Final Thoughts

Being the curious fellow that I am, I added up the word count of each of my trip posts (not counting this one) and came out with just over 25,000 words. Not bad: that’s about half the length of a novel! As an experiment, on this trip I had left my laptop home and only brought my iPad and iPhone. All but the last of my blog posts were written on the iPad, using the on-screen keyboard. While I’m amazed at how productive I was able to be, one change I’d make on future trips is to bring along a Bluetooth keyboard. With a real keyboard, I can type faster and am far less likely to make typos (which I painstakingly had to correct). For shorter works the on-screen keyboard is fine, but for works of this magnitude a real keyboard would make me a lot more productive.

In an earlier post I covered why Nancy and I enjoy train travel. This trip did nothing to alter those feelings, and if anything served to emphasize what we feel are some of the positive aspects of long-distance travel by train:

  • you are forced to slow down, and are presented with plenty of time to read, write, and relax
  • you meet interesting people, both at meals and in the lounges
  • you get to travel in comfort, and don’t have to endure airport-level security screening

Of course, I understand that train travel is not for everyone, and isn’t appropriate in many situations. Trains are slow, even when compared with driving. They aren’t always on time, which means you need to plan accordingly and add sufficient padding to your schedule. The accommodations, while comfortable enough, aren’t going to win four diamonds from AAA. You won’t be having a 5-star dining experience (although the food is pretty good). And the menu doesn’t change much, even from one train line to the next, meaning that if you travel more than a couple of days the food can get a bit monotonous. But if you have the time, can be a great way to go. On this trip we were able to experience two routes that we had not yet been on (the Texas Eagle, from San Antonio to Chicago, and the Cardinal, from Chicago to Baltimore and back), and we really enjoyed seeing new scenery, including the St. Louis Arch and the tree-covered hills of West Virginia. And then there was the view out the train as it rolled over the Rockies and followed the Colorado River, and the view of the magnificent Sierras as the train wound its way from Reno to Sacramento. These are experiences that are not to be missed.

This trip was originally inspired by the idea that we could visit all of the far-flung nieces and nephews (the ones farther away than Arizona), and in that we regard the trip was a complete success. While we wished we could have had more time with some of them, the time we did have was quality time, and that counts for a lot. We had a wonderful time meeting with some of the next generation of Wilsons and Speases one-on-one, as adults, on their own turf. Usually, we only see them in a mob, and/or with their parents present. Both of these factors tends to affect how they act and what they say. But get them on their own, and you’ll find that they are confident, comfortable, charming adults who we, at least, loved spending time with. It encourages me to no end having had a glimpse of what kind of adults this next generation will turn out to be. We look forward to the next batch going out into the world, giving us yet another excuse to once again hit the rails and explore the country, courtesy of Amtrak.