Trains, Planes, and Automobiles
Posted by Jo Robertson Oct 30 2008, 4:01 am
by Jo Robertson
I recently took a train trip (see Amtrak Zephyr, left) to Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame. The ride took fifty-two hours and went through some interesting and beautiful country in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, and Indiana.
My husband was thrilled because we traveled through a small town called Helper, Utah, named after the small trains that “helped” the larger ones make it up the mountain. Helper Junior High, which Boyd attended decades ago, still sits on the hill with the same name blazoned across the front.
To the right is the rock formation called Castle Gate, a mile from Helper.
The trip wasn’t so wonderful to me, but I was game to try it, not having ridden on a train in ages. I’d forgotten how small the compartments are, how claustrophobic the sleeping bunk is, and how wobbly the ride is.
I won’t be repeating the experience.
When I was a girl, my mother traveled with us children through East Germany (under Communist control at the time) to meet my dad at his new army assignment in West Berlin. It was the middle of the night, and we’d made a temporary stop at a station in the Russian sector. My mom was a trickster and seldom obeyed the rules (one of the reasons I loved her), so even though we’d been warned repeatedly NOT to look out the windows, she peeked around the shade.
Zoom, that vinyl shade shot up like a jackrabbit, clattering as loud as the guilty sounds of rogue rifle fire. Instantly alarms sounded, lights flashed, and frighteningly large men in Cossack uniforms brandished even larger rifles. My six-year-old psyche was scarred.
Is it any wonder I don’t like train rides?
When we traveled to Egypt in the late 70’s, we took the Luxor train up the Nile from Cairo to Luxor and the temple of Karnak. I understand the Luxor train is much improved now, but then it was a nightmare.
Riding the Luxor train was an experience out of the Eighteenth Century. The joints between the cars were mere open spaces about twelve to eighteen inches separating one car from the next. We looked down at the dizzying tracks while we bravely leapt from one car to another, hoping we wouldn’t slip and lose a foot — or two.
The sleeping car had some kind of dusty debris that wafted down during the night to stick in my hair and the bed linen was disgusting. I didn’t dare change into sleeping clothes.
In the dining car, we passed a waiter who was drying a glass with a cloth as black as onyx. The toilet? Well, everyone was dumping waste on the tracks in those days and the Luxor train was no different.
But the next morning we woke up to the most amazing landscape. Ninety percent of Egypt’s population lives on five percent of the land around the fertile Nile River (see above). Men were harvesting crops with wooden ploughs like they did two thousand years ago. Lush, green, and gorgeous, the Nile area is a sharp contrast to the surrounding Sahara.
We visited the Temple at Karnak (above right) and thrilled to the ancient antiquities (Ramses II, below right).
This was an amazing train adventure, but not one I’d want to repeat, at least not the train part.
Boyd’s favorite mode of transportation is by car (it’s very hard to fit his large frame into a tiny train or airline seat). He likes to stop at every historical marker between northern California and Timbucktu and read the inscriptions.
I love flying. I like the quiet, isolated feeling I have in the crowded company of strangers where I can read and sleep, my two favorite pastimes.
What about you? Do you prefer to travel by train, plane, or automobile. Why? Any train experiences? Unusual road trips? Airplane nightmares?
Tell us your stories. I’m dying to give a $15 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky random commenter.
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