Saturday, July 23, 2011

All Aboard!

While in Chicago we would tell people we took the train out from LA.  At first no one believed us.  And then once they were finally convinced, they didn't believe it was worth it.  So let me tell you:  IT'S WORTH IT.  People, listen to your friend - train travel is for winners.  I haven't had such a fun time getting from one place to another - ever.  I don't ever want to fly again.  Mostly because it made me realize that the airline industry hates us.  They hate us and want us to suffer.  The train industry, on the other hand, loves us and wants to give us cozy beds and newspapers every morning and glorious views of America.  It took two full days to get from LA to Chicago and it felt like nothing.  It took us 4 hours to fly from Chicago to LA and it felt like 2 days.  And the train doesn't make you take off your shoes and walk through a metal detector, and you can get out of your roomy and comfortable seat and walk around as much as you want.  You can spread out and play games and every couple of hours there are stops in exotic places like Albuquerque, NM and Kansas City, MO where you can get out and take in the fresh air and by turquoise jewelry made my Navajo women.  It is a glorious way to travel. 

Some highlights:

Union Station.  Love.

1.)  Union Station is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles.  It is  grand.  I've been going through there for years because if you take the train into the city you end up there and also, it is the Gateway to Cielito Lindo's - Home of the Greatest Taquitos in the World.  Naturally, I've been a lot.  Every time I've gone through Union Station I've been a little jealous of the people with luggage because it means they're actually traveling somewhere.  So it was kind of a dream come true to walk through there with my suitcase and board a train.

All Aboard!

Katie and Dad, consulting the map.

We are giddy with excitement in our wee roomette.

2.)  When you take your train trip be sure you book a sleeper, for a couple of reasons.  1.)  Hello, bed.  Maybe you're one of those magical people who can sleep sitting up, I am not.  The first night was a bit rough because I wasn't used to all the jostling, but the second night was much better.  2.)  Hello, 1st class.  Booking a sleeper automatically puts you in first class which means your meals are included and you get a newspaper every morning and a bonus golf cart ride to your platform, like the royals get.  3.)  Goodbye coach.  I walked through that coach class.  It was like a war zone in there.  It was dark and there was trash and baggage scattered all over the place.  The seats didn't look all that bad, they reclined pretty well and had a footrest, so if you're only going a short distance, go for it.  But it reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry says that once you've been in first class you can't go back.  He's right.

The chairs in our room folded down to make a bed and a bunk folds down from the top to make the other.  I look so cozy.

3.)  It is the Way of The Knecht to make friends with everyone.  Before the train even pulled out of the station we were best friends with our porter, Riley, and our conductor, A. Findley.  We later because tight with the dining car guys as well, Mel, Robert and Jerry.  They were so nice and friendly and would joke around with us and basically made the trip awesome.

A. Findley!  Our first and favorite conductor.

4.)  In order to appreciate train travel you have to like leisure time.  I do.  I love to sit and read a book, or play games, or watch corn fields go by, all things we did for long periods of time.  People have asked, "So there's no tv on the train?"  There isn't.  If you're going to travel by train you have to make your own fun, of which I am a big proponent.

5.)  At Raton, NM we picked up a feral pack of Boy Scouts.  The mega scout camp Filmont is near by and these scouts had spent a week or two out there and were heading home to New York.  So you can imagine the state they were in.  There was a distinct rancid teenage muskiness to them which anyone would recognize as a combination of Doritos, crusty socks, old hot dogs, and farts.  Multiply that scent by 30 and you can now imagine what the lounge car smelled like the last day of the trip.  Reason number a billion why you should get a sleeper:  scouts sleep in coach.

Feral Scouts boarding the train.

6.)  We crossed several rivers.  The most impressive:  the Mighty Mississippi

And the Majestic Los Angeles River

7.)  We passed through Grants, NM:  Birthplace of Katie, where I lived from the ages of 1 to 3.  I have only glimpses of memories from it and this was the first time I've seen it since.  I think it's strangely beautiful and very wild west-y.  I happened to be reading a Louis L'Amour book through here.  Kind of perfect.

 8.)  Do you know what they grow in Missouri, Iowa and Illinois?  Corn

And soy beans

This is what we saw for miles and miles and miles.  This was my first time traveling through the Midwest and I was mesmerized by it.

While waiting to board the train we overheard a man in line with us say that he came out to LA on the train and it was the most horrendous experience of his life and that his return trip was going to be his last.  To that I say, great, more room for me.  Because train travel is the greatest. 

Up next:  how I had a great time in Chicago despite the fact that it was trying to melt me down like an ice cube in a broiler.


Andrea said...

Andrew says he is jealous except he isn't quite sure he'd fit in a sleeper.

Sometime I want to take a trip with you somewhere, we'd have a blast don't you think?

Alicia said...

My dad was a boyscout leader for 15+ years and, let me tell you, they still smell like that when they grow up. :D My mom used to make him hose off before he came in the house.

But the train sounds awesome! Now I *must* take a train! Anywhere!

Stephanie said...

I have a feeling that a tour of a sewer treatment plant would be a treat for you. You have the best attitude of anyone - and you make train travel sound dreamy and wonderful. So glad you were able to go - can't wait to hear about your time in Chicago.

Rach said...

We have looked into taking the train to Kansas, just because little boys all love trains, but first we'd have to take a bus for a whole day to the nearest passenger depot. So I am super jealous that you were able to do such a fabulous journey on a train. We have driven through the midwest several times, and there really is a lot of corn and soybeans. If you're lucky you can also hit the cattle feed lots. Anyway, I love all the pictures, and I think we need to do a train trip someday.

Heather said...

Oh magical train ride! I'm so glad we are friends and I got to share that trip with you because now I can just direct people here and know that the trip will be appropriately described (oy the boy scout smell--you nailed it!). Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have always, always wanted to do this. It's like all the fun of my road trip, but with a bed. You'll have to give me the details.