I go therefore I am

November 19, 2018


Carol settled right into the comforts of first class train travel

Carol settled right into the comforts of first class train travel

   Those who have stumbled upon this blog looking for practical travel tips and unique experiences to discover have, no doubt, been sorely disappointed. On the other hand those who’ve returned from trips and proudly answered the questions, “What did you see?” (“nothing”) or, “why did you go there? (“I don’t know”) have been richly rewarded.

Montana's miles and miles of miles and miles

Montana’s miles and miles of miles and miles

   When I was a baby riding in my stroller, my mother once told me, that whenever she stopped pushing, I would howl. When she’d start up again, I would immediately grow quiet. The same was true, apparently, when I was on a bus or in a car. As an adult (not as great a maturation leap as one might think, or Carol would hope), the same seems to hold true. My one unpleasant train experience has been on Amtrak, where constant stopping and going due to a subordinate rail relationship with freight trains, and/or poorly maintained track beds made for sometimes lengthy complete stops or nerve-rattling crawls that rendered train travel in this country as satisfying an experience as gridlock on the freeway.

   While certain Amtrak service (such as the Southwest Chief, which Carol and I have booked for January) offers spectacular views of our country’s western states, this is not the draw for me. Spectacular views are a forced distraction from my default enjoyment of train travel which consists of reading or staring blankly out the window to a featureless landscape. I remember a stretch through eastern Montana aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder that I swear featured the same concrete grain silo and red pickup passing through an immense horizon of blue sky and brown earth every time I looked up from my book to see what was passing by. It seemed to go on like that for several hours and hundreds of miles. Like some kind of Montana Groundhog Day. I was very happy.

She thinks I'm sweet, funny...and smart. You see that's why I think she either under a spell or pledging a senior social sorority

She thinks I’m sweet, funny…and smart. You see that’s why I think she either under a spell or pledging a senior social sorority

   Companion travel has gotten my head out of my books, and I have to admit that seeing the world with someone (especially someone who can say, “Turn the map the same way we’re pointing and you will see its a left and not a right.”) is a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience inasmuch as it involves looking up and around instead of down at my own feet.

   Oddly, Carol seems to have synchronized her travel norms to fit mine. ( “You can look down while we walk until I tell you to look up, okay?”) She’s also promised to remind me to smile sociably and introduce myself when we’re seated with total strangers for dinner on our upcoming Amtrak trip. (“People can see you’re checking the same baseball scores over and over again on your phone, you know. You’re not fooling anyone.”)

Seriously, any train will do. Any train

Seriously, any train will do. Any train

   My reading interests are with political histories, memoirs and narrative non-fiction. It means I prefer someone else’s distillation of reality to discovering it on my own. This leaves my mind free to invent realities that are far more pleasing to explore than the one I’ve found myself living in. I travel, not learn or experience more of the reality I’m living in, but simply to go. I simply need to be in motion. It can all be eastern Montana for all I care. As long as I can see it going by.

   I go therefore I am.


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