Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Train-ing



 
Sunset-lit cloud over the Corbières
Riding a train, not so long ago, was a novel experience for me. Until a couple years ago, I had ridden only one train in my life. When I was eight years old, the IBM baseball league took a bunch of us kids to New York City from Binghamton, NY, to watch a New York Yankees game. We rode on the Phoebe Snow, which was a legendary train in its day - http://www.american-rails.com/phoebe-snow.html.

Two things I recall about that initial train trip. One was the guy they introduced as a nurse – I had never heard of a male nurse before and it seemed a bit weird (gender stereotypes start young). And two was the toilets, which flushed right onto the tracks. Not kidding. You could see the rails and ties when the bowl opened, and there was a sign, ‘Do not flush while train is in the station.'

I told that story to someone years later, and at first they didn’t believe me. But I insisted it was true, and finally they accepted it. (Until I added a punch line that the toilets flush the same way on airplanes!) 

I’m riding the rails as I write this – on the final leg of my journey home. And the train feels like the most natural thing in the world to me. Donna-Lane and I have ridden trains all over France, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Ireland. For the most part they run on time (especially in Switzerland, but France is pretty good too – when there’s not a greve). The takeoffs and landings are smooth, and the gentle rocking around the curves may put you to sleep.

Soon we’ll pass the historic walled city of Carcassone, which is about as knights of olde and faire damsels as you can get. After an hour or so I’ll change trains in Narbonne, and head down toward Argeles-sur-mer.

I can already see the peaks of the Pyrenees Mountains, and below Narbonne I’ll get my first glimpse of the sea. It’s always a thrill to realize that we really live on the Med. Sounds exotic, but the village is mostly regular folks who work hard and enjoy life. We’re not the Riviera where you bump into movie stars and sheiks. But we do have an incredible sand beach.

It’s a bit overcast. A bit cool. Quite windy (I complimented the pilot on his landing in Toulouse). Not a perfect weather day for some. But it is a perfect day to be on a train, almost home.

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