Even though I’m still pretty new at it, traveling by train is quickly becoming one of my favorite modes of transportation.
Riding bikes and floating on boats also top the list.
I like to take the train because it’s nearly impossible for a story not to come of it. Everyone has a story about their life. It seems trains cultivate a special breed of narrative best told to strangers in a metal box going upwards of 100 miles an hour.
Humans are creative little buggers.
Before a couple of years ago, my train traveling experience was limited to basic amusement park scenarios, a couple of rides in and around Boston, and train cars turned into tiny museums at the state fair. I’ve since had the chance to take three train trips from Colorado to Indiana, and vice versa, and all have produced friendly conversation and stories worth repeating.
There was a proposal on my last train ride. After it was announced over the intercom, I imagined it was the pair sitting five rows ahead of me who had boarded the train wearing old-timey clothes and looking happy. He was a dead ringer for Doc Holliday, who famously met his maker in Glenwood Springs. She wore a fancy red silk hat with a black feather. They walked past my seat on the way to the dining car, and I was impressed with their creativity in costuming. The attire was just the start of the romance. This had to go down as one of the most romantic ways to propose in history.
I can only hope there is a video of the proposal that will go viral.
Trains are not only romantic backdrops for love stories worthy of repeating to a bunch of grandkids, they are also experiments in how we all get along and ride across the country together, being nice to one another.
It’s happening at this exact moment.
I also sat next to one of the nicest women I’ll probably ever meet on public transit. She was my mother’s age and was headed to Chicago to visit her son. From her description of his work in the community and with his church, he seemed like he must be a nice young fellow.
One of my first train rides to come home to Indiana for the holidays involved a challenge of my patience in the teenager realm. Teenagers seem like good people when they want to be. This one in particular couldn’t stop talking about Dr. Who and how much she knew about the British TV series. During the start of the trip, I didn’t mind it so much. I learned everything I ever wanted to know about Dr. Who on the Glenwood Springs to Denver leg. After two short hours, I never wanted to hear the words Dr. and Who paired together ever again.
I’ve since taken a less serious stance on the subject and watch it with awe.
I also sat next to a young guy who was going to Denver to visit his friend in Colorado Springs. He grew up in Lafayette, Ind., the city next to my Purdue college town, and had never been out West. It’s exciting seeing the Colorado Rockies for the first time. It’s like all the joy and wonder of what it must feel like to be able to walk around in a painting of the mountains.
These are the things I wonder about.
I will never forget the first time I saw the walls of Glenwood Canyon. That was definitely a jaw-dropper, and they still have that effect. The train through that canyon winds through the landscape and really is a trip that has to be experienced, and not just through words.
My favorite part of my last trip from Indy to Glenwood Springs was the layover in Chicago I spent talking to some friendly people at the bar. I like a martini when I travel, and the Cubs game was coming on, so the bar at Chicago’s Union Station proved to be a wonderful, funny experience. The wit from one guy who was a lawyer and another who sold cars was impeccable, and they had just met. There were plenty of references to hockey fights and the weather.
Enough that I derived some great comedy inspiration from them.
I like to go back to familiar places, and Chicago always feels that way to me. Despite the constant urge for me to eat a Chicago-style hot dog anytime I’m there, I like the people. And that is what traveling by train is about, hearing stories about a church fish fry and learning Dr. Who trivia.
The people all have a good one to tell when they’re riding the train.
— April E. Clark is waiting for the Doc Holliday video to surface. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.