02 July 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009 - 14 comments

The Train Ride

Life is an adventure or nothing at all...Helen Keller

As we go through our daily lives we hardly take the time to sit down and and see the world around us. What is around us? What is happening behind those walls we fail to look past. To find out you must consider what is more important to you, to get there fast and miss the ride or to stop and take your time to smell the roses on the way. When you take the moment to smell the rose you sometimes get to experience a new scent or catch a glimpse of a color you’ve yet to see.

As we hurriedly made our way to the train station I noticed that we were excited in a rushed kind of a way, pushing along on the freeway, passing the other travelers on the road who were not going fast enough for us. Hurry hurry hurry. My anticipation of our trip was overwhelming and I just wanted it to begin. Now. Over the last few days when others discovered our plans for our adventure the response was mixed from are you nuts to ooooo so cool! But when I told them how long the trip would be in just one direction, 90 percent of the people said why not just fly you’ll get there so much faster! And that is what I realized I didn’t want. I didn’t want to get there faster. The last 14 years of my life have flown by and my once baby is now almost a man and to spend 18 hours on a train seemed almost like I was going to stop time. Just for a day I wanted to stop time.

Once our train arrived my anticipation began to wain, suddenly I realized I’m now not only stuck on a train for 18 hours, but I am now sharing a bath, dinning table, and an entire car with perfect strangers, people who I may not necessarily sit next to on any normal day in my life. There are some very interesting people around me. Upon boarding we became aware of our surroundings and began to set up our living quarters for the journey ahead. The light outside was quickly being swallowed up into darkness and lights were beginning to twinkle around the bay. The train started it’s slow progression north. The sound of the whistle in the distance. The sound of chatter and babies crying all around us.

With our camera in hand we decided to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings and went on a quick tour of the train. Toilets, check. Club car, check. Dinning car, check. Arcade car, check. With a snack to satisfy our sweet tooth we got back to our seats and settled in for the night. The sun was turing the Bay into a deep blood red. The walls lining the tracks filled with colors of the rainbow colored by artists whom we will never see with their art hanging in a gallery. A shame really. Homeless shanties set up for the night ahead. Filth in backyards that are hidden by the beauty of the front yards. As the light turned to a darkness only dotted by lights a card game was quickly begun only to be interrupted many times by stops along the tracks, the cranes of the shipping yards working tirelessly loading huge crates going to world destinations around the globe, and the occasional glance at a new passenger boarding.

Slowly the trains passengers began to shut down for the night, blankets passed out, pillows fluffed and babies cries soothed with the lullaby of a mother’s voice. Sleep beginning to overtake us we closed up our game of cut throat rummy to resume in another time. As the lights dimmed for the night it soon became apparent that sleep would be hard to come by if at all. Little did we know then how slow time would become, how minutes seemed like hours passing. Being comfortable was something to buy, not to achieve sitting in a chair that only reclines 45 degrees. The music for the night consisted of snoring, crying, muffled music from iPods trying to drown out the click clack of the tracks.

Between fitful sleeps I dreamt of holding my daughter for the first time, someone grabbing my son from the chair on the other side of me and how I would fight till the death to prevent anyone from touching him and of my husband. Morning came sooner than what is normal for me, or did I ever fall into slumber? At 5am I relinquished my seat to my son who was fitfully trying to comfort his long legs and getting no where with it. I grabbed my book, my camera and gave my sleeping boy a kiss and went to the club car to watch the sun rise. And to find coffee.

Drifting along the path of sleeping passengers and other early risers or sleepless counterparts like myself, I found my way to the glassed in car with Mt. Shasta looming to our right. It’s peaks covered in snow and beginning to brighten in the early morning dawn. There was not a sound in the car. There was no coffee. There were not a lot of happy travelers. Once I found a seat next to a sleeping man sprawled out next to me I sat back and let the morning unfold before me. The gray of the sky held hints of light. The large snow covered mountain in front of me was a stark backdrop to the bleak sky. Reading was worthless as I was too exhausted to comprehend the words so I just stared out the window and said prayers of thanks for the beauty of the day ahead. I will not lie and say I didn’t pray more for the coffee to arrive before I became a raving mad woman.

Sitting watching the outdoors I began to search for life awakening, a cars lights in the distance, a light in a bedroom come on, a runner waiting impatiently for the train to pass, a hint of the sun, an awakening passenger, a man walking up the stairs with a coffee cup. At first sight I quickly jumped up with renewed energy and headed down to the cafe car to get in line for the coveted black liquid. Once my steaming cup was in hand I headed back up to the club car which was now filled with people and a seat was hard to come by. I grabbed a table which was then filled with silent strangers who were there with me only in an anonymous sense. We watched the sun rise together.

What seemed like eons, I saw a familiar face appear before me, a tired and cranky face. The face of a teen who has not slept and is trying to keep his mood hidden behind clouded eyes. After a grunt or two of hello we quickly decided food was best for us to remove the sleepless night from our heavy heads and for me to have the I.V. drip of coffee needed to get me through the day.

