“On The Train To Reno”
A famous quote from the 1939 classic movie “The Women” where all the ladies of the era headed to “live” for 6 weeks in order to obtain their residency and therefore their lucrative and morally acceptable divorces before returning east to begin again, shuffle the husband deck and trying to improve their respective hands.
We boarded the train in Emeryville, CA this morning, heading in the reverse direction but striking out for Reno nonetheless, divorce not being on the docket though.
We were momentarily shocked upon finding our Cabinette (read: closet), partly because of the size but probably mostly because of the martini’s and wine from the night before. After we cozied up to Dennis, our faithful Obi Wan Conductor (is a twenty still an acceptable cozy offering?) and pleaded for an upgrade to a more spacious suite we resigned ourselves to our new minimalist lifestyle and after a little food (think alcohol absorption device) we actually adjusted to the idea quite well. That and the fact that the train was sold out and packed left us little room for out of the box thinking but saving hundreds of dollars in payola.
I should say that leaving from California was a last minute adjustment to begin with. I only happened upon a small blurb in the Oregonian the other day that mentioned the Empire Builder, our ticketed train, was shut down indefinitely due to the confluence of weather events that I can only, begrudgingly, assign to the impending End of The World. Claire and I being the “no obstacle shall divert our attention” type of beings that we are, jumped into action and found space on our current train, The California Zephyr. It has been mentioned that this route is actually much more scenic than our previous destination so, as usual, we mined our collective pool of good fortune and came out on top, smelly pretty, the lack of shower this morning notwithstanding.
Training in the US is not what it was, never was, never will be and it most certainly isn’t Eurorail. That being said, there is really something amazingly right about traveling at a human and humane speed through the countryside. Not dealing with the crush and bustle of airports, planes and the people that populate them is more than a relief, it is a regenerative experience. When you fly, your senses are not only assaulted by the sheer volume of people, both in mass and in decibel, but as you are force-fed into that tube of turbulence and thrust though space and time you are denied the ability to assess the world that passes underneath you and simply breathe in the view. From the window on the train as you slowly climb the grade up the Sierras, you can actually pause and notice the intensity of the moss on the trunks of the Douglass firs and the lichen, blue green and asymmetrically clinging to the granite and schist that the tracks cut through. Each rock, every tree; a work of nature’s art, clearly visible and on display for you to contemplate and enjoy. So very unlike LAX or Jet Blue. I know that we will arrive substantially intact, both in spirit and in body, and ready for the rest of our adventure.
Already I am seeing a new path in my future. I want to circumnavigate the country by rail, stopping where I will along the way and ending back home in Portland, taking however long it takes, maybe timing it so that I pass through New England in the fall and watching the change of season out the window. I propose a roundtrip route that others who wish may join on board for their own roundtrip from wherever they begin. We ride together when we can and travel along on our own when we will, each having our own journey yet doing it “together” in a way, stopping for a day if we wish to visit old friends and new sights. I like it!
We are crossing Immigrant Pass now, the highest point in the Sierras, 5,500 feet. On to Reno…….and beyond.