Train of Thought

Some fun reading for the pandemic! Linda M. Au’s Train of Thought is a light-hearted account of a two-week cross-country train trip—well, almost cross-country, being Pittsburgh to Seattle and back again.

People who don’t appreciate train travel always observe that it would less expensive and far quicker to fly. But of course that’s not the point. The point is the journey, not the destination, and Au makes that abundantly clear. To maximize her variety of experiences on the journey, she travels at times in a roomette and at times in coach—though never, unfortunately, in what Amtrak calls a bedroom. Having done all three, I can assure you that the bedroom is the way to go. But visiting the Vista Dome from time to time is also important.

As an introvert—and Au makes a big point of being an introvert—she sometimes prefers to take her meals alone in her roomette instead of in the dining car. I have mixed feelings on this subject. There are many advantages to eating in the dining car, even for us introverts, and on the whole I recommend it.

Along with descriptions of the journey, we are also treated to some word paintings of Au’s fellow passengers. For example:

There’s also a middle-aged hipster in a bank of seats to my left. I’m unsure what to think about this man. He looks about my age or a little older, and he’s got skinny jeans, those trendy hiking sandals with adjustable straps everywhere, a huge duffel-backpack thing that I immediately covet, and what I think might be an Ed Hardy shirt. I’m not entirely certain, though, because I’m completely unhip and not sure I’ve ever seen an actual Ed Hardy shirt in the wild. I do own an ancient pair of Birkenstocks. That’s as close as I get to being hipster. I gave up on the beard idea years ago.

Well, I at least still have a beard. And Birkenstocks!

After the pandemic is over—which is not going to be next week, so don’t hold your breath—Barbara and I will have to start thinking about a long train trip of our own, perhaps across the Canadian Rockies if we’ve saved up enough money. I don’t want to wait too long. As Linda Au warns us:

If that trip to England in 2008 with Addie taught me anything, it’s that there’s no time like the present. If you can make something happen sooner rather than later, so it.

Yes. She’s right.

Categories: Books, Model Railroading