Posts Tagged ‘train’
Posted on May 31, 2010 - by Nadia
In 1891, Josephine Keys rode a horsedrawn wagon 45 miles across a prairie deep in sharp, tall grass, to catch the train in Clayton, New Mexico. She was 18 and leaving her parents’ house for the first time and headed to Sumner, Wash., to surprise her sister Annie, who had married a newspaper publisher named Rouseau. When the train came, Josie got on. She never returned to the Oklahoma-New Mexico river valley where she’d spent her late teens, but pressed on to a series of adventures that took her ever farther north.
Tomorrow night I’ll board the southbound 10:50 Greyhound, bound for Clayton, New Mexico, by way of a 31-hour slog through Butte, Billings, Casper, Denver and the big spaces in between. I know where the bus will take me, but I’m still trying to figure out precisely where I’m going once I get off it. The only thing I’m sure of is that I am not going to follow Josie’s route.
It’s hard to say what route that train carried her as it chugged across the many mountains in her way. In addition to the train lines that exist now, there were quite a few railways then that have turned to asphalt, bike trails or simply flat spots in the woods that sweep around a mountain. The southern route to California existed, and she could have taken it north as far as Sacramento, then patched together stage coaches and small rail on up the coast.
More likely, I think, is that she went north to Denver, then onto Cheyenne, Wyoming, and west on the Union Pacific’s famed Overland Route. The daunting Raton Pass rail connection had been completed the year before and the rail from Clayton aims right for it. It would have been shorter, easier and presumably cheaper than either the California route, or the arduous narrow gauge trains that ran through Colorado’s mountain mining districts.
Even today it would be easier, faster and cheaper to go that way. But that’s not what I’m going to do. That’s because in addition to being from a thrifty and pragmatic family, Josie had a sense of adventure. She was heading off on her own, to see what life outside No Man’s Land had to offer. Today, the route she took has become the Interstate corridors that contain I-25 north up the Front Range and I-80 west across the southern tier of Wyoming. It would have been a gorgeous and wild route at the turn of the century. Today, it is a high-speed corridor. Although the distant scenery is still striking through Colorado and Wyoming, it’s a busy route that I’ve driven too many times to consider biking it an adventure.
Instead of following Josie’s route, I hope to engage her spirit. My plan is to cut diagonally north and west, choosing interesting routes and talking with the people who have chosen to live off the fast lane. Instead of a train, I’ll be on my bike.
Here is a rough map of my route. Click on it, it’ll get bigger. After assembling my bike in Clayton, I hope to catch a ride to Kenton on Friday morning to say hello to some folks there who were especially kind to me when I visited in March. I’ll ride back to Clayton, a shakedown ride before beginning in earnest Saturday morning. After a second overnight in Clayton, I’ll head west, skirting north of Mount Wheeler, the highest point in New Mexico. From Kenton to Questa, New Mexico, is about 230 miles and that should pretty well get me warmed up in the first week.