The Great Plotnik

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10-17: Trains and Smoke

At 301km per hour the power poles rush by the train so fast that you can't see them. It's like those constantly flashing computer frames your eye ignores but a camera sees. So you cannot take a picture out the window without a pixilated power pole in the middle of it.

But smooth! This is our third high speed Spanish RENFE train. Back and forth from Madrid to Toledo, which carries you from year 2012 to year 1085, took exactly 25 minutes. We got in five minutes early both coming and going. The trip today from Madrid to Barcelona is scheduled for 2 1/2 hours and it will probably be five minutes early. Comfortable, sleek, cheap. We feel like we are traveling at our leisure rather than being snapped into a fast moving aerial mousetrap.

In 550 years of domination of Spain the Moors never did get to Barcelona. Carlos III recaptured Toledo in 1035 and Isabella and Ferdinand threw the last Moors out of Granada in 1492, so it took them 457 years to go maybe 500 miles. That is Amtrak time, not RENFE.

We rode Amtrak long distance two months ago, don't forget. If RENFE is High Speed rail, and it truly is, Amtrak is No Speed rail. It's still preferable to air travel for the few short hops where it is available, like New York to Providence, but long hauls are only for snowbirds for whom time spent motionless on a rail siding waiting for a freight train to pass is at least better than playing another round of Chinese Checkers with Mrs. Katz at the senior center.

Tried to change a reservation recently on an American carrier? We changed twice in Toledo, from a 10am train to 3pm and then got to the station and took a noon train instead. No questions asked, plink plink plink on the computer, no charge, muchas gracias senores y mucho gusto.

That's what THEY said to US. They are happy to be able to accommodate their customers.

So while we are at it, chinga tu madre, United Airlines.

The train just went through a series of tunnels. Looked up and there was a small medieval-looking village the same mud-red color as the rocks, with stone houses and a stone church and the remnants of a stone perimeter wall, a few animals grazing in the hill below the town, and then Bang the train went through another tunnel. I never got a chance to even get my camera out of my pocket. The next view, after the next tunnel, a minute later at 263km per hour, was of a six lane freeway and a modern industrial plant.

Who knew Central Spain is this rocky and dry? It looks a little like Northern Mexico, but there are orchards out there, small ones, not corporate ones like along I-5 -- olives, maybe almonds, grapes and lots of grains. The few villages are spattered with simple, adobe-looking houses, a few larger ones, and always one ornate structure ten times the size of the others, with spires and a cross.

Half way there @ 298 km per hour. There's an electronic readout in each car that tells you how fast you're going, and the temperature. Of course it's in km and degrees C. And liquids are in liters and money is in Euros with prices around the same as here, except a Euro is worth 1 1/3 dollars so it's not the same.

Wheat, wheat, wheat, slowing down, station approaching.

So what am I thinking about as the train zips into Zaragoza I mean Tharagotha? That Mummy P. would be so comfortable in Spain. Every human male and maybe half the females smoke. But no one is allowed to smoke inside. So all the tapas joints set up tables right outside the open front door, so there's a constant trail of people walking out, lighting up and blowing all the smoke back inside. Waiters, hotel clerks, bartenders, cops, museum guards, all men really, smell bad, like snuffy old ash trays. Women wear cologne. You hear some serious bronchial coughing on the street -- but not as much as you'd think.

Mummy P. would have a lot of company, standing outside that door, smoking her extra lights while breathing in the glorious high tar and high nicotine of her green, green days of yore.

Last night's debate took place at 3AM Madrid time but we watched it this morning on Little Eye Pud. Thanks so much to BZ and PD for the middle-of-the-night text heads-up texts about Obama growing cojones while making Romney look like the guy at United Airlines who won't give you any information about your plane that is four hours late but instead smiles and smiles while never looking you in the eye. What a smarmy, corporate snake.

People here love Obama. They truly do. Romney makes them laugh and shake their heads about the vapidness of America.

Welcome home, Barry and take a hike, Mitt. I truly hope your trip is canceled.


At 7:01 PM, Blogger mary ann said...

what a beautiful train!

At 9:25 PM, Blogger J and J said...

Per your Cuz Jer:
European High speed Rail, proves that your eyes that are connected to your brain is the best camera in the world. looking backwards helps!

Per your Cuz Judy:
I love your posts even when you are whiney! Keep them coming.
Here in Arkansas, Most wont vote for Obama (cause they think he is Muslim) and can't get excited about voting for a Mormon. For some reason, they think neither is Christian...really makes me shake my head! On to Memphis tomorrow! Any recommendations for blues joints we should check out in Memphis?

At 9:46 AM, Blogger The Fevered Brain said...

Love those trains. Great post.


Post a Comment

<< Home