Several weeks ago, I took a car trip through the Berkshires to upstate New York. In an earlier career, I spent some time in this part of the world; my goal had always been to get there as fast as possible and then get back to the office as fast as possible. On my current trip, I decided to take my time and visit a few places I had never seen. Instead of racing across Massachusetts and New York, I slowed things down by stopping halfway and resting. I incorporated a hotel stay into my travels.
I tried to be thoughtful about the journey and since I couldn’t “expense” everything, I had to economize here and there; I stuck my cooler in the back of the Jeep and brought many of the foods I normally eat when I’m at The Coop.
I hauled out my suitcase on wheels and packed carefully. My trusty vintage train case, with my mother’s monogram still clearly visible, completed the trio of travel tools. I christened myself “The Lady Alone Traveler.”
The trip, with its shaky start, was as interesting as it was exhausting. Even though I slowed things down by mincing up the miles with rest, I did add approximately 780 miles of windshield time to my life. Time behind the wheel requires an alertness I take for granted in my routine trips around the Seacoast.
This past weekend, I decided to slow things down a little bit more. I had an appointment at home and I decided to try riding the rails; I took the Downeaster from Exeter, New Hampshire to Brunswick, Maine.
When I first entertained the possibility of such a trip, I considered bringing my vintage train case. It’s a sturdy piece of luggage and I’ve jammed it pretty full in the past. I was a little nervous, though; maybe my retro “lady alone traveler shtick” wouldn’t work on this maiden voyage. There is a first time for everything and sometimes posing as a 40’s movie star is difficult when navigating new territory. I didn’t know the tempo and tone of the Downeaster crowd, either, so I settled for an L.L. Bean knapsack and a canvas tote.
The evening train trip north was relaxing and romantic; the train moves along at a steady pace. It “rocks” and “rolls” like a cradle and the seats are large and comfortable. The crowd was a mixture of students, business professionals, and retirees and it was relatively quiet. The train is equipped with Wi-Fi and most riders, including myself, were busy tapping away at electronic devices. Periodically, the train whistle will blow. This muted sound is like a lullaby from the past; it almost sounds like the words “slow down.”
Most of the passengers were well-dressed; I didn’t see any pajama jeans or sweat pants and I even noticed a few college co-eds with smart outfits and hip luggage. I think the train case is going to work in the future.
Even though I was finding my train groove and feeling my way around the rails, I still had time to work on the blog, read eight pages in my book, and snack on the carrots I had packed for myself. The very best part was when I closed my eyes outside of Portland and was able to keep them shut for longer than a blink. This is something the lady alone traveler can’t do when she’s motoring along in her Jeep.
While this wasn’t my first train journey, it was the first time I’d been able to make the trip home with someone else doing the driving. Train cases, whistles, and Wi-Fi…there was a sweet and modern sentimentality about it that was wonderful and I think I have a few more train trips in my future. Train travel slowed me down and took me back to a past I’d only seen in movies or read about in books and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On my next trip, the train case is going with me.