ICYMI: Our 96 Hour Tour

There was the gentle knock at the door. Older brother quietly saying “Sis, I don’t want you to freak out but its 1:38AM.” Aaaaaah!

In a panic I pack and on the road by 1:45AM. So much for waking up at 1AM to make coffee, quietly pack, and get on the road. Note to self: it is not a great idea to a book a 6AM departure when it’s a three-hour drive to the airport.

It’s too early!!  Film tour, here we come!

0 HRS Leaving Bar Harbor, ME at 1:45AM.

3 HRS drive to the Portland Airport.

11 HRS later arrive in ABQ. This is a quick Chevy Chase tour of the Southwest. ABQ – WR- FLG then back to Portland, ME. Ready, Set, Go! Ramona Emerson and husband Kelly Byars meet me at the baggage claim happy and cheery. I like her already. They greet me ready to stop at the first Mexican Restaurant but first I say let’s fix my broken back. We head straight to her house in ABQ to fix my back on the inversion table set up in the backyard. Yes, I say.

Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

Next stop is the Pueblo Cultural Center for lunch. We have the Pueblo Feast with green chili stew. This is not the time to education on the importance of Red & Green Chili, but my gosh it is fantastic and I fantasize about whether it should have carrots.

15 HRS Hotel check in and Ramona will return to pick me up at 5pm for our screening.

18 HRS into the trip I am at a pool hall and I see Ramona has dorsal fins. This duo really knows how to play.

Before our Albuquerque premiere.

19 HRS the screening at the KIMO Theatre begins at 6:30pm. New Mexico PBS did a great job running ads all week to promote our screening. The crowd has positive response to the films. During the Q&A, the kids from Mayors of Shiprock joined us on stage. Thank you Vision Maker for teaming me up with Ramona Emerson. Wheel Museum for allowing us to film our interviews in your building. Thank you storyteller Sunny Dooley for taking the train to see the screening and introducing new story ideas to me as the daughter of a Railroader. And also to fellow artist Monty Singer for your support.

On stage at the Kimo Theatre.

22 HRS time to sleep

33 HRS Rental car is picked up and we are on the road driving three hours to Window Rock, AZ. We drive past the To’hajiilee exit that has the best mutton sandwich stand in the Land of Entrapment. We missed the mutton sandwich. My back still hurts even with the IHS 800mg Ibuprofrin given to me, but it’s not going to slow this operation down.

Technical difficulties at the Navajo Nation Museum.

35 HRS We arrive in Window Rock, AZ. We have some technical difficulties with the equipment setting up at the Navajo Nation Museum. Note to self: We need to bring HDMI connectors of all shapes and sizes. Pack it next time.

36 HRS Ramona’s mom artist B. Emerson Kitsman arrived and saved the day! She returned forgotten screeners mistakenly left at Crownpoint earlier on. It was such a pleasure to meet her and partner Joseph. They presented me a gift of Navajo Herbal Tea and sage she picked herself. (Google Navajo Tea because I don’t know what it is.) Double thank you ma’am. And thank you Navajo Nation Museum for opening your doors.

The show started right at 2pm as advertised. Navajo Historian Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale was in the audience. It was such an honor to get to see her again. We interviewed Dr. Denetdale to provide the historical context for our railroad story. This interview will be available on the iDoc. Thank you for coming, bringing your family, and supporting our tour. It was an honor to have you there.

Lots of driving on the tour.

40 HRS We arrive in Flagstaff, AZ at 7pm for the last leg of the tour. It’s Ramona’s turn to go straight to the hotel while I stay at home. We are both pretty exhausted from the zipping around.

56 HRS Why not? It’s time to bake a cake while at my dad’s house. Note to self: When baking a cake at 7400 feet and higher elevation, you have to add more liquid and omit the baking powder. Good to know I says. Cake is done and time for the last screening. It was a delicious pound cake.

64 HRS We arrive at the NAU Native American Cultural Center. Did we think we were just going to be able to show up? The tour gods clap back. We are met with yet again equipment problems. Now the projector bulb is broken. Dozens of vertical lines mark half the projection screen. We polled the audience and they still wanted to continue with the screening. We went across the street to the Cline Library but that was not an option with its doors closing at 7pm. We returned to the half screen projection room.

At NAU Cultural Center.

Two filmmakers Jake Hoyungowa and Deidra Peaches came to our screening and both worked on our films. I liked learning that Ramona makes a special effort to hire female filmmakers on her production shoots.

Special thank yous Carissa Tsosie and Ora for inviting us to screen and troubleshooting the projector at Native American Cultural Center. And we all agreed to bring us back in the fall to do another screening with a working projector.

Note to self: Bring projector.

67 HRS Ramona and I say goodbye for now. My favorite part of her movie was the wood gathering scene. Hope to bring my little one on the next trip!

The last leg of driving in Arizona.

78 HRS Watermelon juice from the drive up Tacos Los Altos window in Flagstaff. Driving 2.5 hours to the Phoenix Airport. It’s 114°F when I enter the leave the desert.


81 HRS Boarded the plane bound for the East Coast. I wish there was flight from Sky Harbor to Bar Harbor. There is a flight. Maybe if the tour gets crowd funded…

Goodbye, Southwest!

93 HRS Touchdown in Portland, ME with yet another 3 hour drive home. Rolled into bed at 1:45AM.

Note to self: Better Travel itinerary and don’t forget Ramona’s maple syrup.




Laguna Pueblo Indian RRers, Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about how eminent domain played a role in the development of the railroad, specifically looking at Native American lands.

The Laguna Pueblo Indians had agreements with Atchison Topeka Santa Fe Railways that allowed the building of the railroad through their land. Instead of taking money for the right of way, the Laguna wanted their men to be hired as railroad labor. Many of the Laguna workers set up little villages, or little pueblos, along the tracks that allowed for whole families to join them while at work. They set up little sections along the railroad from Albuquerque to Barstow, CA. Hundreds of Laguna Pueblo men found steady work and able to still have their family, culture, language, and food. And as with the Navajo, there were generations of Laguna Railroaders following the work on the railroad.

(Although the tracks run close to south border of the Navajo Reservation, the building of the railroads never occupied Navajo lands. The way Navajo men came to work on the railroad required them to leave behind their family and homeland for months at a time.)

I read some of the books from Laguna authors Leslie Marmon Silko and Paula Gunn Allen, but the University of Arizona did not teach me about Laguna railroad workers. I thought the railroads maintained themselves. After we completed our edit and streamlined our story for Metal Road, I learned of a new book that compared two different responses of the Santo Domingo Pueblo and the Laguna Pueblo to the railroads. Santo Domingo resisted the railroads whereas the Laguna decided to work for the railroads. Unfortunately I never did get to read this book by Richard Frost, The Railroad and the Pueblo Indians: The Impact of the Atchinson Topeka Santa Fe on the Pueblos of the Rio Grande 1880-1930 (2016). Maybe it’s the next film.