When our son was six years old, we took Amtrak round-trip from Chicago to Los Angeles and visited family. A few years later, we took a comparatively short jaunt from Jeffersonville, Indiana to Chicago for a weekend. The Progeny loved playing with trains, and all of us loved riding them.
Since then, of course, "fortunes" have changed, life has changed. Train travel is still my favorite, although I haven't been able to take a rail trip for years. If given an option of flying, driving or traveling by train, I would take the train--and I tell people so, any time they are planning a trip.
Why not try the train? Many say they want to do it sometime, but what I have learned is that "sometime" may never come.
The train is great because you don't have to look for a good place to eat. It's in the next car, just a short walk away. You can actually enjoy the scenery instead of being concerned about traffic or where the cheapest gas can be bought.
Flying is neat because I like to look out at the clouds, but if I'm in a plane, I'd prefer to ride in my friend's small one so I can actually see what's down below. (I like scenery, speed not so much.) More and more, with airline travel, the journey is something to endure. The journey is part of the fun on the train!
When I signed up for July's Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio, I stopped short of getting airline reservations. Ideally, I'd love to go by train. More than that, I'd like to go to San Antonio for the conference (Texas Eagle), and spend an extra day or two in Texas visiting family, then get on the train and head west to visit a friend in Tucson. Then back on to see more family in Los Angeles, then up to Oregon to see a cousin I've never met in person, then the Empire Builder route (which my husband and I talked about taking, but never got to) back to Chicago - Indianapolis - and home.
And all along the route there would be, not just sightseeing (which is great), but writing.
I thought of it, and realized how unlikely it would be that I could manage to take a trip like that. Still, I didn't look for a flight. Then recently a friend told me about the #AmtrakResidency program, and encouraged me to try to win one.
As our family took its long train trip, I wrote a travelogue that I shared with a few friends afterward. It's refreshing and rejuvenating to write in a different location, and the ever-changing view out the window of a train, although a welcome distraction, is also exhilarating. Exhilaration can certainly spur the writing juices!
I know there is a lot of competition among writers to get into the residency program, and whoever wins will never forget the experience.
I'd like to be one of them, and am hoping very hard that my trip to and from the RWA conference will be a wonderful excursion, instead of just an airline flight over scenery that's lost in the clouds.