Grace_Chicago_4Chicago - The Windy City.  Read about our (brief) time in the city - the food, the architecture, the music and the culture of this metropolis in the heart of America.

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Los Angeles

OSCAR!The city of angels... and home to Hollywood's brightest stars.  Find out what we did in the heart of tinsel-town.

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Dodge City

Dodge CityDodge City - Home to Wyatt Earp and legends of the old west.  Follow along as we spend some time kickin' up dust and tumbleweeds in Kansas!

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HenriqueAustin8Austin - Music capital of the world and the state Capitol of Texas.  Follow along as we explore the food and music of this great southern city.

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Albuquerque - Before Walter White started making the "blue stuff" in Albuquerque, it was home to Buggs Bunny's numerous wrong turns. Oh, and rattlesnakes.  Come with us as we explore this jewel of the Southwest U.S.

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St. Louis

Hannah_St.Louis7St. Louis - The gateway to the west and home to great blues, this city sits on the shore of the mighty Mississippi.  Follow along as we explore the history and culture of this amazing city.

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Amtrekkin' 2015: A Sense of Place

Lost in Transnation

 We arrived in the night and managed to get ourselves lost within five minutes of stepping off the train, but we eventually made our way to the main street of the area.  Albuquerque was a place that I'd only ever heard of in bugs bunny cartoons, and all I saw on the way in were large neon signs that painted this city like the younger brother of Vegas.  Nevertheless, this town was an enigma that I was chomping at the bits to resolve, or at least explore.  The air was a relieving 60F after bitter cold in the early mornings of Dodge City and Chicago, and combined with the flashing neon lights that highlighted every corner and crevace of Albuquerque's visage, it was a forcefull push on our senses, but one we welcomed.  My first gut reaction to the place was a super charged battery, bursting with energy, with a blanket upon it to hide it from the world.

I'd never met anyone who was from Albuquerque, and we joked that this was a result of no one in the city having any reason to leave.  As I experienced the culture, however, I began to realize that the joke had hit on point.  The air was clean off the baron lands of the west, the people were calm in their moderate weather.  The architecture of the place was old enough to care for, and new enough to be fascinated by.  In a nutshell, Albuquerque had everything the people needed to be satisfied, and so they were as still they are.

If you're ever planning on taking a trip out west, I personally reccomend this city to anyone who might have the opportunity to pass by.  In a world where we find our heads buried in wires and waves, it's a relief to pull your head up and take a breather.  Let me tell you, America: there's no finer air on which to take a breather than what you'll find in Albuquerque - it's free of not only pollution and smog, but it's an air of constant motion, as if it propels you to do more than just sit around.  The city has a clean feeling - mind you, not the compulsively scrub every inch up and down kind of clean, just the kind of clean where you can walk down a street to your local laundromat without having to check your six at every crossing.  Playgrounds fill the area,  dead looking shrubbery adds nice pale colors to the buildings, and the adobe of the place may look like the classic fake built houses, but I assure you, adobe doesn't get much more authentic than the beautiful buildings that fill this place.

Why We're Awesome


Stepping inside the train at Union Station at long last, the only thing that sounded good to me was sleep. Upon donning my comfortable clothing, I found myself pajama clad in a place where I felt a suit would be more appropriate. It wasn't that the dining car felt all that elegant, or that I really felt underdressed. But being in a dining car on a moving train, I couldn't help but imagine myself stepping into "Murder on the Orient Express." Just without the murder part, and more of the elegance part.

While gathered around the dining car door, waiting for the frantic crew to prepare for us to eat, we found our typical cast of characters slowly supplemented by a set of side characters, some even recurring. We were once again joined by the ever present Cornbread, and my friend from Union Station, James William. Alongside these two familiar faces, one new character introduced himself: an older and wizened man in Amish-like dress, the embodiment of joviality and archaic manners, who went by Johnny.

Before we knew it, Finn, Bari (clad in a dinosaur onesie), and I found ourselves dining with Johnny. We heard stories of his travels, and he laughed along with ours. He seemed to be traveling alone, and treated himself to the expensive and minuscule steak from the train's limited menu. Dining with a complete stranger (in a non-blind date kind of circumstance) is a wonderful yet strange experience, and is something everyone should try to do at some point in their life. Over good food and drink, it seems to me that everyone opens up a bit more, and stories flow.

