“…what thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection between unseen places.” – Marianne Wiggins
Today was the first time that I have ever taken a real train. I’ve taken some pseudo- trains before in Manhattan, accompanied by that unmistakable steaming pastry/NY smell magic all their own, but they’re more like really long subway cars, complete with scary people.
I’ve never experienced a true, Amtrak style train experience. In the morning, we boarded the daily train from Denver to Glenwood Springs, all aboard. Despite my traveling companion’s requests, my sister would not run alongside the train waving a hanky like in Downton Abbey.
Have you never taken a real train? Well, let me tell you: it’s magical. It is the opposite of flying. Flying is a ball of stress and horror. Flying is compromising your humanity to mail yourself, like a letter, across the country. Flying is the worst thing ever.
Taking the train, on the other hand, is leisurely! It’s roomy! It’s SO quiet! And we need to talk about the leg room: there’s tons of it! They even have a special little pedal that pulls down for short people with hobbit legs, like me! Your cushy (and wide) chair reclines almost all the way. There was so much leg room that I could have done a cartwheel in between the seats. It was fabulous.
We settled in with our luggage and the train took off from the station. No seatbelt announcements, no scary jolt of power and launching into the sky, just a cute horn and a little shake. The scenery turned from downtown into the foothills, from open plains into pine trees and ski trails. The ride was smooth and easy. Sure, we are all waiting for the high-speed magic trains of the Hunger Games, but until then, Amtrak will do. Before long, our silver bullet (not just a terrible beer!) was snaking it’s way through the Rocky Mountains.
We went through a six mile long tunnel, which felt a bit like being plunged into a mountain, but when we emerged into the light of a snow covered Winter Park, it was a little bit heavenly. I longed to sing praises of Colorado sky.
We had lunch. I packed, no joke, a single bag of Chex Mix. What Emily, my traveling companion, had said was “Bring Snacks.” I did. She did not. She brought Manchengo and Gouda, gourmet crackers, apples, cookies, wine and salami. AND A CUTTING BOARD. We moved from our assigned seats to the observation car and had a lunch that could only be called sensational. Emily’s European spread attracted many envious glances, but we didn’t share. Maybe we are bad people, I don’t know.
We passed through the snowy regions and emerged on the more desert-like Western Slope. Not that I always noticed the landscape. At any given moment over the 5 hour trip, I was either looking out the window in awe, taking a nap (the gentle motion of the train was like being rocked by a giant) or catching up on my reading.
Five hours of bliss (really!) later, we pulled into Glenwood Springs, just as the clouds were coming in. I was rested and refreshed, ready to vacation.
Ladies, take a train! I’m sold! It’s not just for oil barons 100 years ago or society women in hoop dresses or baseball players (I really don’t know much about train history, can you tell?), but it was certainly fun for two grand ladies in their 30’s.
Being on a train tapped into some deep and collective nostalgia inside of me. It was in a word, lovely.