449 Lake Shore Limited
Between Springfield, MA and Pittsfield, MA
Western Massachusetts is green in the early summertime. I’ve watched our train wind through woodsy forests and wide grassy fields. The trees here are not pines or stately trees that outline boulevards but wild and tall oaks. I spent a few minutes trying to determine why they looked so different from the trees in North Carolina before I realized that most of them were not wrapped over in kudzu, that Japanese vine that has so invaded the South. In Durham, some trees along our usual walking route were so covered with kudzu in the spring and summer that they resembled the largest green topiary dinosaurs and structures. Here, the afternoon sunlight shines brightly as we glide past green, verdant hills.
Since I haven’t written here since Durham, I’ll summarize our travel plans. In mid-May, we moved out of Durham, and absconded to Greenville, SC where we stayed with Steve’s family for a few weeks. Last weekend, I bid a fond farewell to our wonderful Stella, and came to visit my mom in Boston. It’s been a great week here of hanging out with her and seeing some friends, but now I’m off to Chicago. Tomorrow, Steve will join me in Chicago with all of our luggage, and after a weekend of gathering with friends in Chicago, we will fly out on Monday to Taipei. I start a new job working for a social enterprise in early July, so this is a very exciting time for us.
This afternoon, I hugged and kissed my mom goodbye at Back Bay, where she dropped me off. Back Bay is one of the origin stations of the Lake Shore Limited, the Amtrak train line that runs from Boston to Chicago. Since getting on the train just before 1 pm, I’ve mostly read and napped to rest up. I was woken up a little while ago when we ran through Springfield, and a most rambunctious pair of children (what look like four year-old twins) sat in the seats in front of me. Though I was hoping for a longer nap, it was impossible not to smile when I heard how excited they were to be on the train and how amazing they thought it was to be moving so fast. It reminded me of why everyone loves the train, and shares their wonder.
The Lake Shore Limited is hardly one of the more vaunted train lines in Amtrak history, but I still like the chance to ride it when I can. In fact, many years ago, this was the first train trip I took. In tenth grade, my friend Isaac and I took the Amtrak west to Columbus, and then switched to Greyhound, to go to Cincinnati during spring break to visit some good friends there and take part in a Latin quiz bowl competition (but that’s another story…). I had never taken Amtrak before, but Isaac, a lover of trains, masterminded it all for us. I don’t remember the trip out well, but on the trip back, the connection for the train in Columbus was hours late. As an apology, they put us in the Viewliner roomette, the two-person bunk cabin that came with free meals. Both of us fell asleep immediately, exhausted by the travel, and I woke up to Isaac enthusiastically extolling the virtues of the meal car.
Going west on the Lake Shore Limited is a little bit less exciting than going east. Though we hug the coast of Lake Erie and then Michigan as we move westward, we do most of that in the dark. The Boston part of the train, which I’m on now, will arrive in Albany around 6 pm, and then we connect with the part of the train which has come up from NYC, and around 7 pm, we set out for the rest of the trip. Though it’s summertime, dusk will still fall around 8 or 9 pm, so we won’t be able to see much soon. I expect to have a good hearty meal on the train car and meet some good dinner companions, and then set to working on the computer some more before going to sleep for the night. I’ve packed an eye mask and ear plugs, and suspect that I’ll be able to keep spreading out to the other seat next to me because this doesn’t bear any resemblance to a fully-sold train ride. The train is supposed to arrive in Chicago’s Union Station at 9:45 am the next morning. I say supposed to, as a realistic and yet optimistic fan of Amtrak. It may be a bit late, affording us better views of Indiana and Lake Michigan than anticipated, so there will be a silver lining. Thanks to Amtrak Connect, there’s actually wifi on this train, enabling me to type my usual train entries for Circumnavacation on the website instead of into a Word document! Amazing. I look forward to writing more later.