Johnny told a story about driving two thousand miles on a trip to Idaho with his truck driver step-brother, soon after his wife passed. He told a story about the time his Amtrak train was stuck overnight in a twelve foot snow bank. A woman on the train, he said, joked that that night she got the best sleep she ever had on a train, without all of the rocking.

It seems, so far, that our group has a strange knack of attracting single traveler's. Cornbread, James, Johnny; they're all traveling alone, and so they latch on to our group and share in our togetherness. We share dinner, we play cards, we swap stories, and they come back to find us if they have the chance.

This just tells me we're doing something right. We're a group that appears welcoming enough for strangers to wander up and accepting enough to let them stay.

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Albuquerque City Profile

Albuquerque, New Mexico - the city known for hot air balloons and nuclear research. It's a place with an exciting past and a flourishing future. Walking through the streets of downtown Albuquerque, one would see bright neon signs plastered on the shops and boutiques. Stores display their merchandise as artwork; shoes are placed in glass cases to be admired. According to Matthew Jaffe, a writer for a travel website, Sunset, downtown Albuquerque is a "neighborhood hangout with style". By day, Albuquerque is a family-friendly shopping retreat. Once the sun sets, music and nightclubs take over the streets and Albuquerque is filled with dancing and drinks. This is a city of excitement, fun, and adventure.

Albuquerque has a widely varied and interesting history. Numerous Native American tribes passed through the area, most famously the Anasazi tribe, which vanished without a trace and left behind pottery shards, grinding stones, and breathtaking cities carved on the sides of sheer cliffs. However, the tribes that remained were eventually chased away or killed by Spanish conquistadors, carving a path through the New World. Many Spanish settlers chose to stay in the area that would soon become Albuquerque, named for a Spanish duke, because of the availability of grazing lands for sheep and naturally occurring protection from rightfully vengeful Native Americans. Later, more Spanish settlers arrived, drawn by the ultimately fruitless pursuit of gold. It remained a small trading post for the 16th and 17th centuries, but as the United States began to expand westward, it saw greater numbers of visitors and eventual settlers. Albuquerque's population truly began to expand during the 1849 Californian Gold Rush, as unsuccessful miners headed east would occasionally chose Albuquerque as their home. As railroad travel became more predominant in the 1880's, greater numbers of white settlers came toward the city and remained in what had been, up until that point, a predominantly Hispanic city. In later years, Albuquerque again grew in size as a result of westward travel. Because Route 66, a popular route to California for poor families escaping the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression, runs through the city, families unable to make it all the way to the 'promised land' of California, or those returning after an unsuccessful attempt at finding a livelihood in the Golden West would instead reside in Albuquerque. A decade or two later, Albuquerque would again serve an important national function. During the end days of World War Two and the onset of the Nuclear Age, the New Mexican desert was determined to be the perfect testing ground for nuclear weapons and were used as such for years. The capital of New Mexico has played a role in nearly every part of American history, from tribal grounds to the atomic bomb.

Albuquerque today honors it's long and storied past. As nearly every official website will quickly remind you, the city is nearing it's tricentennial celebration, and museums dedicated to nearly every era abound. However, the city's history is not confined behind glass cases. Vintage neon signs from Route 66's heyday are lovingly preserved and lit nightly, and even the baseball team reflects Albuquerque's radioactive past (the Albuquerque Isotopes are immensely popular.) The stunning New Mexican landscape around Albuquerque has provided scenery for pop culture phenomenons such as Breaking Bad and The Avengers. The city offers upscale shopping and multitudes of art galleries as well. Hunting is a common pastime, so much so that the state Fish and Game Department has provided rare African game to break up the apparent monotony of hunting wildlife such as big horn sheep and quail. Albuquerque offers many tourist attractions unique to the area, such as surrounding ghost towns and ancient monuments, most notably the Petroglyph, providing an interesting mix of modern and new.

While today this city is known primarily for it's appearance as Walter White's hometown, it's obviously so much more than that. It serves so many purposes and is constantly changing as the culture and people around it change. There are so many distinct places and people in this part of the country, that's it hard to believe it's not as famous as New York City or L.A. Albuquerque is a melting pot of people that allows one who visits to have so many different experiences in just one day. For instance, the Indian Pueblo is located nearby to the Botanic Gardens and the bustling downtown area. It's no wonder that it is a major stop on the Amtrak train.


