Today the clocks flew backwards an hour and gave me an extra morning hour. The morning instant coffee is steaming and local news streams by thanks to my OTA antenna in the window of my room. I listen hard for the morning train. I live close to railroad tracks and numerous times each day I hear a refrain. It always takes me to other places where I’ve ridden the rails. A few times here to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Portland, and Eugene. In other places I’ve ridden along from Chennai to Mysore, India and from Tokyo to Kyoto on the famed Shinkansen.
On one of the rides to Portland for a walking trip, I met a cast of characters in the Amtrak dining car where its community dining. Sometimes doing this hardly any conversation is passed but this time we had the person from Fresno, the young man from Bristol England, the older gentlemen from New Zealand, and me. We were cautious at first but soon explored world history and prehistory and travel, the wonders of the world both ancient and now, and the things intrepid travelers discuss. It was a wonderful 2 hours where we knew none of us would ever see the other again. Finally the train was stopping in Portland. My stop. We all shook hands and it was that moment of departure and I’ll remember it forever.
Trains and people and the main moment is not arriving but the getting there. Surely travel by train is not about the destination but the act of it all. You spend moments not suspended in a capsule 30k feet above the ground or heroically driving and cursing with road rage stumbling beneath your stoic surface. Instead others drive and let you enjoy. Soon the worries blend away and you are engaged seeing northern California melt away into the beauty of southern Oregon or down the coast finally to the ocean and reaching Santa Barbara. Its all beautiful and different each time. Each train trip is a different fantasy and reality. Its not for all of us. Some require purposeful travel where its the destination. I’m sorry for those people. They have never learned.
Never learned to listen for the train whistle and the hobo call to travel and reach the path and not the end.