My Best ShotA desert storm's swift furyBy Thomas H...

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

September 12, 1999

My Best Shot

A desert storm's swift fury

By Thomas H. Manning, Glen Burnie

In September of 1976, we were working at Navajo Methodist Mission School in Farmington, N.M., and over Labor Day weekend took a short camping trip to Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border. That Saturday afternoon, we saw an ominous storm coming toward us from across the valley. I turned the trailer's rear end into the wind and left the station wagon hitched for added stability. I took the three remarkable pictures just before I had to seek shelter.

A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE

Journey back to luxury

By Merrill T. Egger

Special to the Sun

No, we did not hop a freight like the hobos of the 1930s. Instead my husband, my sister and I spent a week aboard a luxury train, the American Orient Express, touring several national parks of the West and other sections of the Rockies. We saw some of the most spectacular scenery on earth as we traveled by rail from Santa Fe to Denver by way of the Grand, Zion and Bryce canyons and the Great Salt Lake and across the Continental Divide. There are many ways to view this section of the United States, but surely there is none to compare with the elegance and relaxed style of deluxe train travel.

Once aboard the train and settled into our cabins, we found it easy to imagine that we had entered a time machine and dropped back to when the great streamliner trains were in their heyday. Suddenly, we were in another world where we could relax and savor our trip without being rushed.

The American Orient Express is made up of beautifully restored blue and gold vintage rail cars, which glisten with polished mahogany and brass. As we relaxed in the club car before dinner, conversing with our fellow passengers, I felt as if the time machine had gently transformed our train to the original Orient Express on its inaugural journey from Paris to Istanbul in 1883. Soft music from the baby grand piano added to the magic of the moment.

In the dining car, decorated with rich inlaid paneling, there were no assigned seats, no rush to find a certain table -- instead, there was the feeling of moving in a congenial, clublike atmosphere. The tables were set with beautiful china, silver, crystal and linen. Dinner was unhurried and featured a regional specialty served by gracious waiters.

While we were in the dining car, our por-ter converted the sofa seats in our cabin into two comfortable lower berths. My sister occupied the sleeping compartment next door. Each cabin had a large picture window, wash basin and toilet.

For seven days we traveled in luxury as we viewed the unparalleled scenery of this part of the United States. Knowledgeable lecturers gave talks and answered questions about the geography, history and wildlife of the area through which we were traveling.

Sitting in a comfortable, overstuffed chair and watching these panoramic views unfold outside a large picture window is a far cry from sightseeing through the small windows of a car while speeding along on a crowded superhighway. Our journey on the American Orient Express was a trip back in time to the days of plush train travel plus an opportunity to enjoy views of the Rockies that can only be seen from a train. We had the best of both worlds.

Merrill T. Egger lives in Catonsville.

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