Los Angeles City Profile

We've all heard stories about big cities. New York City and Los Angeles, those are the places where celebrities live, where fortunes are made, where fame breathes, where light and noise and excitement throbs beneath the pavement. But stories are fiction. What about the city during the day, when the fluorescent nightlife pales and gives way to the same sun that shines down on every city in the world? What about the people who are not rich, are not famous, but are living their lives, collecting paychecks from the tourist traps, going to school and to the grocery store, doing the same normal, everyday things that we all do, no matter where we live. Beneath the veil made of smoke and camera flashes, there is life. There is routine. There is a town, more than a city. After all, Los Angeles didn't spontaneously pop up out of nowhere complete with The Chinese Theater and The Hollywood Walk of Fame. Before that, there was a history.

It's a long history, too: It's approximated that indigenous peoples of the Americas first inhabited the Los Angeles region around 6000 B.C., and lived there until the late seventeen hundreds when Spanish explorers colonized the region. (Lonely Planet). The Spanish settlers named the region El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles sobre el Río Porciúncula, which means "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels on the Porciuncula River," which was a bit of a mouthful, so the official name of the region was simply El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles ("Where Did the Name 'Los Angeles' Come From?").

El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles continued for about half of a century as a small but successful farming community, but isolated from others cities and towns until Mexico took the region over from Spain in 1821, inciting a population increase as an influx of new people moved into the town ("History of Los Angeles"). In 1850, Los Angeles once again changed hands when it officially became a part of the United States as a result of the Mexican-American war, which ended two years prior (History of Los Angeles).

Since its induction into the United States, the population of Los Angeles has boomed, and is currently has the largest population in California ("California- Largest Cities"). By 1930, two million people were living in Los Angeles ("History of Los Angeles)-- a far cry from that small farming town it had once been, and the change didn't take place overnight. January 1848, a gold nugget was discovered in the American River in California, and the news spread so far so quickly that thousands of immigrants came into California in hopes of finding gold for themselves ("California Gold Rush"). The economic stimulation and population increase led to the development of all of California as new roads, schools, and other public services (Wilson). Although Los Angeles had been steadily growing, the population boom that affected all of California helped Los Angeles rise up even higher. The introduction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1870s furthered this by increasing mobility within America, and throughout the country people began traveling more and relocating, which subsequently led to a population increase in Los Angeles ("History of Los Angeles").

On Los Angeles' path to becoming one of America's great city was the birth of the citrus industry ("History of Los Angeles"). Spanish missionaries had been growing citrus fruits since they had colonized the area in the 1700s, but the gold rush spurred a new demand for oranges as word got around that citrus combated a Vitamin-C deficiency known as scurvy (Lee). The market grew, and a new industry appeared on the map.

Later, in 1892, a new industry once again appeared, once again advancing Los Angeles to another level with the discovery of oil in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles ("25 Facts About Los Angeles You Probably Never Knew"). Los Angeles quickly grew into the market, producing one-fourth of the world's oil by 1923 and currently contains the third largest oil field in the country ("25 Facts About Los Angeles You Probably Never Knew"). In fact, an oil derrick on the property of Beverly Hills High School earns the school $300,000 in royalties each year in exchange for the production of 400 barrels of oil each day ("25 Facts About Los Angeles You Probably Never Knew").

The Los Angeles Harbor Department, better known as the Port of Los Angeles, was launched in 1907 ("History of Los Angeles"). Since, it has become one of the largest, busiest, and most successful ports in the world ("Timeline of Historical Events"). Business growth did slow substantially during World War II to a sluggish standstill, but picked up again after the war just as the national economy grew during the same time period ("Timeline of Historical Events"). Also after the war came the advent of "containerization," which led to higher productivity and a significant new degree of national importance for the port ("Timeline of Historical Events").

Regardless, there is no industry in Los Angeles that can compete with the American movie industry, practically synonymous with the iconic Hollywood sign. Funnily enough, the movie industry might never have settled in Los Angeles if not for Thomas Edison, who held so many patents that it was difficult for directors to make movies without infringing on his intellectual property ("25 Facts About Los Angeles You Probably Never Knew"). Moviemakers fled to the West in 1907 ("History of Los Angeles") and set to work making silent movies (because "talkies" or movies with sounds did not develop until the late 1920s) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Los Angeles's history has shaped it into the cultural hub it is today, creating an intensely diverse atmosphere. Today, Los Angeles has had a growing emphasis on public transit, making a conscious effort to cut down on gas emicions.

