Hit-and-Run Tourism: Good Idea?

Several years ago, I was heading west aboard the Southwest Chief.  I had just awakened in my roomette and as I lay there, we started moving. Raising up on an elbow, I peered out the window just in time for the sign “DODGE CITY” to enter, then slide by and pass out of my view.

Dodge City!  I should stop off here on one of my trips, I thought. There’s Boot Hill and “Doc” Holiday and It wouldn’t take long—just 24 hours would do the trick.

This is Boot Hill . . . but I guess you knew that.

That’s when it occurred to me that there must be literally hundreds of small towns all over the country where a daily Amtrak train stops and there’s something that’s worth seeing or doing.

The Amtrak station in Dodge City, Kansas. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief comes once a day in each direction.

A couple of years later, I did get off the Chief in Dodge City and spent 24-hours visiting Boot Hill, the excellent museum and a replica of their Main Street, which came complete with real cowboys leaning nonchalantly against lampposts. My one night in Dodge featured a fabulous steak dinner served at a table in a vintage railroad dining car.

So a hit-and-run visit is  good idea, but there’s a catch: the cost of a roomette on the California Zephyr from Chicago straight through to Emeryville, California, in mid-April is $1052. Break that trip for a 24-hour visit to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and the cost oft he two fares, combined, jumps to $1459. So the stop-over in Glenwood Springs bumps the rail fare by $407 . . . probably a deterrent for the average traveler.

OK, then lets get the Glenwood Springs marketing people—and there’s a room full of them!— to make a deal with their counterparts at Amtrak:  The Glenwood folks will offer to spend $25,000 advertising the stop-over package and Amtrak agrees to reduce the combined fares by $300.

Good idea? Yes, I think so.