Sunday, 22 November 2009

An epic rail journey

Oddly enough, reading Wanderlust: A History of Walking has kindled in me the desire not to walk but to undertake an epic journey of a different kind. The author, Rebecca Solnit, lives in San Francisco, which she describes as a place which "keeps alive the idea of a city as a place of unmediated encounters", unlike most American cities which are "designed for the noninteractions of motorists shuttling between private places rather than the interactions of pedestrians in public ones".

San Francisco is also the western terminus of the California Zephyr, the famous passenger train that runs through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Rockies, and the plains of Nebraska to Chicago. From Chicago one can catch another train to New York, the entire journey from coast to coast taking four or fives days.

Mrs Fool and I initially planned to do this trip in 2001 when we visited Erik in New York, but Erik cautioned against making such a long rail journey in the United States (understandably given Amtrak's reputation for slow speeds, lateness, and poor service), and we ended up flying.

My epic journey would see me fly to San Francisco, where I'd do a walking tour of the city, check out some museums and maybe some jazz spots, then ride the California Zephyr to Chicago, where I'd check out some more museums and marvel at the skyscrapers along the Magnificent Mile. I'd then ride the Lake Shore Limited to New York. I haven't thought about the return journey yet. Maybe I'll walk.


erik sanner said...

our memories are always different! i think my caution was not based on the (admittedly lamentable) state of the railroad industry in my country, but rather, i believe, due to the fact that you were only planning on a ten-day-or-so vacation, and there were so many bonafide places (as opposed to in-between-places along-the-journey) neither of you had seen yet, which you also wanted to go to - anyway i'd love to take a trip like that - so why don't you go ahead and do it, then i'll grill something for you when you get to new york? something without too many legs or too much fur.

Walking fool said...

Yes, you probably gave more than one reason, but the one I remember was the state of your railway industry (which you compared unfavourably with that in Japan).

Grilled stuff would be nice. I'd also like my visit to coincide with a concert by the Keith Jarrett Trio and/or one of Tomasz Stanko's groups.