by Paul Smith
I have been riding the rails for more than 50 years, but I never tire of it. I still look forward to the "all aboard" call with the same excitement that I did on my first trip as a lad in 1953.
One of the nice things about traveling on Amtrak is the opportunity to chat with people from many places and climes. I have met hundreds of interesting people from all walks of life. I seldom meet a stranger.
Last November I took the Texas Eagle from El Paso to Dallas. During lunch I struck up a conversation with my tablemates. Our chat turned to a discussion of jazz, which I confessed that I did not know much about, but would like to learn more. As it turned out, I was talking to a professional jazz musician and band leader. He gave me a primer on jazz and subsequently sent me a couple of his CDs.
On a repeat trip in February I noticed a passenger who was reading Brother Fish by Bryce Courtenay, a popular Australian author. Few Americans have heard of Bryce, so I assumed the reader was Australian. However, she lives in British Columbia and was traveling to New Orleans. We had a robust chat about Bryce's books; we had read most of his works. She was near the end of the book, so she said that she would give it to me. Later, in the Lounge Car, I was presented with Brother Fish.
Meeting interesting people is just one of the many delights of train travel. Others include the scenery — arguably the best is observed from the California Zephyr between Denver and Salt Lake City; a glass of wine in the Lounge Car; an afternoon snooze induced by a carefree environment; dinner in the Dining Car; or snow slapping the bottom of the car as the Southwest Chief races across Kansas. I could write a book. Maybe I will. But that is for another forum.
Don't take my word for it. If you have not done so, take a long distance trip on Amtrak. If you have been there, done that, do it again.