Thursday, March 15th, 2012

How about a train ride to read, write and think?

Stephanie

I could really use a vacation with a large chunk of quiet time to read, write and reflect. One way I think I’d like to do it would be to take a nice long train ride to nowhere in particular.

I’ve only ever been on two trains, the first was one of those old steam engine fall foliage tours through Jim Thorpe, PA, the other being the Amtrak train shown above when in 2004 I rode from from Los Angeles to Pasadena for a wedding. (I didn’t want to drive the 405 so we took a bus from Santa Monica to Union Station in Downtown LA and then the train to Pasadena – which unfortunately mostly consisted of views of the LA river and a lot of graffiti…)

I think watching the movie The Darjeeling Limited half a dozen times has somewhat glamorized the idea of train travel for me and just the notion of disconnecting for a while with just a journal, a few pens and my eReader makes me want to book a ride right NOW.

Have you ever taken a train ride? Can you lend me some feedback on what kind of experience it was for you? Were you able to sit and enjoy the long stretches of time traveling to and fro? I’d love to hear….


28 thoughts on “How about a train ride to read, write and think?

  1. Robert, when I was at home planning my trip I was ecstatic to learn that the Pacific Surfliner would be hugging the cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean – I could not WAIT to ride that train. Trudging along at what felt like 20 miles an hour over the Los Angeles river I was more than a bit disappointed – especially at the length of the crowded bus ride it took to get from Santa Monica to Union Station.

  2. Robert, when I was at home planning my trip I was ecstatic to learn that the Pacific Surfliner would be hugging the cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean – I could not WAIT to ride that train. Trudging along at what felt like 20 miles an hour over the Los Angeles river I was more than a bit disappointed – especially at the length of the crowded bus ride it took to get from Santa Monica to Union Station.

  3. My wife and I took the train from the San Francisco Bay Area to Bakersfield once.

    Perhaps we were inspired by “Narrow Margin” or “Silver Streak” to embrace the romance of train travel. However, the reality was less Nick and Nora and more Boxcar Willie.

    The scenery was definitely nothing like the Canadian Rockies from “Narrow Margin” and not even close to the picturesque vistas we were promised by the posters on the wall at the train station.

    We passed every slag heap, junkyard, feed lot, and stockpile in Northern and Central California. I’m still trying to figure out the randomly placed Port-o-Lets I kept spotting beside the road along the way.

    In all, however, if you can get over the eerie feeling of being trapped in a Preston Sturges film, it wasn’t the worst substitute for a five-hour drive.

    The actual trip took 5½ hours despite several stops. There is more room in the seats than on an airplane and more space in which to get up and walk around.

    If you’re lucky (and we were), you can get opposing seats with a table between them (for eating, card playing, etc.). Each row has a 120 volt outlet for powering your laptop or recharging your iPod.

    The dining car was not the fancy one The Man in Black imagined, but the selection of eateries between Stockton and Bakersfield is pretty limited (and often frightening) – so having to settle for a pre-made turkey Caesar wrap instead of the ebola salad or botulism burger at Spanky’s Truck Stop in East BFE is not a big loss.

    Besides, the snack box on an airplane for a trip of similar duration wouldn’t be much better and, in many cases, would be worse.

  4. My wife and I took the train from the San Francisco Bay Area to Bakersfield once.

    Perhaps we were inspired by “Narrow Margin” or “Silver Streak” to embrace the romance of train travel. However, the reality was less Nick and Nora and more Boxcar Willie.

    The scenery was definitely nothing like the Canadian Rockies from “Narrow Margin” and not even close to the picturesque vistas we were promised by the posters on the wall at the train station.

    We passed every slag heap, junkyard, feed lot, and stockpile in Northern and Central California. I’m still trying to figure out the randomly placed Port-o-Lets I kept spotting beside the road along the way.

    In all, however, if you can get over the eerie feeling of being trapped in a Preston Sturges film, it wasn’t the worst substitute for a five-hour drive.

    The actual trip took 5½ hours despite several stops. There is more room in the seats than on an airplane and more space in which to get up and walk around.

    If you’re lucky (and we were), you can get opposing seats with a table between them (for eating, card playing, etc.). Each row has a 120 volt outlet for powering your laptop or recharging your iPod.

    The dining car was not the fancy one The Man in Black imagined, but the selection of eateries between Stockton and Bakersfield is pretty limited (and often frightening) – so having to settle for a pre-made turkey Caesar wrap instead of the ebola salad or botulism burger at Spanky’s Truck Stop in East BFE is not a big loss.

    Besides, the snack box on an airplane for a trip of similar duration wouldn’t be much better and, in many cases, would be worse.

  5. I’ve taken trains in Europe – from Paris to Basel Switzerland. The scenery was too beautiful for me to want to do anything but sit and lap up the colors!

    I’ve taken taken trains in New York – and on those you might be able to read and relax – but there again the sights are lovely when travel from the city and head upstate – or farther North through more of the New England states. Come to think of it – I think trains always seem to make me want to sit and stare !

  6. I’ve taken trains in Europe – from Paris to Basel Switzerland. The scenery was too beautiful for me to want to do anything but sit and lap up the colors!

    I’ve taken taken trains in New York – and on those you might be able to read and relax – but there again the sights are lovely when travel from the city and head upstate – or farther North through more of the New England states. Come to think of it – I think trains always seem to make me want to sit and stare !

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