This week I went to visit my mother in Colorado. I live in California. The quick thing to go was fly. But I had a better idea. I took the train. It was nostalgic for me. When I was a little girl we took the train to Grandma’s house all the time. This trip I traveled on the Amtrak California Zephyr. What a treat! Yes it took me two days to make a journey I could do in an afternoon by plane. But the chance to slow down, relax, and think—to savor travel rather than endure it—was a welcome change.
Slowing down on the train has a lot to offer. First of all I booked a sleeper car. I had room to stretch out, and overnight the two seats turned into a bed. While we crossed the desert at night I read for a while and then turned out my light to sleep.
Meals are included with the price of the sleeper car. Dining on the train is a community event. I was a single passenger. Every table seats four. Time to meet some new friends. On the train everyone asks, “Where are you going?” and “Who or what are you going to see?” One of my tablemates had been to Seattle to see a museum exhibit, another to San Francisco for a brother’s funeral, and a third was going to Reno to see the grandkids. It’s pleasant to swap travel stories. No rush to leave the table.
Taking in the scenery was one of the best parts of the trip. There was plenty of time to enjoy it. The best views were in the observation car. The seats are pointed to the windows, the roof is clear, and the company is lively. When someone saw a herd of sheep off to the right side of our train, there was a whoop of excitement as we all looked. A few quick passengers got pictures. I also got a kick out of watching the train take a bend in the track. Staring out the window I could see the three engines pulling our thirteen-car train.
The sounds of the train are something I love, too. There’s the distinctive blast of the horns as we headed through towns or pull into stations, and the click of steel wheels on rails. I also like the rock and sway of the train. It can make walking a challenge, but it lulled me to sleep at bedtime.
Of course I brought my knitting on board. I had a cowl, a scarf, and a sweater to keep me busy. There are miles to fill watching the landscape roll by or chatting with folks in the lounge car. Stitch by stitch I watched California turn to Nevada, ease into Utah and then become Colorado. My cowl grew on the needles. And I found a sock knitter next to me in the observation car!
There are views from the train you can’t get any other way. I peeked in backyards. I came out of tunnels looking down into valleys. Snow-covered mountains and jagged canyon walls. We traveled by ranches. I watched herds of cattle razing, saw horses in their carrels, and sheep out to pasture. They all reminded me of a slower life, more in tune to the rhythms of nature and seasons.
So the next time you set out to go from here to there, consider taking the slow way. Take a walk to the post office or store or next errand you have to run. Slow down your rushing around. And the next time you have to travel across state lines consider taking the train.