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photo by Sheri Dixon

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Field Trip...Home School Style

So we took a little train ride last month.

There was a get together at a friend's house we wanted to go to and we thought, "Why not take the train? It'll be fun!"

Just a little train ride.

So we left out of Mineola TX one fine evening, fresh and eager.



See? Eager.



'Round about midnight, we pulled into Little Rock and dropped off a few and picked up a few. The boys slept through that.



Right after dawn, we passed by the St. Louis arch.



Then we traversed Illinois...the long way from bottom to top.



Finally, we got to Chicago.



We got off the train in Chicago and got on the commuter train to Sturtevant WI, which is right outside Racine WI.

Racine WI is where I was born and lived till I was 35. It's right on Lake Michigan and a pretty city during every season but winter...which lasts from October 1st thru May 31st.









We spent the night in Racine, and while there, of course, we visited family- my brother and son and their lovely partners.



And my parents.



And an old friend from high school. Old friend. I'm not sure how he got so old since we went to school together.



And then we got back on the train.

Back to Chicago, where we had time to explore Union Station before our next transfer.



We slept our way across most of the dreariest parts of northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio and woke up to Cleveland.



Here's where it sorta went downhill. Most of the time Amtrak will run a bit late and by 'a bit' I mean anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours late. This is not, as you hear so often, the mis-management of Amtrak. This is because the tracks themselves are owned by the freight companies and the freight companies treat Amtrak like the redheaded stepchild and restrict which tracks they may run on and when. Hence...sitting on the tracks waiting for stupid freight trains to mosey on by, while passengers on the Amtrak train sweat out whether or not they will make their next connection.

So the train went from leaving Chicago on time on the nosie, to an hour late, to two hours late, to "Holy Shit We Are Never Getting to Albany" late.

Somewhere in there our train car was overrun by several Amish families- 22 of them from about mid-thirties down to "I think she had that baby on the way to the train" little. They were delightful. And darling. And very well behaved.

Somewhere in there our train was boarded by several border security (I never think of the Canadian border as...foreign) and they asked everyone where they were from and where they were going. Several rows in front of us were 2 women who spoke very broken English. They conversed to each other in their native language- Russian. They were outstandingly pretty. They couldn't answer the questions. They were smiled at and the security guys moved on to...the Hispanic English teacher from Chicago, who got everything but the spotlight shone in his eyes during interrogation. Eventually they wearied from this exercise in National Security and left.

Finally...four hours late, we pulled into Albany.



And our reason for being there...a few days in a 1700's farmhouse



Surrounded by blueberry bushes in full fruit



And this balm-for-the-soul environment







And good friends.



From there it was just a short trip to New York City, where none of us had ever been, and a prettier route I cannot imagine as it went alongside the Hudson River the entire way.






I was sorta excited to be able to SEE New York City without having to DRIVE or FLY into New York City. Unfortunately, just before the train gets INTO New York City, it goes underground, giving this lovely view all through town.



Once in Penn Station I realized...it's fucking huge. I've been all over the US and we're absolutely comfortable in Chicago and Houston- numbers 3 and 4 in size of US cities, but this? Fucking huge. Luckily, we were met by friends who steered us outside long enough for a photo in front of (within sight of) the Empire State Building. We were outside less than 5 minutes, but can now say we have been IN New York City. Where? Oh, Midtown.



This is New York City.



This is literally ten minutes south of New York City. Looks a helluva lotta like Illinois.



Ahhh...Washington DC, where the capitol building hides behind the congressional offices.



The Washington Monument is covered in weblike scaffolding, appearing rust brown instead of marble white



And just across the Potomac River is the Creepy as Fuck Masonic Temple, proving once again that Separation of Church and State is a good thing...because it could totally kick the ass of any building or monument in DC. I mean...lookit it.



We slept through most of the dirt poor charming Southern Seaboard states and woke up to Atlanta.



This leg of the trip was the longest stretch on the train. Thank God for coffee.



By now Alec had decided he was never getting off of the train and pretty much just carved himself out a lair.



Birmingham Alabama may have some redeeming qualities. Or not.



Rural Alabama is just like you'd imagine it...if you ever imagined it. Camaro up on blocks, something in smoker and kudzo marching in to take it all over.



Coming through Mississippi, kudzo really hit its stride and the True South welcomed us home.



'Round about sunset we crossed over Lake Pontchartrain.



And right AT sunset we came into the train yard in New Orleans...sunset to sunset, 7 days from Mineola TX to New Orleans LA via St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Albany, NYC, Baltimore, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Birmingham.



Pulling into the station, where we got off the train after just shy of 3,500 miles.



Ahhh...New Orleans.







Ward went to Tulane and said he didn't feel like he was really back in New Orleans till we saw this-



So that was our Dixon Family Road Trip...more of a Track Trip this year. The boys found out they like train travel as much as I do as we traveled through fifteen states and ten major cities, crossing two arterial rivers and skated alongside three of the Great Lakes.

History, Family, Friends, Food, Adventure, Culture, Good, Bad, Ugly- America.

Don't discount the train as a way to get from point A to point B, especially if you have small children who would appreciate being able to run around while the vehicle is moving, or if you are traveling alone- I've met one unpleasant person on a train...ever... in over 40 years of train travel, or if you are older and don't really want the killer 15 hour days of a long distance road trip anymore.

The train will rock you to sleep, take you places automobile roads don't go, and do the driving through the big cities.

www.amtrak.com

Tell 'em the Dixons sent you.








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