Walter Mencken 4 p.m., May 3
- Community Blog
A train to Somewhere
Campo. When I think Campo, I think two things. The train to Tecate, and the bus to Rancho La Puerta. Very different experiences.
I saw no one had posted anything for a time about Campo, and found out that the steam train down to the city of Tecate has been temporarily suspended. That's a bummer.
I drove out there a few years ago just because it sounded like a fun day. My friend and I, both north county chicks for decades, scooted down there there on a Saturday morning, and took a look around the museum, and at the appointed time jumped on the train.
In anticipation of the day, I imagined that the train part of the trip would be really fast, but it took , from what I recall a bit longer than that- I think it was 15 or 17 miles, and took close to an hour. It went really slow, so slow you could probably jump off and on if you were nimble, but I have learned my lesson and my limitations physically, so I didn't try to do this, and I don't recommend you do either.
This would be a fun family trip I think, but take a picnic with you, because there's not much to do once you get to the end of the line, or at least there wasn't much a few years ago, except to tour the Tecate brewery, which I guess if you've never done it,and if it is still open-could be interesting.
There were several cool things about the trip. It's an old steam train, open windows, wood seats.
Just like I loved to make truck drivers honk their horns on long family road trips when I was a puppy, the kids that live along the tracks, and the adults too all wave at the train as you pass by. Little faces looking up. smiling, giving that wave everything they have, running around, leaping off the ground, trying to outdo their siblings while you cruise by in the old train, almost like being at Disneyland, but no magic kingdon here. But you return the smiles, at the instinctive welcoming waves, and paid it forward a bit without spending a peso.
We skipped the brewery tour, and headed into the town square a few blocks away. We had four hours to kill, so were going to do some shopping, grab a taco and a beer, and get back on the train for the ride home.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on the way you look at it, there was really no shopping back then. A few tourist shops, but at my age living near the border, I'd pretty much bought every single item at some time during my life, and moved beyond the need to buy it again. Those big crepe paper flowers, the fuzzy bull banks, the blown glass poodles, pottery, tequila, etc.
There was a band playing in the gazebo in the square, and mariachis strolling around, and we sat and had an ice cream and listened to the music, and watched the local families in the park enjoying the sunshine.
We still had several hours to go until the train headed north, so we tried another area off the square, and again, no rreal shopping, but we did find a sort of swap meet, several blocks of little tables - people huddled under sheets, selling toothpaste, an electric fan, milk crates to use as furniture, gas cans.
Mid day, a quiet little border town, sleepy and still - siesta time on a hot summer day. So we ate again, and sat again at the square, forced to slow down, and just be there in the moment. We downed lots of water, a got a little sunburned, then it was time to go.
We passed by people we recognized from the train as we walked the last few streets to the station, stepping over holes in the sidewalk, passing block walls, and partially constructed or decaying buildings, paved and unpaved walkways and back onto the train.
I don't remember much about the return trip, but remember hearing that it actually goes North out of Campo on some sort of a dining cruise a couple times a year. Might we worth another trip. Time for a bit more research.