A last Gilroy gasp – support the high-speed rail

High speed rail. I’ve avoided writing about this for a long time because I know feelings run so hot on it. And because I wasn’t sure how I felt about it myself.
Here’s my stance. I’m in favor of it. I know the plan is riddled with errors and evil details, but overall it needs to happen. There’s a historical precedent for this-the first transcontinental railroad, built for four years 1863-69. You think that project didn’t have issues? Wow … if men could, by hand, run rail lines from Nebraska to California (1,777 miles in total), you’d think it would be nothing to run a little something down the coast of California.
Those early laborers laid track over the Platte River, through the Rocky Mountains and through the Sierra – you know, the ones so impassable in winter that the Donner Party got stuck and turned to cannibalism? It’s hard to imagine the brutal privations those early Californians endured.
At the time of the railroad’s construction, Native Americans felt understandable hostility towards the silver rails appearing on lands held by them by treaty. They organized raids on the labor camps. There will be no such difficulties this time.
To tunnel through mountains, men (often Chinese) were lowered in baskets to place dynamite in holes dug by hammer and chisel; a single hole was an entire day’s work for two men.
After lighting the fuse, the men were quickly raised in their baskets so they weren’t hurt, but that wasn’t always the case. That kind of slow and dangerous labor doesn’t face us today with the high speed rail project.
Moreover, veterans of both the Union and the Confederacy had to work side by side post-war, no doubt a difficult situation after such a bitter and bloody war. Again, not an issue today.
Early trains were often derailed by cattle or bison, thus requiring the wedge-shaped device in front of the engine to push them off the tracks. I hardly think we’ll encounter such problems this time.
However, similar to our own plight, talk began for the railroad in 1830, and it didn’t get underway for another 33 years. Planning is key; it has to be done the right way. Years from now, how proud we’ll be that California pulled off such a large-scale project. I know I personally love the idea of zipping to San Francisco or Los Angeles, and feeling a bit more like we’re joining the 21st century.
High speed rail is good for the environment, it’s good for job creation, and it gives us a break on our crumbling freeway infrastructure.
Here’s another lesson from history: the towns that were on the train line thrived; the ones distanced from it are in many cases now ghost towns. Gilroy’s lucky to be one of the few stations. We need to be involved, to educate ourselves about how best to protect Gilroy – and even to benefit from the project. We’ve got to embrace that good fortune and turn it to our advantage. It’s the future, it’s exciting change … and it’s ours.

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Speaking of change, my family’s about to go through a big one, as we prepare to move from Gilroy to Gold Country. Many sad thoughts cross my mind as I pen this final column. I have to say that the one thing I will miss most, which really made Gilroy home for me the last four years, was the Las Madres of Gilroy group.
I will never forget these women, because they’re in all my photos. Because their kids grew up in those photos over the years, sporting new teeth and growing into themselves. Because I remember those long levee walks as we all hoped our babies would fall asleep in the stroller and let us keep chatting. Because of all the playdates, and all the advice and the bemoaning of sleep schedules and the ecstasies over this incredible journey called motherhood.
Because after my second was born, the doorbell rang 10 times as women came to bring a meal, sometimes complete strangers to me. Because I, too, have brought that casserole and good cheer to a new mom’s home, and cooed at her baby and told her she was doing a great job. Because this amazing group of volunteers somehow manages to pull off three enormous festivals and two epic yard sales each year, fundraises for the less fortunate, including making Christmas happen for families we “adopt,” and hosts an active online forum with everything from “help this mom collect Pediasure coupons” to “who’s a good pediatrician?”
There are so many other things I will miss here in Gilroy: too many to enumerate. What a great place. It’s been a true pleasure to live here, and I will always fondly remember my garlicky city.
As my last act before I go, does anyone know of an elderly person from Pakistan who would like a fellow immigrant to talk to? Contact me at [email protected] if so.


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