Both trips were about seeing family, and throwing in extra days for a bit of adventuring. And the nice thing about riding the Surfliner and Coast Starlight is that the adventuring begins right away. These two Amtrak rides are exceptional, for views, and destination, and I feel fortunate to have enjoyed these routes five times in my life. Being familiar with them, for me, is a bonus. I love our state... California is vast, and endlessly enticing to me. And though I know the route, I love seeing the changes, the differences over time, through seasons. It's the same, and all together different, every time. And even though I can admit there are a few tiring moments, or dull bits, when thirty hours begins to take a toll, I was still giddily imagining how fabulous it would be to ride again, next time with the whole family... like, seriously, everyone!
We read, we crocheted, we played with our phones, we drew, we laughed, we explored, we took pictures. There was a game of chess, and a bag of peanut M&Ms. There were long hours staring, with our noses pressed against the glass, at green hills, and lush oaks, and miles of shoreline, hectares of grapes, strawberries, kale, lettuce seedlings, and orchards. There were even flowing creeks, and full rivers, welcome sights, indeed. There was litter, garbage, refuse, dumping, graffiti... not the art-worthy sort, but destructive, petty. There were homeless camps, and desperate sites, where people were clinging to whatever could sustain them. A train ride shows many sides, dark, bright, promising, shameful. And while the sad scenes are hard to see, I think it's good to have a look at everything, to remember everyone when we make our plans, vote, speak, choose. What I have, what we make and do, and rely on... all of it is a blessing that I cannot take for granted, and I don't think it's any kind of hardship to share opportunities, resources, education, clean water, healthcare, and human decency with all.
Sometimes I have trouble sleeping on the train. It may be the excitement of what awaits us, of the lights and towns whizzing by us in the night. It may be the worn and tired rails of our old train tracks, that jostle and toss us. It may be thinking of the future of our country... neglected infrastructure, abandoned values, an invisible populace, those larger issues, and my own struggles, personal obstacles. There's a lot to think about, and time to do it, on a train. It's a good kind of luxury, not always easy, but good. And always, I think, and plot... next time, the whole family... like, seriously, everyone! And that always makes me smile, and dream.