This month, November 2018, I travel from California to New York for two reasons: first to see my son and promised daughter-in-law, who live and work in that great city; secondarily, however, and with specific timing, I am also going because my nephew (and son’s cousin) is marching with his band from Riverside (California) in this year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the Macy parade, you know?). Yes.
I do not like to fly, so I will be traveling by Amtrak passenger train, first from San Diego to Los Angeles, then onboard the Southwest Chief for two nights and days to get to Chicago.
Following our arrival in Chicago – where I expect it will be cold – I shall then board the Lakeshore Limited for yet another night and day, making my railroad leap past the Great Lakes and Erie canal, to finally reach the Atlantic coast.
I hope to be making, and publishing, video logs and written blogs of the train trip – but I feel like writing about it right now.
I feel a little guilty that I am leaving the house alone, but at least the brothers and sisters are here to check on it, and I will be back, God willing and the creek don’t rise. Am busy these last days doing laundry and cleaning house. Not that it isn’t already full of boxes and packing for all the stuff we are sorting through to give away or sell. I have this daydream of going to the swap meet with tables full of books and old clothes. Maybe in December.
I don’t know if I could have paid for all this trip, especially the roomettes on the train, except that three or four years ago I made reservations to go back east and see my son, and also return through Texas to stop and see my dear love Teresa in Nuevo Laredo, but I decided I should not leave my mother for that long a time. I converted the tickets into vouchers and have kept them good each year by rescheduling and then cancelling other trips, until this past spring I decided I should try to go back east on the occasion of this Thanksgiving holiday.
I also feel a little guilty because I am able to go precisely for the reason that Mom died in the first week of spring, and now I am literally free to go. Fortunately for my grief and feelings of guilt, seven months have passed, and my angst and pain is/are less hurtful, so I think I will maybe enjoy this trip, even though I cannot help but remember all the train trips Mom and I went on the years when I was living here with her.
In 2008, we went to see the Arkansas Post, subject of her thesis at Berkeley in the late 1940s. The next year we rode across Canada to see the Bay of Fundy. In 2010 we traveled with a train of private cars to Feather River (in the Sierra Nevada). The year after that she rode with my brother and wife and kids onboard the Grand Canyon train. In 2012 and 2013 we rode with LArail private cars, first to Glacier Park via Portland and Seattle, and then on a springtime trip called “Southern Comfort” to New Orleans, Florida, Washington DC, and Chicago. We would have gone on two others, but she did not feel up to it. Twice we did take the Pearl Harbor day Troop Train from San Diego to Los Angeles and back. That was a fun day trip. Such good memories.
So, like I said above, I will be thinking of her.
The train also wakes up many other thoughts in my heart and mind. My parents and grandparents and their parents before them used to travel by train, in the days before airplanes and automobiles and good roads. These trips on passenger trains for me are worth taking, even with the extra expense in time, because they let me think and feel back into history, for a world that has mostly gone, now. The old west moves by outside the big train windows, and I rejoice in this historic scenery. For a moment, I can almost see it.
Especially along the even older Santa Fe trail, where only horses and huge wagons used to go. That is where the Southwest Chief goes, from New Mexico across Kansas into the mid-west. This is the train that used to be the Santa Fe Railroad, or, to be more completely accurate, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe.