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Train Travel: It’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination

By on July 29, 2019 in Travel with 1 Comment
Linda Reid waves goodbye to the hurry-there world and hello to natural beauty and wide open spaces that come with train travel.

by Linda Reid 

Travel by train always intrigued me. 

My introduction to it came by way of a Little Golden Book entitled All Aboard!, about a young girl and her mother traveling to visit her grandma in the “big city” on a magical, overnight train adventure. 

She was about my age, around five, and was fascinated by every aspect of transportation by rails. Fortunately for me, my mother had three brothers living in Longview, so we often made the four-hour train trip from Seattle to visit them. 

I would be exactly like that little girl in the book, except I wouldn’t get to sleep overnight in a berth.

My husband Ken also has an affinity for train travel. His dad was a railroad buff and must have passed that on to him. He was also influenced by his frequent train travel to visit grandparents when he was young. 

Years ago, the two of us did a couple of train trips that we really enjoyed. 

After moving to Wenatchee about three years ago and watching Amtrak come and go on its daily journey from West to East and back again, we finally decided it was time to take another train trip. 

The convenience of leaving on the train from here was appealing when we decided to visit friends in Wisconsin. We also had friends from here who had recently enjoyed their experiences of train travel. So, we booked our round-trip journey — four days and four nights altogether — on the Empire Builder. 

Speaking of our friends and their train travels, my friend Linda told us an entertaining train story that is too good not to be shared. 

A possible title for it might be, “Misadventures in Minot.” 

Linda travels frequently between Wenatchee and Fergus Falls, MN to spend time with her family. About a year ago she had an adventure that gives evidence of just how outstanding Amtrak service can be. 

She got off the train in Minot for a 20-minute stop and went into the depot to buy a magazine. Unfortunately, she became absorbed in the magazine display and even more unfortunately, she did not have her hearing aids in. She did not hear the “All aboard!” calls but did hear the train whistle as the train pulled away from the station. 

She was traveling coach and had her carry-on personal items scattered about and was dressed in her sleeping attire. Fortunately, she did have her purse with her. 

After her initial panic, she approached Amtrak customer service for help. They assured her someone would gather her things and her checked bag and hold them for her at the next station where she could retrieve them the following day when she caught the westbound train heading for Wenatchee. They even helped her find a nearby hotel. 

The next day she found that they were true to their word and all her possessions were returned to her as promised. Her interrupted journey continued flawlessly. 

Fortunately, her sense of humor about the entire incident kept her from being traumatized by it. Unfortunately, her friends have not let her forget it. 

On our recent trip, we had many enriching experiences. 

We were reminded that it takes a little time to ease into the slower rhythms of traveling by rail, but once you do it is very relaxing. I like to think of it as “in-between time” when you can exchange your “normal” life for time to just be. 

Observation and reflection became my pastimes. Asking myself questions like, “What might it be like to live in this little ‘whistle stop’ town, or on that sprawling cattle ranch, or in that Midwest city?” 

Perhaps our favorite part of the trip was the fascinating conversations we had in the dining car over meals with fellow travelers. 

We met a couple from Mississippi headed for an Alaskan cruise, a young married couple traveling with both sets of parents to celebrate two 40th anniversaries in Glacier Park and then on to Seattle. 

We met a businessman from Japan and a young woman who just finished her Masters’ Degree and was heading to Milwaukee for a job interview. 

Stories are foundational to who we are and sharing our stories with people of many different ages from a wide variety of places enriches our lives and theirs as well.

The natural beauty and wide-open spaces that provide only an abstract, “birds’-eye” glimpse when you travel by air, come into focus in a concrete way. You see fresh details, hear new sounds and when you step off the train for a quick breath of fresh air you absorb a little of the sense of that particular place. 

All of this can expand your horizons and open you up to an experience of “otherness.” 

It renewed our quest to keep learning about what is unfamiliar. We will continue to travel by air, but when we can take the luxury of time, we will take advantage of riding the rails. 

Suggestions for what to take along on your own train adventure:

n A positive attitude that accepts a little inconvenience and discomfort. 

n Flexibility that enables you to deal with inevitable delays in the schedule.

n Openness to turning strangers into dining companions.

n A mindset that train travel is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Linda and her husband Ken live in East Wenatchee. Linda has enjoyed sharing some of their other adventures recently in The Good Life.

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  1. D. Selland says:

    This article makes me want
    To book a train trip!

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