The certain someone was sitting across from me at the spindly cafe overlooking a softly gray rolling Pacific Ocean. “So what do you do when you travel alone?” she asked.
“I wander,” I answered, a trifle timidly, aware she was wandering herself into territory I had only sketchily examined myself.
“You wander. So what are you looking for?”
Beginning back at home, this trip unfolded more or less methodically and according to plan and expectations. Claude was packed and ready to go the night before. I even thought I’d noticed a yawn and a languorous stretch from him on the couch, surprised perhaps I was zipping him up with room to spare in his confines, as if he had not overeaten his dinner and there remained appetite for dessert. I figure I can stretch it maybe to ten days at best before I’ll either have to do a laundry or face potential recriminations from my fellow train passengers like, “since when are Gypsies riding in first class?”
I woke up Friday with a hankering for a train ride. It would also be a good opportunity to shake-down my Christmas plan of taking the bus to Amtrak’s King St. Station, and then buying a ticket to wherever the next departure was headed. I hadn’t ridden Amtrak in more than thirty years, and I knew my comparisons to the sleek French railway system I’d ridden this past September would be both unfavorable and unfair. So I set my outlook on positive, threw a change of clothes into my daypack (“Mini-me”?) and took off into my next unknown.
I love train timetables. I also love maps, especially road maps, but I get easily confused. Something to do with spatial orientation. But a well-printed (preferably in a tight, cozy agate font) train timetable is a thing of linear beauty, a minimalist’s rendering of the day ahead with a precision down to the minute hand on your watch.
This I thought I could do. Fly to Paris, buy a train ticket to somewhere, anywhere, then get off, find a room, take a walk, have dinner, go to bed, and then get up the next day and do it again. Just for two weeks to start. I thought I could do that. I knew I needed to try. It was a way to get back to how it was.