Posts Tagged 'Amtrak'

I’ll Take the Train! (Part 3) The next generation.

Aaliyah’s first trip, age 3.

As a lover of train travel, I couldn’t wait to introduce my children to the wonders of the rails. Taking the car was cheaper with that many tickets needed so we didn’t go often on the train but with my parents living on an Amtrak line, it wasn’t long before I ventured out with the four of them.

We all did take the train on December 26 for many years during the middle years as part of our Christmas visit. The most memorable year was in 1983. Our car wouldn’t start due to the below freezing cold, so our neighbor gave the six of us a ride downtown. We never dreamed it was too cold for the train to go too!  While figuring out our next move, my wallet was lifted from my purse. It all worked out and we got to Quincy on the next train and my driver’s license was returned to me eventually.

Familiar station!

Fast forward to 2009. I’m still taking the train often to see my mom. Our grandson (age 1) was quite sick and needed to go to the hospital. Jesh asked me to watch Aaliyah (3) and I offered to take her on the train with me to Quincy. So the grandchildren adventures began! She and I have returned every winter to Quincy on the train and just had our 11th trip this year.

Aaliyah (13) reading “Becoming.”

Two years later, I started taking her brother too. My criteria was 3 years old and toilet trained! Judah and I now go every year too. Lots of Uno in the snack car!

Judah’s first trip at 3 and recently at age 10.

Four more of the other nine have also traveled on the train with me but with a parent along. I have traded juice boxes and crayons for books and games:)

Granddaughter # 3 enjoying the view.

          Granddaughter # 2 keeping herself busy!

Of course plenty of snacks come along too!

I’m leaving again tomorrow on the early train by myself. I always bring more books than changes of clothes but once again will likely stay fixed on the story just out the window. It never gets old.

All Aboard! I’m on my way once again.

Hope for the best,


I’ll Take the Train! (Part Two)

Why don’t you just fly? Is a question I often receive from well-meaning friends who don’t share my love of the rails.

In case you are wondering, I don’t have a problem with flying, just driving, and usually fly home from my trips.

Long distance trains provide transition time. I don’t know about you, but I’m always rushing at the last minute before a trip. I like to tie up as many loose ends as I can and usually dash to the airport mentally reviewing my check list. By the time I detach from all that and start thinking about where I’m going, we arrive and immediately land in the new environs. No transition!

Like Thoreau, “I love a broad margin to my life.” Rail travel provides that margin.

I settle into my seat, usually with a cup of tea, and let the rhythm of the train coax me into letting go of all the frazzle and undone items. As the small towns and countryside roll by the window, relaxation and calm soon replace the hustle. Nowhere to go now, just sit back and enjoy the ride. By the time I get to my destination, I’m all set for something new.

The most delicious train travel involves a sleeping car. I loved reading about sleeper cars in my many novels and envisioning what that would be like to stroll to the dining car and then return to my own little compartment for the night In my many decades of train travel, it finally happened! The experience was more exquisite than I even imagined!

To the left is the tiny roomette I stayed in a few months ago on the way to Gallup, NM.

The train attendant converts these two seats into a bed and stops by the next morning to revert to the seats.

For this trip, I boarded in Illinois, dined in Iowa for dinner and then fell asleep in Missouri.  After waking up in Kansas, breakfast was served in Colorado.

Most of the books I brought along stayed in my backpack as the trip itself was more fascinating than words on a page.

A community also develops on a train if you are open to that. I always am! Amtrak fills each table with diners who may or may not know each other. Little chit chat ensues and sometimes a longer conversation. I still exchange Christmas cards with a woman I met on the train several years back.

Sometimes the unexpected occurs. The first time I travel across country, a delay caused the train to be 12 hours late arriving. I think I was the only person on the train who had an “oh well” or perhaps “Oh goody!” response as it was MORE time on the train.

Another time, someone died on the train. In the middle of nowhere, the train suddenly stopped and finally word passed down that a man had a heart attack and we had to wait for the coroner to come. Hours past but the train community was very engaged by the time we resumed travel. A collective sigh of “I’m still here” pervaded the whole line.

Then there is the tunnel! I make sure I’m awake for the only one on the trip west. The Raton Tunnel is the pass from Colorado to New Mexico and just as fun as you would imagine.


I’ll finish up part 3 next time with introducing train travel to the next generation.

Hope for the best,


What’s on YOUR Life List?

As my neighbor pointed out to me this afternoon, I love creating lists.  Just putting items on paper results in such an illusion of accomplishing something without actually doing it.

You hear of those people who write something down they already did just to check it off?  Me!

So thus I was intrigued from the get-go the first mention I heard of a “Life-List”… AKA “bucket list.”  A fluid written to-do list of things to accomplish in the rest of one’s life.

See the Grand Canyon, learn to ride a horse, view Chicago from the top of the Willis Tower, read the whole Bible, master conversational Spanish, ride in a helicopter, etc.

The list is YOURS so it reflects your passions and interests.  I started writing mine down many years ago and keep it  in my prayer journal so I  can review and update often. Sometimes I delete an item if it no longer seems that important or add something that sounds like fun. Love crossing those items off.

Hike on the Great Wall of China… Done! …but have not yet met a President.  Still waiting to see the Indian Ocean but I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge as well as all around Lake Geneva (26 miles.)

Saturday I will have the thrill of crossing off another item as I board the Empire Builder this afternoon for a train trip from Chicago to Seattle.  I’m sure you will hear all about it!

Now if I can just find a way to visit Antarctica.

What’s on your list?


I spent the past few days in my hometown visiting my Mom.  I get there a few times a year, often with one of my grandchildren in tow, but this time it was just me.

We sat in the high school gym for my nephew’s graduation.  Pomp and Circumstances always makes me cry.  Lots of memories from that gym of cheering our basketball team on, waiting for an invitation to dance to “Cherish,” wondering where we would all end up.  I don’t know the end of most of my classmate’s stories.

In the evening I strolled through the old neighborhood, pretending the same people still live in the houses.  Did I ever really sit and talk to them?  I wish I had another chance to not be in such a hurry.

The second day I met an old friend for breakfast at a local spot still standing since my growing up days.  She is one of a handful of friendships from high school that spans into the present…we talk about much more than “Remember when?”

My mom and I headed out in the afternoon and she still tells me to bring a jacket just like she always did.  I no longer remind her that I have navigated through many seasons of life and know how to decide if I am cold.  I just grab the jacket, happy that she is still around to mention it.

That evening I walked by my old school and church.  My class was the first one in the new school.  It’s not new anymore!  Both the church and school have different owners but I prefer to think nothing has changed.

The last day I chose my walking route to end up at the cemetery where my dad and grandparents are buried.  It was my parent’s wedding anniversary and I saw the date engraved on his stone along with his birth and death and my mom’s birth date. One last line to fill in.

Mom and I met a distant cousin for lunch.  Last time I saw her was a long-time-ago family reunion. Our grandparents were siblings. Maybe we will be Facebook friends and I will get to know her again.  After lunch we rounded through some of the old shops I like to visit and then it was time to pack for the train.

All aboard for the 4 ½ hour trip back to Chicago.  I love the rhythm of riding the train and watching the state of Illinois roll by in the setting sun.

I hope there are still many trips back home.

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