Last week, I rode the train from Indianapolis to Seattle in part I hoped to get something interesting in the way of a Newspaper column and I did. Actually I got two, the second of which I just sent off to the papers. The Following is the first of the two. I will have more to say on the subject later.
Back in February, my wife Susie decided that looking at pictures of our new grandson was not enough to fulfill her grandmotherly duties so we booked her an April flight to Seattle where our son, Joe and his wife are busy adapting to parenthood. We did not buy a ticket for me because I have been suffering through a severe case of procrastination for the past several months, the effects of which have left several domestic tasks hanging over my head. Since Susie would be gone for 3 weeks, I reasoned that I would be able to get a lot of work done without any of those pesky interruptions that she is capable of producing.
A couple of days after she left, I realized my plan wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t shake the feeling of martyrdom that I was experiencing. Phone calls from Susie revealed that she was eating fresh seafood and playing with our grandson while I was on my hands and knees planting potatoes. It just didn’t seem fair. I decided I would just join her.
However, a half day long search on the computer for an economical plane ticket revealed that inexpensive flights are hard to find when making last minute travel plans. I was on the verge of staying home until I had a conversation with my brother-in-law. He, a new grandfather himself, reminded me that grandchildren are babies for only a little while so I went back to my airline search for something that would fit my budget. Along the way, I checked with AMTRAK, our quasi-government rail system. Their website convinced me that that the price was reasonable for the 53 hour trip on the Empire Builder, a train that travels across the northern two thirds of the United States.
It only took a moment for me to decide to travel by train, something I have wanted to do anyway since Joe moved to Seattle some years ago. The ride would give me a chance to seek out a bit of solitude, something that is impossible to do when you marry a girl from a big family. I knew that this was a rare chance for me to experience that feeling. When I explained to Susie what I was doing, she did not understand this quest for solitude. She also didn’t like the idea of all that riding with nothing to do but eat, read, sleep and look out the window at the ever changing scenery. Not me. I enjoy any or all of those things and I also appreciated having the time to just sit quietly by myself and contemplate my navel , hoping for enlightenment. (note 2)
Now before all you adventure seekers get excited and start making reservations, I should warn you that train travel is not for everyone. I suspect that anyone with a Type A personality, for example, might not like it. There is also that matter of spending two nights sleeping in a coach seat, a prospect that for some ungodly reason, sounded like one of those adventures I was sorely in need of. (note 1). Sleeper berths were available but were way outside my budget.
The first leg of the trip required a trip from Indianapolis to Chicago where I was to catch the Empire Builder. I found myself surprised by the number of people waiting to board the train when I arrived at Union Station in Indianapolis, a 125 year old Romanesque and cavernous old clock towered structure right out of a Harry Potter movie. For some reason, I was under the assumption that nobody traveled on trains anymore. That is not true. Unlike me, a person seeking adventure, many people use the train for everyday transportation.
It didn’t take long to find that out. Shortly after leaving the station, I was just getting comfortable with my newspaper and a 2 dollar cup of coffee when a middle aged lady with unruly, dirty blonde hair tapped me on the shoulder, interrupting my musings.
“I noticed back at the station that you have a cell phone. If I give you five bucks, would you call someone in Lafayette and tell them I’m coming home? I need someone to pick me up.” She said.
My first thought, given the fact that I’m still quite good looking, was that instead of someone picking her up, she was trying to pick me up. Good Lord, what should I do? Thinking quickly, I replied…..
Whoops! I’m afraid we will have to wait to find out what I had to say because I have just exceeded my allotted space. Tune in again next week, folks.
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Note 1. Trying to sleep while sitting up was not an adventure. It is not something old people should be doing. Curling up in the fetal position is worse, even with the advantage of having an empty seat next to you I don’t have the room to list the aches and pains a body can accumulate while squirming around through the night until the sun comes up. On the other hand, with the aid of a pain pill and the walking required to get to the lounge car for a cup of coffee in the morning, the pains can become only a dull ache.
Note 2: I have yet to experience any illumination while metaphorically staring at my belly button because I keep wondering how all that lint got in there.