by Yvonne Gaunt
Osage Beach, Missouri
It was two days before Christmas 1971. I was 16, the only kid left at home, traveling with parents who never went anywhere without their children. My older brothers and their families lived in southern California, and we always drove there from Missouri for Christmas. Not this year.
My parents wanted me to experience a cross-country train ride before it was no longer available, which at that time, it seemed a possibility. One of my many cousins took us to the beautiful Union Station in Kansas City for the beginning of a two-day trip across the plains and mountains of the Southwest.
Me in my hot pants, furry maxi coat and knee high boots really had no idea what it was like to ride in a train all night, sleep sitting in a seat and listen to the clacking and swooshing that didn't stop until the train did.
I don't remember what I received from Santa that year, but I'll never forget the cold and rain when we left, the amazing sites along the way, the warmth and smell of the California station on arrival. Most of all, I fell in love with the whole experience.
To this day I can wax poetic about my first trip and the several short trips that I've taken since. The people I tell these stories to always wistfully say " I always wanted to do that."