I’ve been asked oodles of questions about my cross-country train trip. Some have to do with train travel itself and some have to do with my experiences in DC, Bethesda, Chicago, Needles, Lake Havasu City and points between.
One of the hardest questions to answer has been: What did you like best? Interspersed with a few train tips, I will try to answer that question. But what didn’t I like would be a much shorter answer.
Train Tip #1: Take a pillow. Or two.
Sure, you may feel silly walking around Union Station carrying your pink and purple plaid pillow (I didn’t think to take something more blendy-in-y), but who’s nice and comfy on the train now? Hmmmm?
Best Part of Train Travel: I Can’t See the Road Ahead
Even as a passenger in a road trip car, I have my eyes on the road, oft glancing up from my crocheting to make sure we aren’t about to, well, you know, DIE.
Traveling in a train, I can’t even SEE the engineer nor usually the tracks (S-curves in Raton Pass are awesome!), so no sense worrying myself about potential deer, vehicles or trackside bombs. I can’t do anything about it, so I might as well enjoy myself.
Train Tip #2: Pack enough snacks and then a few extra.
One may now say I have splendid experience in the rapturous joys of finding tucked away at the bottom of a travel bag, stowed away for such a hungry moment, a chocolate/sunflower seed Enjoy Life bar.
An episode of Giligan’s Island comes to mind, sans the vying for a bite by other cruise members because on this trip if they were hungry, they could go to the cafe car or dining car.
However, for one with food allergies, trains are not the place to tempt fate. So take plenty of snacks.
Best of the Trip Experientially Speaking: Independence
Maybe that sounds cheesy, or too-old-to-be-a-hipster-y, or non-submissive-y, but dang, I loved the independence.
I could eat when I wanted, sleep when I wanted, even go potty when I wanted, not to mention stare at Van Goghs or Manets or Rembrandts for as long as I wanted.
I could also buzz by the landscape paintings and sigh aloud at soooo much reading in the Archives building, skipping straight to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
My understanding son gave me independence, too! I got to choose the places we went to together, I got to stare as long or as little at whatever I wanted, I ate when I wanted, slept when I was tired, played Peggle as much as I wanted.
All he wanted was to spend time with me.
I know? Right? Awwwwwww. That needs another heart:
Train Tip #3: Bring a notebook and a black pen or pencils and an eraser.
I took colored pens, thinking I would be all creative and sketch the scenery in color.
I found, however, that fiddling with several colors whether in my coach seat or the observation car just took way too much coordination.
And by the time I got just the right color out, the scene changed.
Take one or two neutral color pens or pencils. You can always add color at home to review your experience.
Best of the Trip Overall: The People
I expected to say that about my family (I mean, we’re supposed to say that, right?), but truly, truly it was the people that made this trip a highlight of my life.
Both people in the family sense (son, mom, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and great-niece) and people in the general sense.
I met so many unique and fascinating individuals:
- The Mountain Man of Alaska and Albuquerque
- V the anxiety-filled Buddhist
- Laughter with a group of guys about “booty shots” in a tunnel (Story to come to light one day. It sounds worse than it is.)
- Soft tears of a woman traveling to visit her dying son
- Mr. Amtrak x 2
- Ms. Angry-But-Nice-Outfit
- Bus drivers and Uber drivers
- My forever Van Gogh friend, whose name I didn’t get
- Mr. Security Guard who I think was tempted to kick me out of the National Gallery of Art, but we had a good laugh
- Two presidents, one on his way out, one freshly inaugurated
- Two strongly oppositely opinionated passengers in the Legacy Club at Union Station Chicago
- and so many more.
Most of all, my amazing companions, the Three in One who traveled with me each step, each track, each station, each hub, each escalator, each mile of the way: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It would have been such a different trip without them.
So many tips to share.
So many people.
So many stories.
SO. MUCH. AMERICA.