The experience of the dinning car is exactly what I imagined it would be, white table clothes, real silverware, fresh flowers and a friendly face with free refills of the dreamy liquid I wanted to awaken me. Soon after we sat we were joined by two women on different journeys of their own. One heading home after a week spent with family andthe other just starting off on a dream come true adventure, an Alaskan cruise with her best friend. We shared pleasantries of our nights sleep or lack there of, where we called home, the places we’ve traveled to or want to travel to and fishing stories big and small. Our breakfast arrived after a scenic wait and the table became quiet except for the sound of silverware clanking and the request for more coffee now and again. My scrambled eggs and grits were excellent and fulfilled my comfort food desire and Jacob’s chorizo and egg burrito was demolished in a matter of minutes. The sense of the slower pace on the train comes back to me as we inhale our food then sit in wait for 30 minutes for our tab. I am reminded to sit back and just look out the window and now I regret scarfing down my meal.

The train and it’s passengers make a stop in our first Oregon city, Klamath Falls. We jump off the train to exercise our legs, breathe in the morning air and the smokers who have made it through the night after our last stop to smoke that cigarette. Jacob skates his way up and down the length of the train several times, I trying to keep up with him, taking pictures all the while. I check in with my husband who I miss terribly and am now wishing he was with me. All aboard is hollered from the porters and we make our last stretch and head for our car. Once seated and slowly pulling away we notice a passenger waving wildly, running and yelling wait. The train does not stop. I am reminded that while the train moves slowly through the terrain, it does not stop for anything.

The scenery from the night before has changed dramatically, we’ve gone from busy city centers filled with overgrown neighborhoods filled with graffiti to the vast plain terrain at the beginning climb through the mountains. Soon I find myself fading quickly and decide to pull the iPod from it’s hidden spot, I randomly put it on shuffle and sit back to watch the moving art show outside. Jacob leaves me to go explore and I am soon dozing in and out.

In my mild slumber I hear the chords of songs I love and open my eyes to only have them meet a new picture show, trees and lots of them. There is not just one color of green in the world I’m discovering, but thousands! I’m listening to The Cure’s Fascination Street and am mesmerized by the deep forest just outside of my reach. I replay the song again when it ends. In the distance I can see the recent clear cutting of trees done by bull dozers and logging employees busy at work. As the song ends for the second time I contemplate hearing it again but choose to see where the next song leads me. Dozing off again I feel relaxed and content. Nothing is on my agenda for the first time in months. I lay with my eyes faltering between open and closed as the Beatles, Bruce Springsten, Mercy Me, Prince, Van Morrison sing me along the tracks and then my ears are filled with Eddie Vedder’s, Society. A song that resonates the overwhelming feelings of greed, speed and the desire to do more and more that I want to keep away from.

My eyes are instantly open no longer tired but awake and aware. I am aware of every inch of space around me and the pace at which we are moving. Very slow. Jacob is sitting beside me absorbed in his own iPod, we exchange earphones to listen to what the other is enjoying. We both look out the picture window to see huge waterfalls splashing down with no care or intention. We both grab for the camera at the same time when we spy a river lazily wondering through the forest it passes through. We see peoples dwellings tucked away in the forest. People who have already left a society filled with structure to a life filled with God’s beauty and His plan.

As the music moves through me I am over come with the sense to write this down. Write what comes through me from the window and through my ears. Tracy Chapman, Sublime, The Dobbie Brothers and the list goes on as the words pour out of my fingertips onto the screen I am barely glancing at. I am at peace with all around me. I am filled with awe at the beautiful country I live in. I am thankful for these few precious hours with my son at my side. This train ride has given me exactly what I wanted, a pause in time. While I am looking forward to the adventure that lies ahead in our week, I am sad to leave my seat behind me, I want to take it with me or just stay right where there. I can't wait for the ride home.


What a wonderful post, I felt like I was sitting beside you throughout the whole journey!
Happy 4th of July to you and your family..

So, so descriptive, Kaycee. It took me back to our last trip to Oregon. Okay, maybe not the last trip, but definitely the one before that.

Kaycee, what an AMAZING post!!!!!!!!!

Amazing post... sounds like an AMAZING trip..
sooo relaxing..I feel like I was on this amazing vacation with you..
love ya girly..

WOW!! I felt like I was right there with you. This is an AWESOME post. Thanks for sharing. :)

Have a great holiday weekend.

What a great description and an awesome experience. What a great blessing to share with your son!

Thanks for sharing your journey in such detail - it gave a real sense to me of what your journey was like.

I hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July

....dang, you're a fabulous writer!!!

Can't wait to share the 4th with my very own Hemingway!

You are loved by me! xoxoxo,me

i felt like i was reading a BOOK!! you are such a good writer woman!! and it has been soooo long since i've been on a good train trip... how cool!! your photos are fabulous too- god that sunset?? what a painting god left for you guys!

Wow Kayce!!! That was beautiful! You described in such touching details the time with your son, the scenery and so much more that I felt like I was riding that train right along with you! (Well, except the part where it was quiet because if we were together again it would be fun, excited chatter of our soon coming trips to China and our sweet baby girls that we long to hold in our arms.)

Thank you for allowing us to take this journey with you!

CHOO CHOO, welcome home! I am glad you enjoyed your trip.

You are a very talented girl.


Pretty cool trip, huh? We have considered it for cross country, but $$$ say otherwise. I loved traveling up the California line. I truely great memroy. Allison