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home : columnists : columnists May 24, 2016

7/11/2014 11:13:00 AM
Bits from Betsy

There's something about a train. Since the beginning of rail travel, trains have inspired poets, song writers and just we ordinary jotters-down-of-thoughts to put pen to paper, fingers to keys and pick to guitar.

Hubby and I again boarded Amtrak on May 28 to travel to Washington, D.C. to visit our son and family who live in northern Virginia. We've taken this route several times. This last trip may be our final Amtrak adventure, riding the rails.

Amtrak doesn't own the tracks and is forced to move over for freight trains, and freight trains are multiplying like prairie jack rabbits since oil began to be removed from beneath the North Dakota/Montana prairies.

Back before oil tankers filled the tracks, a traveler could easily make the connection in Chicago. In on the Empire Builder, out on the Capital Limited; same day with enough time to relax in the waiting area before boarding for the all-night run into the nation's capital. Well, you can forget about that!

The Empire Builder was four hours late getting to Red Wing and about six hours late into Chicago. We didn't care. We had a hotel room in Chicago; enjoyed a late dinner and strolled along Michigan Avenue the next morning before check out time.

We arrived in Washington, D.C. almost on time. The farther east you go, the more tracks there seem to be, so trains don't have to totally pull over and stop for hours at a time while oil tankers rumble by.

The visit in Virginia was great. Nine days of basking in the love of family. Playing with the grandkids, eating all kinds of good food, being a proud parent and taking in some historic sights filled our time and memory banks with delight.

Then it was time to get back on the train and come home.

My thoughts about there being more tracks out east and not so many delays were quickly dashed. We were parked more than we were moving. Our six hour layover in Chicago turned into a dash from one track to the other to catch the Empire Builder which was held, so the 150 riders could make their connecting trains. We got back to Red Wing only an hour late, so we felt good about that. Checked luggage didn't make it home with us but was on the train the next day. I was happily reunited with my favorite duds on Wednesday.

I don't know what the solution is for train travel. It's a very stress-free way to go. No one wands you or makes you throw out your big bottle of shampoo or homemade jelly you're taking along. The train crews are exceptionally nice and thoughtful. It's just that the train can't move. And that's an important part of taking a trip - actually moving.

My favorite poem about train travel WAS an Edna St. Vincent Millay work that contains this phrase: "there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going."

NOW my favorite verse about trains is from a Brewer and Shipley song: "One toke over the line, sweet Jesus, one toke over the line. Sitting downtown in a railroad station, one toke over the line."

Maybe that's the secret to happy train travel!



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