I have always enjoyed riding the train.
While I live thirty miles west of Chicago’s city center, driving there can take anywhere from forty-five minutes in no traffic to more than two hours on an especially congested day.
On the other hand, if I take the train, I’m at Union Station in about forty minutes if I catch an Express, and I can be productive along the way since I’m not driving. A non-Express train is about an hour and twenty minutes but still, no stress, no road rage. For me, the train ride to downtown is peaceful, just like the state of my brain when I took this picture a while back:
So when Jim brought up the idea of taking a cross-country train trip to the Grand Canyon–after reiterating how much he loved traveling by train with the Boy Scouts to Philmont High Adventure Ranch in New Mexico, twice!–I thought, “Huh, that’s different. Why not? I love the train! It’ll be so peaceful!”
Oh my, that conversation seems like decades ago.
We chose to purchase regular seats rather than a sleeping car mainly because of cost. Our seats, which were similar to First Class seats on an airplane, only cost about $150 round trip per person. A cabinette/sleeper would have come at a much greater expense; honestly, much more than flying. That choice was a “misstep” that several of my train-loving friends brought up throughout my trip as I complained to the high heavens (i.e. Facebook). I still stand by the fact that rather than spend more money on a sleeper, I would rather have flown and arrived in a fraction of the time.
We saw America, though, and it was beautiful! I loved riding through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas (even “boring” Kansas!), Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The scenery was the best part, by far.
The landscapes of our beautiful country we enjoyed on the way out West warmed us up nicely for the beauty of the Grand Canyon which, now that I’ve seen it up close and personal I highly recommend for everyone. You NEED to see it for yourself.
Anyway, the worst part about the train ride, BY FAR, was the sheer length of the trip. Jim’s Boy Scout trips had been 24 hours each way; this trip was about 33 hours each way. (Even HE started losing it after the 24-hour mark.) We left on a Friday at 3:30 p.m. and returned to our home station on Wednesday around 2:30 p.m. We were on the train for nearly half of the time we were gone, not including the two hour train ride back and forth from Williams, Arizona (where we stayed on Saturday and Monday nights) to the Grand Canyon itself. As my dad would say, “That’s a lot of training!” (insert rim shot here.)
It’s enough to make a person (me) go crazy, honestly. Control freaks shouldn’t go on (long) train trips, period. Here’s what else I learned along the way.
1. What might have completely humiliated me as a teenager actually made for a couple of funny moments on the train. Thanks Dad, you goofy son-of-a-gun.
2. When you’re on a cross-country train ride, the slightest hint of scandal can be exciting, even if you have no idea who did what or why.
3. A lot about the human spirit can change in a matter of an hour and twelve minutes. AN HOUR AND TWELVE MINUTES. Exhibit A:
4. Did I mention how control freaks shouldn’t take train trips?
5. Perhaps social media professionals/addicts shouldn’t take train trips, either.
6. It’s really important, in order to survive the extreme conditions on long-distance train trips, to find things to productively occupy your time.
7. By “productively occupy your time”, I don’t mean baiting your spouse, who is already out of her mind. Unless you’re super cute and have every confidence she’ll consider your comment to be a product of your co-insanity and subsequently let you get away with it.
8. We’re all in this together.
9. There’s really nothing like coming home.
Until you start dreaming about the next trip–on a plane or in a car, of course, because those long-distance, “America the Beautiful” train trips? CHECK. You’re done.