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I left Emeryville at 9:10 AM on a Saturday morning, and arrived at Boston’s Back Bay Station on Tuesday close to 9 PM. The trip spanned three time zones – luckily just one per day, and had only a single seven-hour stopover switching trains in Chicago.
This was my journey home.
Yet, I never felt far from home, no matter where I was on this trip. This trip, that I can easily and truthfully call a trip of a lifetime…..of my lifetime, or even more accurately, one of my lifetimes.
I started out from Boston on April 29 and passed the canyons of graffiti covered concrete down most of the east coast corridor, as my first stop was Atlanta. This included my very first time in a sleeper car – called a roomette, that to me it seemed misnamed, as I was not very successful in getting much sleep within it. I passed the waterlogged marshes and highways in Louisiana; the tumbleweed and rolling hills along with the flimsy and sometimes non-existing border fences in Texas; the prairies of pavement streets and freeways in Anaheim and Los Angelis; the endless rolling surf and surfers along the coast from LA going north; and the endless flow of people constantly moving in all directions in urban downtown San Francisco.
That Saturday morning, I boarded the California Zephyr, and it was not long before I got to feel my ears pop as we slowly climbed high into the Sierras; and the seemingly endless and deserts of Nevada; entering the canyons along the Colorado River and later the majestic canyons in the Rockies.
It seems a bit like a cliché, to say I have at last, seen this country that is my home.
Perhaps this is the true meaning of my journey home. Perhaps?
Seeing all these miles from the ground is so different than traveling by air. My eyes were able to reach out and touch the land, and be touched by it. The rocks, the trees, the sand, the surf, the canyons and rivers, all formed new pictures and memories that I am still searching to assign meanings to, although I fully know how important those meanings will be.
There is another wonder about this journey on trains. Meeting new people at meal times, as the tables that seat four, are always filled. We share stories of our journeys, and sometimes even a bit more.
Once again, I marveled as to how many different journeys each and every traveller had to share. I shared that I was an Amtrak “writer in residence” with most folks. Only a few couples had heard about it. Another group was excited and one of them actually looked up the Amtrak site afterwards and came by to chat with me more after dinner. I met others who had their own bucket list items to check off. One couple bucket list’s item was going to see Tom Petty and Joe Walsh at Red Rocks. Hmm, I just might add Red Rocks to a future bucket list for me too.
No matter how many miles I have travelled on this trip;
No matter how many museums I have gone to;
No matter how many amusement parks and rides I went to and on;
No matter how many hours I lazed on a beach, pedaled a bike, or leaned into a Segway;
No matter how many people I met, and shared stories and perhaps have made a small difference to;
I have never been far from home.
It is said that home is where the heart is.
As I am approaching my 70th birthday in just a few months, I can now understand that more deeply than I have ever dreamed before.
This true and authentic version of me was clear and willing to undertake this gift of an adventure.
My heartfelt thanks to Amtrak for providing the opportunity to me to take my heart and mind on this trip of a lifetime, where I have never been far from home.
For those who may be interested in the details of Grace’s entire trip, you can read it all on her website here…
Days 28 - 31: I Can See for Miles and Miles - 7238 of them
The California Zephyr schedule shows it covers 2438 miles from Emeryville to Chicago
The Lake Shore Limited schedule from Chicago to Boston adds another 959 miles.
My trip back from the West Coast covered a total of 3397 miles.
Westward bound, the trains I traveled on included:
The Crescent, from New your to New Orleans – covering 1377 miles.
The Sunset, from New Orleans to Los Angeles, added another 1995 miles.
Then a relatively short, 10 –hour hop upon the Coast Starlight, with the most amazing scenery from Los Angeles to San Francisco (well really to San Jose and then I picked up a local for 469 miles
Westward total miles = 3841
Total long haul = 7238 miles
Grace Anne Stevens