Roots on the Rails Roots on the Rails

Upcoming Trips: Gurfday Party 2019

October 31 – November 4, 2019

Las Vegas, New Mexico


Limited to just 45 participants!

"Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes, and outlaws than did Las Vegas."
– Ralph Emerson Twitchell, historian

Well, we'll just see about that Mr. Twitchell!

Join us at the midpoint of the legendary Southwest Chief in Las Vegas, New Mexico (No, not that Las Vegas – this one has slightly less craven debauchery) for 4 days of music you can really sink your teeth into, a classic western hotel on a historic town plaza, spectacular Western landscape, day trips to Taos Pueblo, the enchantingly wacky ghost town of Madrid,  the wondrous adobe nooks and crannies of Santa Fe, and the Civil War battlefield of Pecos National Historic Park. We’ll launch things with a Halloween shindig and see if we can raise some benevolent spirits to grace the festivities, then we’ll spend our days exploring this region’s rich history and stunning landscapes and gather at night for intimate private concerts by a roster of musicians whose songwriting and storytelling chops are unparalleled.

We are particularly excited to present this slate of artists, some of whom are Roots on the Rails veterans, but all of whom have known each other and played and/or written together in various configurations for years. We're eagerly anticipating some stellar musical collaborations, apocryphal stories of life on the road and a really "good hang"!

This event is limited to just 45 people - maximum. Imagine: Halloween in one of the most authentic western towns around, ride the rails in or out, great food, great adventure, great people and unforgettable music!

Be a part of the legend - join us today!


Our musical host for the event is GURF MORLIX, whose prodigious gifts as a songwriter and performer are matched only by his producing and collaborative contributions to works by artists ranging from Lucinda Williams to Robert Earl Keen. Though Gurf is often lauded for his “musical minimalism”, his songs are astonishingly rich and complex with nary an extra word or note added for effect. We’ve traveled many miles with Gurf – all the way to Churchill, Manitoba to see polar bears, and across Alaska to witness the moose in rut. He’s a thoroughly decent human and a fun guy with whom to spend four days!

Popping in for a special set will also be, for his very first Roots on the Rails engagement, legendary Austin powerhouse, JAMES McMURTRY, of whom novelist Stephen King says, “James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.” We would tend to agree, both because we think it’s true and we’re also a little terrified of Stephen King. Since his 1989 debut album Too Long in the Wasteland through today, James has been painting vivid musical portraits of a human landscape all-too-often overlooked.

JON DEE GRAHAM is the only artist to have been inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame three times: as a solo artist in 2000, again in 2008 as a member of The Skunks, and again in 2009 as a member of the True Believers. A true stalwart of the Austin music scene, Jon Dee still maintains his long-standing Wednesday night residency at the Continental Club where he is regularly joined by musical luminaries and up-and-comers alike. His songwriting is surgical in its precision, revelatory in its artistry, and his songs delivered with the authority of a man who has seen some things. This will be Jon Dee's 6th Roots on the Rails adventure.

Insightful, incisive and irreverent, BONNIE WHITMORE's songs are carefully crafted vignettes that invite the listener into a rich world of clear-eyed observations about love, heartbreak, and the humor and humanity in it all. Her song "F*ck With Sad Girls" has become a classic on its own without (obviously) any airplay whatsoever. A frequent collaborator with a veritable who's-who of Austin musicians, Whitmore has amassed a fanatical following with her weekly Continental Club Gallery residency, "Bonnie Whitmore and Friend." 

Combining sardonic lyrics with crooked, unconventional arrangements, CURTIS McMURTRY writes about villains that believe they are victims. His first solo album Respectable Enemy, from 2014, drew comparisons to Calexico and John Fullbright. The Hornet's Nest was released in 2017, and continues to solidify McMurtry's reputation as one to watch. Curtis' music has been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition, and his song "Wrong Inflection" was included in the soundtrack for comedian Tig Notaro's Amazon Prime series One Mississippi. This will be Curtis' first appearance at a Roots on the Rails event.


Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019:
Arrive in Las Vegas, NM. 
  • Those who wish can ride Amtrak's legendary Southwest Chief from either Chicago, Kansas City or Los Angeles, and arrive in style. The train from Chicago and KC arrives in Las Vegas at 12:12 pm, and the train from Los Angeles arrives at 2:15 pm. We’ll pick you up at the station and whisk you off to our home for the next 4 days, the legendary Plaza Hotel. 
  • You may also choose to fly into any of the cities along the route of the Southwest Chief and jump the train from there – For instance, if you can get an early morning flight into Albuquerque, it’s a short Uber/Lyft/taxi ride to the downtown Amtrak station where you could hop on the eastbound Southwest Chief at 11:48 am and arrive in Las Vegas at 2:51 pm.
  • Others may prefer to fly into Albuquerque, rent a car, and make the easy hour and forty-five minute drive to Las Vegas – perhaps stopping in Santa Fe on the way to grab a green chile cheeseburger or do some gallery hopping!
  • If you need help figuring out how to get to Las Vegas, please give us a call and we can discuss options with you. We will, of course always advocate for the train, and are happy to go over some of the details of how to book the right accommodations on board, but in some circumstances, we will grudgingly admit that there may be better options.
The festivities kick off with a Halloween Party and concert – costumes highly encouraged!

Friday, Nov. 1:
For those who wish to join us, we’ll head out along the Turquoise Trail for a morning visit to Madrid, NM – a delightfully quirky former mining-then-ghost town that has been re-populated by artists and galleries. Then we’ll backtrack through the Ortiz Mountains for a late lunch and chance to explore the museums, galleries, restaurants and sights of Santa Fe, returning to Las Vegas in time for dinner and the evening’s concert with JAMES McMURTRY!

Saturday, Nov. 2:
We’ll get a reasonably early start on our trip up into the Sangre de Christo Mountains, climbing up to 7,000 feet and the storied community of Taos. It’s a stunning drive through the Santa Fe National Forest to our destination of Taos Pueblo, a tribal community with about 150 current residents that dates back at least 1,000 years. We’ll have a private tour of the pueblo, learn some of the fascinating history, and have lunch at Tiwa Kitchen – the only native-owned restaurant in Taos – for a sampling of authentic pueblo cuisine. After a stroll around the gallery and shopping district of downtown Taos, we’ll descend back into Las Vegas in the late afternoon for another stellar evening of music in the hotel ballroom.

Sunday, Nov. 3:
The morning is free to catch up on sleep, do some independent exploring of historic downtown Las Vegas, perhaps visit the natural hot springs just outside of town. In the early afternoon we’ll offer a chance to visit Pecos National Historic Park and learn more about the region’s Civil war history and the Battle of Glorietta Pass, then head back to Las Vegas for a final group dinner at the Castaneda Hotel – one of the region’s historic railroad hotels that lay crumbling for decades until it was recently purchased and is being lovingly restored to its former glory – before our final evening concert.

Monday, Nov. 4:
We bid you all a fond farewell as you head for the train or the airport. The train heading back to Los Angeles departs at 12:12 pm, and the eastbound train to Chicago departs at 2:51 pm.


STANDARD PACKAGE:  $2189 per person for four nights hotel (shared room, private bath), concerts as listed, chartered motorcoach side trips as listed, and 2 group dinners.

SOLO OCCUPANCY PACKAGE: $2489 per person for four nights of solo occupancy of your hotel accommodations (private bath), concerts as listed, chartered motorcoach side trips as listed, and 2 group dinners.

DELUXE HOTEL PACKAGE: $2589 per person. Upgrade to one of the hotels deluxe rooms, overlooking the historic town plaza.

We offer a few payment options for cost savings and convenience.

1.) Pay in one lump sum through our online store and receive a 2% per person discount off the regular price.

2.) Pay a $300 per person deposit to hold your space, then within 7 days pay your remaining balance through our online store:
OR Contact Sarah at or 802-258-1397 to set up a convenient, interest-free monthly credit card draw.

Solo travelers will be paired with another same-gender traveler for double occupancy of hotel rooms, unless the Solo Hotel Occupancy Package is purchased.

Credit cards (Visa, MC, Amex, Discover) and checks accepted.
Payment plans at no additional charge are happily accommodated. Payment plan must be agreed upon and set up within 7 days of sign-up. Deposits, whether paid separately or as part of full payment upfront, are non-refundable, though they can be applied to a future trip with us. Liability release signature required.

Deposits, whether paid separately or as part of full payment upfront, are non-refundable, though they can be applied to a future trip with us. Outside of deposit and credit card fees, a full refund will be given up until 90 days prior to the start of the trip. 50% refund 60-90 days. No refund less than 60 days prior to the start of the trip. Reservations are fully transferable to another person.

We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance for your trip. By purchasing through this link to Squaremouth (an aggregator where various insurance company policies can be compared at no additional cost to you), we receive a small commission (about five percent). This helps us keep our trips as affordable as possible. On virtually every trip, we have someone who needs to cancel at the last minute due to injury or illness, family emergency, or any number of unexpected circumstances. Those who had purchased the trip insurance were disappointed to be missing the trip, but very relieved that they were not losing all the funds they had paid us, airline tickets, hotel accommodations, and other expenses. Those who did not purchase the trip insurance were really, really sad to lose a train trip and a bunch of money too. We'd hate to see you be one of those people, which is why we stress the importance of trip insurance. Really, truly, we think it is worth it.

The payment of a deposit or any part or full payment for a reservation shall constitute consent to all the provisions contained herein. Flying Under Radar, LLC shall not be held responsible for property loss or damage and/or any damages resulting from illness, personal injuries or death which may be sustained by reason of, or while engaged on, any trip or tour whether due to the ownership, maintenance, use, operation or control of any vehicle, hotel, common carrier or any other conveyance used in carrying out these tours. We can assume no liability due to any cause whatsoever whether caused by failure or delay or other irregularity, acts or omissions occurring during a tour under which the means of transportation or other service thereby is offered or supplied by owners, operators or public carriers for whom Flying Under Radar, LLC acts only as agent. Flying Under Radar, LLC reserves the right (at its discretion) to alter or omit any part of the itinerary, or change any reservation, feature and/or means of conveyance without notice or for any reason whatsoever and without allowance or refund and with extra costs, if any, resulting therefrom paid by the passengers. Although all artists are contracted to appear, lineup is potentially subject to change due to illness or force majeure. We reserve the right to cancel any tour prior to departure, in which case payment will be refunded without further obligation on our part. Flying Under Radar, LLC shall not be responsible for any injury to person (whether or not resulting in death) or damage to property.
Flying Under Radar, LLC strongly urges individual passengers to obtain appropriate insurance coverage. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely. The transportation companies concerned are not to be held responsible for any act, omission or event during the time passengers are not aboard their carriers or conveyances. The passenger contract in use by the carriers concerned (when issued) shall constitute the sole contract between the transportation companies and the purchaser of these tours and/or passage. By accepting the ticket the passenger also agrees to its terms and conditions. By forwarding of deposit, the passenger certifies that he/she does not have any mental, physical or other condition or disability that would create a hazard for him/herself or other passengers. Flying Under Radar, LLC reserves the right to cancel or withdraw any person as a member of the tour at any time. Flying Under Radar, LLC and Roots on the Rails management reserve the right to refuse service to anyone whom it considers incompatible with the best interests of its services or its guests.