It is easy for the stars in Hollywood to get swept up in the glitz and glamour of the city, but the advice that most of them receive is not to forget their roots, where they came from. But who remembers where the city came from? Who remembers the people hunting and gathering around the Los Angeles River before it had ever been given that name? Who remembers the small farming town it had been for years under Spain, Mexico, and finally the United States? Who remembers the swarm of immigrants flooding into the city in droves in search of gold? Who remembers the introduction of the transcontinental railroad, the citrus industry, the oil market in California, or the Port of Los Angeles? Who remembers the directors trying to find ways to make movies despite astringent patent laws? If we are to understand the city as it is, we need to remember the place it once was.

Works Cited

"California Gold Rush." Immigration to the United States. The President and Fellows of Harvard

College, 2015. Web. January 7, 2015.


"California- Largest Cities." Web. January 7, 2015.

"History of Los Angeles." Lonely Planet. 2015. Web. January 7, 2015.

Lee, Ching. "The History of Citrus in California." California Bountiful. California Country

Magazine. 2010. Web. January 7, 2015.

"Timeline of Historical Events." The Port of Los Angeles. Port of Los Angeles, City of Los Angeles,

2015. Web. January 7, 2015.

"Where Did the Name 'Los Angeles' Come From?" Los Angeles Almanac. Given Place Media,

1998-2014. Web. January 7, 2015.

Wilson, Lori Lee. "California Gold Rush." August 1999. Web. January 7, 2015.

"25 Fun Facts About Los Angeles You Probably Never Knew." Yahoo Travel. Web. January 7, 2015.

Dodge City Profile

Dodge City historically embodies the spirit of just about every stereotypical Wild West movie you've ever seen; cowboys, Native Americans, gunslingers, shoot outs, forts etc. etc. etc. were all pieces of Dodge City's past. The historical journey of the city began with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the opening of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821. Thousands of wagons traveled the trail, which went west from Dodge City into Arkansas and Colorado. Fort Dodge (the first fort opened after the civil war) was created in 1865 in order to protect the travelers on the Santa Fe Trail and the mail service from the Native Americans who would attack the tidal waves of settlers coming in and served as a supply center for the American troops fighting wars with the Natives.

In 1871, the first settler of Dodge City, Henry L. Sitler built his sod house and cattle ranch not far from Fort Dodge. His home became a hub for ranchers, buffalo hunters and traders and less than a year later the center of an officially formed "Dodge City." Other notable figures to be found here were: George M. Hoover, the first business owner—a bar and trade center, Riley and Leavenworth—military men of Fort Dodge who lead the creation of the official city. With the Santa Fe Railroad in 1872 bringing lots of new settlers, the (now established) city continued to grow extravagantly.

During this time, Dodge City became known for its infamous lawlessness and gun-slinging. Because the nearby military at Ft. Dodge had no jurisdiction over the town and it had no law enforcement of its own, buffalo hunters, rail workers, soldiers and civilians fought under the constant influence of alcohol and died in the streets. Dead men and boys who had well standing families or friends and money were buried in the cemetery at Fort Dodge but most, unknown and poorer men were simply buried wherever it was convenient to dig a shallow grave. From these poor men buried in their boots, often sticking up out of the ground, toes up, came the name Boot Hill which was eventually made into an official cemetery.

Dodge City was the buffalo capital until a mass slaughter, with the goal of driving out the Native Americans who still persisted, wiped out the large majority of the buffalo and left the land littered with decayed animals. An estimated 1,500,00 buffalo hides were shipped from dodge from 1872-1878 and by '75 were gone as a source of revenue, but the longhorn cattle took over as the major industry and were driven up the Great Western trail (Texas trail) to Dodge City.

By 1886 the cattle drives had ended and Fort Dodge closed as well, ending the infamous past of the city. From this however emerged the modern Dodge City which cherishes its past grea

Dodge City is known for its ties to the old west, but today it is known for something else. Dodge City is one of the major locations in America for the Meat Packing industry, housing facilities for two of the major meat packing players in the US. Agriculture and livestock raising are the second largest industries with tourism coming in third. A city located in southwest Kansas and acts as the Ford county seat. Dodge City is home to only one high school, Dodge City High School, and a community college, Dodge City Community College. With a population of around 28,000 as of 2012, it is home to a 57% majority hispanic community with a 51/49 male to female ratio. The tourism aspect of Dodge City is based around the cities old west roots, with many activities such as a wax museum and a recreation museum. There is also an arena football team who plays in the United Wireless Arena, a rodeo that runs through the summer, and a raceway that is home to NASCAR events. The modern history of Dodge City is not what makes it a destination, to find that we will need to look at its old american roots.

Works cited (links),_Kansas

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