On the Train? Talk to People!

I enjoy almost everything about long-distance train travel. The whole experience is fun for me, and when things go wrong and it’s no longer fun, it’s still interesting. (Well, most of the time.)

In particular, I enjoy the traditional dining car experience because it’s a chance to sit for an hour three times a day chatting with total strangers. I have written quite a few of these columns with the inspiration coming from an interesting comment from a total stranger with whom I was sharing a meal in an Amtrak dining car.

Here’s a good “for instance”.

I was traveling with my brother-in-law, Peter, and it was just after noon on the second day aboard the westbound Southwest Chief . We had just been seated for lunch when we were joined by a very nice looking couple, probably in their middle-to-late 50s.

Early in the conversation, it turned out that the husband was a veteran captain with American Airlines. He and his wife were returning to their home near Los Angeles after completing a two-week trip that included three of Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

Peter asked what had prompted someone who could fly anywhere in the world for free to undertake an extended rail itinerary.

And the captain said, “I thought it was time to get a good look this country from an altitude of six feet.”

And at the time I remember thinking, that’s it! You see the mountains and the rivers and the farms and the cities and the suburbs . . . all of it right there . . . passing by right outside your window.

That’s why we travel by train.