothing but flat country in all directions—a strange sight to a Southern Calif. boy.  I didn’t set foot until the 1977 Dog Tired Tour, when the bus had a rest stop in Amarillo around 1:30 AM, and I was glad I had a ticket that was good all the way to LA.  The 1985 trip to Chicago for the Railway Museum convention called for changing planes at Dallas-Fort Worth going both ways, and giving me a chance to ride their “people mover”.  The longest journey through Texas was in 1989, when we went to New Orleans on the Amtrak Sunset Limited.  When the train stopped to change crews at El Paso, I got off, wandered around a bit, and found some streetcar tracks that had been left in place after the international trolley line to Ciudad Juarez closed in 1974.  Then it was back onto the train, and rolling through Texas all night and well into the next day.  More recently, our motor home trips have gone through the Panhandle following the ghost of Route 66. 

We never did spot the “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, but the RV park where we stayed had an upended Motorhome.  It also had four friendly black cats, two of whom are seen here. 

Utah:  My first visit to the Beehive State was just passing through on the Amtrak version of the City of San Francisco at night.  We probably changed locomotives at Ogden, but I don’t think I got off.  First daytime visit was during the Dog Tired Tour, when I explored Salt Lake City and took a bus ride to Ogden for a side trip.  While I was waiting for my bus to be called to continue the journey, I noticed a sort of “bullpen” enclosure where smokers were segregated from the rest of the intending passengers.  Utah (with its strong Mormon influence) was ahead of the rest of the country in telling weed fiends to keep their distance.  Next time was in 1981, when I took Amtrak from New York to LA via the old New York Central route, Burlington Northern to Denver, and Union Pacific to LA, stopping at Ogden for a three-way split depending on whether one was going to the Bay Area, Portland or Seattle, or Southern Calif. You can’t do this anymore— Amtrak quit running between LA and Ogden over 20 years ago.  My most extensive visit to Utah was in September 2001, when we were among the last people to learn about the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.  Pat and I spent a few days in Salt Lake City, where I rode the then-new light rail line, then went off to the Golden Spike Historic Site and the Thiokol rocket display.

Vermont: The Green Mountain State was pass-through country when we went to Montreal and Quebec, but we did have an interesting experience at an abandoned covered railroad bridge.  We also took a ride on the Green Mountain RR back in the 1990s.

Virginia:   We visited the Old Dominion during our Mid-Atlantic tour in 1994.  When we rented a car near Reagan National Airport, I noticed that the road going by the rental agency was the Jefferson Davis Highway, and thought,  “130 years ago, this was enemy territory.”  The main attraction was Colonial Williamsburg, where I was chosen as a juror for a mock trial and saw a lot of historic re-creations.  Pat found an exhibit sponsored by the family of one of her college classmates.  We also visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

Washington:  I first visited the Evergreen State in 1973 as part of a family journey to the Pacific Northwest.  My goal was to see the Yakima Valley Transportation Co., an electric railway that served the apple growing country around Yakima.  We found one of the electric locomotives on the west side of town, and followed it back to the Union Pacific yard, where I got a cab ride.  In 1991, we took Pat’s then-new Toyota Cressida up north, and visited with friends of hers in the Seattle area on the way to Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island.  Next excursion was on Amtrak’s Coast Starlite, for another stay in Seattle.  In 2006, we took in the southeast corner on our way to Moscow, Idaho, seeing Walla Walla (so good they named it twice).  More recently, we’ve visited in motor homes.

We stopped at Chehalis, Washington in October 2009 and visited the local railway museum.  One of the exhibits is a World War II vintage diesel switcher built by the Vulcan Iron Works of Wilkes-Barre PA.  A long way from the home of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, but I did the logical thing.

West Virginia:  Much as I like John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads”, my Mountain State experience has been limited to “Just Passing Through,” first on a Greyhound bus, which stopped in Wheeling, but not long enough for me to “set foot”.  This finally happened on the westbound leg of the 2007 trip, when we stopped to refuel the motor home in Triadelphia.  Much as I would like to return for a visit to the Cass Scenic Railway (which is probably not easy to reach in a 30’ motor home), it’s rather unlikely.

Wisconsin:  My exposure to the Badger State has been rather limited; during the 1990 cross country “Fight Fiercely Tour” we diverted our westward course to “set foot” in Hazel Green, a village just north of Galena.  I would not return until 2013, when I rode the Kenosha streetcar line, and about a week later, the East Troy Electric Railway, with an afternoon treat at J. Lauber’s Ice Cream Parlor.

Wyoming:  The Cowboy State is another “Just Passing Through” state.  I went through there eastbound on the Dog Tired Tour, and westbound on the No Scene Twice Seen Amtrak adventure.

D.C.:   Although folks on the east coast can visit the nation’s capital without making an epic journey out of it, I was well into my 50s before seeing where the country’s laws are made.

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