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After I received the invitation to BlogHer in San Francisco I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to indulge in one of my greater eccentricities: my inordinate fondness for long-distance train travel, which even exceeds my dislike for air travel.
I have crossed the USA by train from Trenton to Seattle once, and from Newark to Miami. I have crossed Great Britain by rail. I have traveled from Amsterdam, Holland to Merida Spain.
I love trains.
When you tell people that it takes from Sunday to Wednesday to cross the country by train, six out of seven will tell you you’re crazy for taking that trip. The seventh one is probably as crazy as you, and will immediately start a conversation about the last time they went from New York City to Vancouver by train.
If you’re really lucky they might have taken the Trans-Siberian, the mother of all long-distance trains. You know you have a friend for life when you find a railway-travel enthusiast who actually volunteered, paid for and endured the whole Trans-Siberian enchilada.
My friend – who loves doing the NYC-Vancouver ride in early Fall – took me to the train station this morning, and now I’m on the train from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, which is clean, comfortable, and running on time. The dialup card is working, and will liveblog.
It feels like Christmas day!
The landscape through Pennsylvania is mostly industrial, as the tracks follow the steel and coal routes. We just pulled out of Harrisburg PA.
The train continues to be on its Sunday schedule. It’ll be interesting to see on the return trip how the schedule works, since freight trains get priority over passenger trains.
As expected, most of the passengers in business class are women traveling alone or elderly. The kind of folks who don’t want to be doing long trips by car.
A friend had suggested that I drive to San Francisco. I don’t enjoy long trips by car even when I’m in the company of good friends and/or family because of an old back injury which healed but which causes my back to go into muscle spasms after seating in the same position for more than four hours (yet another reason I dislike long flights). It takes nearly two days to recover from a 10-hr drive.
I don’t like driving alone, either. The idea of driving alone cross-country reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode where a young blonde woman set out to drive across the USA and had an accident in Pennsylvania. She gets back in her car and keeps driving, but there is this weird-looking man in her car. He doesn’t speak. He just stares at her from the rearview mirror. I’d rather take the train, thanks.
To each their twilight zone.
Tyrone PA: The internet connection from the dialup card doesn’t work too well now that the tracks are between mountains. The wooded landscape is punctuated with small towns, coal depots and commercial buildings. When we left Trenton it was 85F, dry and sunny. Now it’s in the 80s and raining. The clouds are starting to break over the horizon.
I’m reading “Se acabo lo que se daba”, by Luis Davila Colon, a political novel about Puerto Rico that my brother sent me last week.
The landscape through the mountains resembles at times that of western North Carolina, lush and green and chock-full of trees crowding one another while a river winds through it at times in shades of orange that changes into a silvery grey. They must have had a lot of rain. The cloudy sky changes from dark clouds to white clouds.
Every so often a cargo train comes by on the opposite track.
We’re somewhere between Johnstown and Pittsburgh.