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First stop was a family reunion of sorts in the hills of Northeastern Georgia, where train legends of themselves thrive from the small, sleepy town of Lavonia, once a major thoroughfare for logging, freight, and passenger; and close to Toccoa, where many a paratrooper earned his right to abandon perfectly fine airplanes for the hardened thump into a battlefield.
I, along with my wife and father, traced my paternal decedents, finding grandfather, great grandfather and mother, and several aunts and uncles. On and thru the great states of Tennessee, Kentucky, and into Illinois, to behold what I know of but never knew was real. Metropolis, the working city of a young reporter known as Clark Kent to many, Superman to those of us who have passed the half century mark wishing that type of hero still existed. Therein, amongst other historical tributes, is a museum dedicated to the Red Caped gentleman, dedicated to Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
Crossing the Ohio River between Paducah, Kentucky and Metropolis, Illinois, is a multi-spanned arch trestle bridge that is an architectural beauty to behold.
And on the return trip I was fortunate enough to catch a coal drag rolling across against an afternoon sky, one step ahead of some storms. We passed many train yards, and sidings, and rolled along to Kansas City, Missouri, again finding large train yards, along with the stuff of modern lore, like stadiums and riverfront casinos. Upwards towards Iowa, where the confusing and already exorbitant gas prices began in common. A quick left turn netted us the Nebraska countryside, complete with the sights and sounds of trains, and long, straight highways, and picturesque old barns and farms, although far between.

We learned of walkways over the yard lead tracks, where a good vantage was held, watching in total amazement at the number of units being moved. Although we did not get access into the actual hump yard, we could see most of the 8 mile splendor of a rail fan's reward.
Eyes turned to the vastness of the territories we encountered, the abundance of the wildlife, in herds, again a defined new characteristic from the one or two a season sighting of deer here in the flatlands of Florida. Finally making our way to the westernmost part of our route, Yellowstone, we encountered what some may take for granted,-bison, elk, moose, beaver, mule deer, and trees upon trees, with the Purple Mountains Majesty of the Grand Tetons, that I have heard of for many, many years in verse and song, but now be held. Heading back towards the scrub oaks and palmettos of Florida, the long way, we came around a curve and out of nowhere, a circa 1880 train and excursion. Following our hastily laid out plans, we followed a long twisting highway into what was called the Needles, where looking closely at the license plates ahead of you would yield the same issued to you at your local agency. Rocks, with holes carved thru that allowed the car to pass and would make the shadow of the vehicle patiently await its turn for access. We made it to the end, and then found ourselves in Custer State Park, amid more bison, lumbering aimlessly to where ever their notions took them.
We then started another ascent on a road called Iron Mountain Road, and after about 30 minutes of climbing, came upon the most dramatic part of our journey, four stately gentlemen, posed for a period of infinity, overseeing this Land in a passionate gaze into the future, with a weathered stance of knowing the past.
As with all good things coming to end, we came away humbled by the experience at this Monument.

Closer, we found climbers that looked to be no more than ants, clinging to the sheer walls. At the Eastern entrance to the Badlands, South Dakota, and a man-made reality came upon us.
In this year's 5500 mile jaunt, added to the 7000 miles of last year, this country has amazed me in many ways.
It is a setback in reality to just think of it as a place to live, and the more of it I see, the more I believe in a much Higher Power to have put it here for us to enjoy, in any form we can. I would request that all regroup, and pass on not only our feelings of trains and their enjoyment, but the legacy of all the Great States of our America, still--United. Big Boy on display at the town park, and to go overhead again to view the yards in their evening cloak of sunset colors, last sun shining on the rails.
Rushmore, is as stirring a patriotic moment frozen in time, as picturing Francis Scott Key peering over the side of the vessel staring at the Flag in his vision penned to paper of this country's rise to glory.

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