Saturday, April 24, 2010

leaving the station

Amtrak Surfliner
Solana Beach, CA to Los Angeles, CA
Day trip, alone with notebook computer

Amtrak continues to serve much of the country, despite its economic struggles. For both practical and nostalgic reasons, it's nice to have passenger trains as a travel option.

Oddly enough, despite having a good memory for so many things, I can't remember which was my first real train trip. It might have been an Amtrak trip from Martinez, California up to the Lake Tahoe area with my husband. We also took Amtrak from Martinez to somewhere in the Central Coast, on our tenth anniversary, and toured Hearst Castle for our first time. More recently, I've gone via Amtrak up to the fashion district with girlfriends. On another vacation my husband and I took a sleeper car through the Canadian Rockies, and that was absolutely spectacular. I'm not sure why I don't have photos of that trip, but I can remember being rocked by the train at night in my upper bunk, falling in and out of sleep.

But for every minute I've spent actually on a train, I've spent hours in pursuits having to do with trains. And not all of that was watching movies.

There's a nice train museum in Old Town Sacramento, California. There's also an outdoor railroad museum up in Rio Vista, California. In nearby Balboa Park, there's a surprisingly delightful Model Railroad Museum which my husband and I both enjoy- he, because he still has his original American Flyer train set, and me, because I love dioramas of all kinds.

One brief scene in my almost-finished novel takes place in a perfect replica of the Twentieth Century Limited train car from North by Northwest, built by the story's mysterious E. J. Easton as part of his own elaborate and mysterious agenda.
Oh, remember when the first railroad car restaurants started popping up? I loved the one in Walnut Creek, California back in the late 1970s.

But I digress.

* * *

The problem with any kind of fantasy is that when we try to make them real, so much is outside of our control. (This is part of why certain people become writers, the subject for another day).

For years, I've dreamed about taking a trip on the Venice Simplon Orient Express. I love everything about that train- the authentic Art Deco, the history, the elegance, the destinations.

But think for a moment how easy it would be for something to go horribly wrong. Not that I'm a negative person, by any means, but you have to be realistic about those really big expectations; all it takes is the Bickersons loudly litigating in the same car, and the dream crumbles, thousands of dollars and years of dreaming up in smoke. Or at least, tarnishes up a bit. You get the idea.

Unfortunately, this means for some of the pursuits that interest me, enjoyment is tied to control.

That's it! I'll hire the Orient Express for a week, personally interview and approve the staff, and fill the entire train with all my favorite people. Perfect!

Where was I? Oh, right- my day trip to Los Angeles.

Given the opportunity, I can romanticize just as much about writing as I do train travel. The vision of the day ahead of me that kept me going as I boarded the Surfliner was a mixture of every book and movie I'd ever enjoyed that had anything to do with trains, and every notion I'd ever had about how inspired and productive I could be if I removed myself from my normal environment... if only for a day.

Did this turn out to be true? Yes, and no.

All aboard... the Fantasy Express.

story to be continued... eventually

No comments: