Check this out... I decided to take a train trip to Jacksonville Florida. The ticket was comparable to flying, but I wasn't in a rush and I actually wanted to see something other and large squares full of corn, cotton, and/or peanuts. So, I went to the Amtrak website and hooked up this really cool 30 hour ride to Jacksonville with a 6 hour stop over in Washington D.C. (yeah, 30 hours, again, I wasn't in a hurry).
I get on the train at Chicago's Union Station at the height of rush hour with folk coming and going and children running around and babies crying and security with drug sniffing dogs and the works. I was excited. I hadn't been on a train in nearly 25 years. I was assigned a seat and climbed aboard the Capital Limited.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to a college student. Not just any college student, but a petite, talkative Math and Finance Major from the University of Michigan. Jo is Chinese, Mandarin to be specific as she explained to me how all her Chinese friends at school were Cantonese and she had no idea what they were talking about when they spoke in Cantonese. After all, Mandarins and Cantonese are two very different languages and cultures. I'd heard that before, but having it explained by a native made it click.
The train was cold and we commented on that incessantly as the sun sank behind us as we traveled east. Across the rolling plains of northern Indiana, stopping in South Bend and Elkhart, and then flying like the wind through the night until we reached Cleveland on the far eastern edge of Ohio. There was nothing to see; it was the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep because I've never been able to sleep on moving vehicles; add to that, children who thought running up and down aisles in the wee hours of the night was the ultimate adventure. NOT.
Pittsburgh at dawn and then the train headed down into a valley and hugged a shallow river as we came out of Pennsylvania and into West Virginia. Several more stops including historic Harpers Ferry and we pulled into Historic (and beautiful) Union Station in our nation's capital 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
I said good bye to my traveling companion who had never been to Washington before. She checked her connection to Connecticut where she was meeting friends before flying to Poland for a wedding. (man, to just travel the world as you please) We discovered we were 2 blocks from the Capitol building and she screamed as she said good bye and headed out into the midday heat. I had 6 hours to kill... and found a friend to help me do it.
Daisy is 68 (I swear I bit my tongue when she told me this), lives in Boston, has been married for 53 years, has a daughter and 3 grandchildren and is originally from Havana, Cuba. She's lived in the United States for 40 years and would love to go back home but isn't sure if its a good idea. She is a retired real estate broker and owns land and property in several states. She's a confessed tree hugger and environmental hut and firmly believes in unity among all people. She was on her way to Miami to spend a week in a time share she bought several years ago but had been too busy to use. Her eldest granddaughter called every hour on the hour until midnight to check on her. I helped her in and out of her seat; she'd fallen 3 weeks earlier and broken 3 ribs.
We sat in front of a young man who was from New York, had a cell phone, and wasn't afraid to use it. He talked loudly in a combination of French and Patois most of the evening and then snored the rest of the night.
The view from the windows through the Carolinas, and Georgia weren't as pictureque as the day before, and it was gloomy as it rained on and off during the day. When I arrived in Jacksonville, the sun finally appeared and I disembarked from the icy train into a 98 degree morning. What a trip.
I was met by Ma, my sister, her kids, my kid, my niece and cousin. We had a marvelous couple of days, and my daughter and I drove back home through Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Indiana never looked so good.
I love trains; other than perhaps a cruise or a bus, its one of the last ways to sit and talk and visit and explore and see the people, the many different people what make up our world. I'm gonna do this again next year. Can't wait!
Labels: mah peoples...