Monday, April 11, 2011

There's Something About a Train

These days, it’s all about fast. Faster downloads, increased speed limits, even faster weight loss. Riding a train is not about arriving quickly. A train trip is about enjoying the journey, letting go and slowing down.

For the fourth or fifth time, we’ve taken the train from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Denver, Colorado. Whenever I mention this, the first question is always, “how long does that take?” And then surprise when I reply that it’s about twenty-four hours all told, assuming there are no delays.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I like to be in control – in the driver’s seat, literally. That being said, I like to hand over the reins from time to time, and the opportunity to sit back and relax is a wonderful treat for me. So I pack books, magazines, a journal, a New York Times crossword puzzle book, and a charged iPod. As I recline back with a book or just close my eyes listening to my favorite playlist, I find myself giving in to the rocking motion and dozing. And because it’s a train ride, it’s okay.

We have never gotten a sleeper car. After the first nearly-sleepless night, we bought eyeshades, thick neck pillows and a blanket. It’s still not the best night’s sleep, but so far we’ve made it work.

And of course, there are the people. Whether it’s someone we’ve been seated with at breakfast or nearby passengers, who for better or worse, are on the periphery of our experience, we’ve been with some pretty memorable folks.

Lisa: Packed up from Maryland, left her remaining belongings in a 10’ x 10’ storage unit, and on her way to live with her sister in Parker, Colorado, where she will take care of her sister’s adopted grandson. “I’m not talking about going with the flow, but about riding the wave!”

Al: On his way from California to Iowa, sporting a crutch, a cane and a cell phone. He swore that this was his last train trip, he couldn’t take it anymore and would fly next time.

Bernie: Poor Bernie. We had to listen to her cell phone calls as she complained about Social Services, police, tax problems, health problems, money problems. And the problem with her cell phone that couldn’t get reception once we’d left the city. Thank goodness for poor reception.

Lest I forget, when you ride a train, there’s no restriction about non-ticketed passengers. The last kiss and hug takes place just a few feet from the train door. Unlike saying good-bye at the airport, the sweet heartache of watching someone walk away before the doors close is alive and well.


chocoaddict said...

Thanks for the nostalgia! I haven't ridden a train in a long time (at least not in America), but you're right, there are some great characters to be met.

Patty K

Lisa Orchard said...


This was a great blog. It's been years since I've ridden a train. I'm a new member and I'm organizing a book fair for published authors. I would like to cordially invite all of the published authors in this group to participate in the book fair. It is going to be held on Saturday October 15th. at the Grand Rapids Public Library. I will need to know the title of the books that you will be representing. GRPL is speaking with Schuler's Books about being the bookseller at the event. Please e-mail me the titles of your books and whether or not you can be there on the 15th. My e-mail address is

Thanks so much! I'm very excited about this event! Lisa Orchard