Posts Tagged ‘Terry Garthwaite’

Saturday Single No. 235

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Up until about ten days ago, the last time I’d ridden a train was during the late 1980s, when I made the trek between St. Cloud and Minot – about 450 miles – several times. Those rides were on Amtrak, and if there was one thing I learned I could be sure of when I rode Amtrak, it was that the train was going to be late.

The scheduled departure and arrival times between the two cities – two stops on daily routes that ran between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest – were convenient. One could theoretically leave Minot about 9 o’clock in the evening and arrive in St. Cloud between 5 and 6 in the morning, with a full day to take care of whatever mischief or meetings one had in mind. And the train heading west from St. Cloud was scheduled to leave about 10 o’clock in the evening, arriving in Minot early in the morning.

But every time I took the train during the two years I lived in Minot – two round-trips and one one-way trip – the train had been delayed somewhere along its route and was running late. Was it maintenance, weather, poor staff performance, acts of Odin? I never really knew. I did know that if I were planning to meet with someone or do something that required scheduling either on the day I arrived in St. Cloud or the day I returned to Minot, I was wise to schedule those things in the afternoon. Reliability – at least on that route – was not Amtrak’s forte.

But early last week, I was back on a train and was pleased. It was, admittedly, a very short trip: from the northern suburb of Coon Rapids along the relatively new Northstar Line into downtown Minneapolis for a Minnesota Twins baseball game.

I’d been talking to Rob about a week earlier, and he’d mentioned that his wife had given him two tickets to a Twins game with the Kansas City Royals on a Tuesday evening. Was I interested? Well, yeah. So at midafternoon on that Tuesday eleven days ago, I headed to Rob’s home in St. Francis, fifty miles from here. From there, he’d drive into Minneapolis.

But when I arrived, Rob said that one of his fellow faculty members at St. Francis High School had suggested taking the train into downtown. We could drive to the stop in Coon Rapids, leave the car in the parking lot there and ride on in. The Northstar line ends at Target Field, the Twins’ home, making the idea spectacularly good. As long as the schedule worked.

“I don’t know when the last train leaves Coon Rapids,” Rob said as we drove through the exurb of Andover, a place that was mostly empty fields when I lived in nearby Anoka twenty-some years ago and is now home to more than 30,000 folks. “If we’ve missed the last train, we can drive in. We’ll have time.”

But we got to the Coon Rapids station with twenty minutes to spare. I figured out the ticket vending machine and when the train pulled in, we dashed up a short staircase and found two seats facing forward. (I can ride either way, but I prefer to look forward when I’m riding a train.) We looked at the backyards, industrial lots, apartment buildings and rough blank places that lined our side of the tracks as we made our way through Coon Rapids, Fridley and Northeast Minneapolis before crossing the Mississippi River and pulling to a stop at Target Field.

The game was a success, with the Twins winning 4-3 in ten innings. A year ago, extra innings would have been cause for worry among train riders, as the Northstar Line would send its postgame train off from Minneapolis at 10:30 p.m., whether the game was still underway or not. This season, however, the schedule has been adjusted so that the post-game train leaves thirty minutes after the final out, meaning fans no longer have to risk missing their ride home to see the entire ball game.

Rob and I decided, as we rode back to Coon Rapids that the next time he got tickets for a game, we’d meet at the train station in Elk River, a couple of stops closer to St. Cloud, which would trim about fifteen miles off my drive and about ten miles of congested driving off of his.

As we walked through the Coon Rapids parking lot back to his car, we both happened to think of music, with the rhythm of the rails running through us. We hummed a few bars of Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” (made famous by Arlo Guthrie’s 1972 cover version) and then laughed. And the conversation went back to baseball or on to something else – I don’t truly recall – as we headed out of the exurbs and back toward St. Francis.

I pondered train songs again on my way home, and as I did, I thought of one that I hadn’t thought of in years. Although neither the title nor the lyrics mention trains, I’ve thought since I first heard Terry Garthwaite’s “Ticket To Chicago” years ago that it had to be inspired by a train ride. Garthwaite was one of the two main vocalists – along with Toni Brown – in the early 1970s group Joy of Cooking; “Ticket To Chicago” is from her 1978 album Hand In Glove. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Terry Garthwaite – “Ticket To Chicago” [1978]