I’m going to start writing here again, so here’s my first real post in awhile.
It’s a short piece & it’s about a woman I met on the train from Denver to Chicago.
She is tiny, bundled in a faux-leopard print coat, and she is carrying her weight in baggage.
“Can I help you carry anything?” I ask as I step off the train to join her on the platform of Chicago’s Union Station.
A face etched with the lines of a woman who has lived with all of her heart peeks out from under a severe blond bob and black beret. “Oh sure. Here, carry this–“
It’s a guitar case, flimsy with belongings other than what the case was intended for.
“I don’t have a guitar in there. I left it behind in Memphis because I wasn’t sure it was going to work out in Denver.”
She pauses and then turns to me, “Please don’t ever move across the country to live with a man you’ve only known for three months, okay?”
Over the holidays, I took my sixth domestic train trip. Since my fear of flying creeped on strong about two years ago, my modes of transportation are now the car, the bus and for long distance, the train. (I don’t recommend taking the bus; it can be a sad and disorienting place.)
I’ve learned a great deal about American’s great passenger train, the Amtrak, over these past two years. A lot of friends have said that my journeys have inspired them to take the train themselves, which makes this blossoming rail nerd very happy. In case you’re interested in traveling via the train yourself, here are some tips, tricks and hacks for getting the best out of your Amtrak adventure.
1.) Spread yo’self out
During the slow season, you can easily claim yourself two coach seats and sprawl your fine ass out during sleepy hours. This is not frowned upon. However, if the train car does fill up, you gotta give up that extra seat. Don’t be the dick that pretends to be asleep when someone is looking (more…)
I can’t remember how our conversation started, but we talked from 8AM to 10:15AM. He was 60 years old, a truck driver. His daughter bought him his first smartphone, and he asked me if I could download a few apps for him. I was surprised how relaxed he was giving me his phone and personal information, but the train has a way of making you feel comfortable. I find myself sharing stories of my own life to strangers.
While I was downloading the apps, he began talking about his daughter who gifted him the phone. His face lit up when he spoke of her. “She’s an artist, a poet, a rapper. She’s cool,” he said. Many years went by where they didn’t see one another, and when he saw her again, he noticed that she had a very beautiful “female friend” with her. “You know, my daughter likes members of her own sex,” he told me. He mentioned God once or twice in our conversation, so I wasn’t sure where the conversation was headed. “She was afraid to tell me that she liked women,” he said. “Everyone in the (more…)
I’ve clocked 125 hours on the train in the past ten months.
Ninety-six of those hours were spent on a single trip from Austin, Texas, to Syracuse, New York.
The train became my preferred form of travel after flying started setting off all kinds of anxiety alarms. The experience of going to the airport and then barreling through the air in a disorienting metal tube forced me to keep my feet on the ground.
After my initial train trip from Tucson, Arizona, to Austin, Texas, where I rolled out of bed from the hotel, walked across the street and straight onto the train, I became hooked. Every time I see the bright, streamlined body of the antiquated trains also sends a small chill through my spine. Even as a little girl, I loved the rhythmic sound of a train rolling along the track. Trains beckon to a time that I dreamt being a part of.
Though the train is extraordinarily inconvenient if you’re short on time, it’s the people you meet and the new landscapes you see that keep you (more…)
I met a lot of people on my recent 96-hour train trip.
I shared a story about the old man who looked like the main character in Up. He was traveling to Chicago from San Antonio, heartbroken after arriving the day after his sister had passed away. He was tiny and had an infectious giggle. Though sad, you can tell he is a man who loved his family and life.
The next story I’m about to share is of a man on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Today’s post is about the American vet with post-traumatic stress disorder. Or the drunk who just got out of prison.
Some of you who may follow my Facebook page have already heard this story, but I’d like to share it in more detail here.
A man gets on the train at 5AM.
He can’t sleep. In fact, he hasn’t slept in days.
He looks down at my sleeping body and wakes me up to say, “Hey, Girl. What’s up?”
I mumble that I’m sleeping, and he takes the cue to leave me alone. For now.
As I drift in (more…)
Last week, I took a 48-hour train trip from Austin to New York. Some of you have been following my adventures on social media (thanks for coming along for the ride!), but I wanted to share some more stories on my blog from the tracks. Amtrak didn’t pick me for their Amtrak Residency, so I decided to make my own.
When I boarded the train in Austin, my eye immediately noticed an elderly man that looked like the lovable character in Up. He was so tiny, with his pants up above his waist, and he wore oversized horn-rimmed glasses. He sat in silence by himself and stared out the window, lost in thought. One could only imagine what was going through his mind as he watched the Midwest glide before him. I wanted to talk to him, and I smiled each time he passed me, but I was too afraid to make conversation. I took a photo of him with the caption, “I want to know his story,” and I truly did want to know. What was he thinking? What did each line on his face represent? Friends online invented (more…)