Train Travel, the Only Way to Fly . . .

We’re having such fun on our train trip.  Some of you know I started doing this thing called “Twitter from the Twain” a couple of years ago, where I Twitter and send photos from what I call our “Room with the View,” whenever we go across country by train, which we do a couple of times a year, and have for the last twenty years.  I give train-travel tips, in case you ever have a chance to travel this old-fashioned and still-wonderful way, and little bird’s eye views of what it’s like. 

Here we are amid the hustle and bustle of arriving in Flagstaff last night!  Joe is getting the car that’s waiting for us, and I’m just waiting for him.  This is why I love trains. It’s just like this getting on too, like a little secret, everyone settling in their rooms, or just stepping off the train into the night.

The other thing I like is that train travel is so civilized; here we are having “tea” in our room.  We always bring a string-bag full of treats, to have with our newspapers and books in our room with a view.

We love the weather we see from our window. . .  this was last night, crossing the New Mexico desert; none of that ever got close to us . . .

We love the people we meet in the dining car.  This lovely Amish woman is the mother of, e  l  e  v  e  n   children.  She has 50 grandchildren.  She travels by horse and buggy, and train.  She and her husband were so nice and fun to talk to as we crossed over the Mississippi River together in the dining car.  You never know who you will meet on the train. 

There’s time for everything on a three-day cross country train trip.  I bring my journal, a good book, the tea pot, my pillow . . . the basic necessities of life.  But it’s the view that is most compelling . . . America the beautiful . . .

Someday I’ll have to tell you the story of my first train trip and how I discovered, by accident, this wonderful way to travel.  We always have so much to do at home, places we have to be, things we have to do, these three days of “down time” are the only way to fly!

It’s lovely in all seasons. We are cozy in room with view, while this rages outside our window (on another trip of course).

The train passes through woodlands, along rivers, through little towns with white church steeples poking high above the trees; it creaks as it moves slowly through high mountain passes, and makes a blur speeding along the coastline; we have moon lit starry nights, and sun rises that wake up the whole sleeping train.

Our country is in danger of losing the train as a way of travel, what a terrible loss that would be…I’m a one-woman band (not really, there are lots of us) marching to say, hey look at how wonderful this is. Let’s never let it go away.

Here’s a quick tour of a big bedroom on Amtrak; while it’s still neat and tidy, still in the station in Chicago, before we really “moved in” and made it un-video-friendly.

The last thing you should know … the movement of the train is soft and rocking.  You have a book in front of your face, but the rocking makes your eyes flutter closed, you fight for consciousness, but you lose. A nap ensues.  Then you try to read again.  Or knit. But outside, you see dragon fly following right along with the train, or a deer comes around the bend, or you see a little country road so beautiful you have to take a picture of it. So, you are very busy on the train, the time passes much too quickly.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for coming on our virtual train trip.  I have so many photos, I could do this all day.  But, now it’s playtime, with my dad . . . off we go.  You have a wonderful day.  Hope you’re all loving Willard . . . so happy we were able to manage that and be on the train at the same time!  Computer miracles never cease.  xoxo

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183 Responses to Train Travel, the Only Way to Fly . . .

  1. Mary S. says:

    What a wonderful blog!!! Wow!! My husband and I are definitely going to take a train trip as soon as we can!! Maybe from CA to Chicago to New York. Or maybe the one that goes up the West Coast. *sigh* I can hardly wait!!
    Thank you soooo much for sharing with all of us! I, along with everyone else, eagerly await your blogs!! I noticed you are reading Fannie Flagg! Isn’t she a hoot!!! I love her books!
    Don’t forget to read FALLING FOR A DANCER!! You’ll love it as much as the movie, I’m sure!

  2. Christie Ray says:

    Good husband says he’ll hook up the new printer this weekend so I can print out the goodies from my very first Willard…I need more bookmarks, as I keep about 5 reads going at a time;). The printer has only been sitting in it’s box …in the office ….by the computer for …ummm….3 months, I think. You and I have given him the motivation needed..thank you for your help, dearest;)
    This morning, I’m drinking my coffee out of my beautiful new Emma B. daffodil mug, listening to the rain and anticipating the train whistle, soon. The train passes by not far from our cozy little cottage in this historic town…if only it were a passenger train…I’d be hopping on it straightaway!

    • sbranch says:

      How great you can hear the whistle!

      • Christie Ray says:

        Whistle just blew as I was reading your reply…my goodness…could it know? Thinking of you as you travel on after bittersweet goodbyes…
        I’m a daddy’s girl, as well. The other day, I asked mother to have daddy write down his vegetable soup recipe, by hand. He has the most beautiful penmanship, which is unusual to find men..or women for that matter, who have pretty handwriting. It was important to him for us to take pride in the way we wrote. (i can remember my younger brother practicing at the kitchen table…as grown men, both my brothers have great penmanship) so, I thought I ought to have him pen the recipe he created, sign and date….he’ll be 80 in November, right before I turn 50;) That’s why we embrace each day around here, and I give him a hug and a kiss every Sunday after church.
        Thinking of you, sweet girl,

  3. Cyndi Harp says:

    I love it when you are traveling by train. I took a train trip in 1965 from CA to Toledo, OH at Christmas time. My Dad was in Viet Nam and we went to my grandparents house for Christmas. It was a memory I will have forever. I’ve taken short train trips through out the years but that was a grand adventure for an 11 year old. Safe travels everyone.

  4. Dawna Chapman says:

    Thank you, Susan, for sharing glimpses of your life with us! You are absolutely endearing and adorable. I met you briefly at the Orange County Quilters Guild gathering in Anaheim, CA on 3/8/11 when you signed your books for me. I was enthralled by “your story,” and have been a huge fan ever since. I love your work, and your whimsical spirit. Reading your blogs, especially your “Twitter from the Twain,” is like a breath of fresh air–a little escape for me from my day-to-day activities. You are an inspiration to me in so many ways! Blessings to you!

  5. Becky says:

    My one and only train trip (so far) was from Orlando Florida to Chicago Illinois at Christmas. It was a beautiful and memorable trip. My four sons had the adjoining room so we all enjoyed sitting and watching the small Christmas lit towns pass by as we travled through the Appalachian Mountains. Yes indeedy I have to do this again! Next time I hope to travel west, young woman!

  6. Katharine says:

    I got to travel, with my daughter, on the train from San Diego area to Chatsworth, CA which is close to where I live in the San Fernando Valley (suburb of Los Angeles). It was 3 and a half hours but it went by so fast. We got hungry toward the end and wanted a snack, so we walked to the dining car. We were there when they were reloading at Union Station and had to wait for the guy to finish reloading. I was worried cause we only had about 4 (at least I thought) stops ahead. We actually had 6 or more stops and had plenty of time to eat a snack and get ready to get off. It was so lovely to sit and read, nap and read and relax instead of sitting on the 405 Frwy (main Frwy through Los Angeles) in bumper to bumper traffic. Next I want to go San Luis Obisbo and stay at the Apple Farm. I’ve stayed at a private B&B’s (in the home of a lovely Dutch woman) in Los Osos but not in SLO. I love that area and haven’t been back in over 15 years. I’d probably rent a car when I got there. Sounds like a fun weekend away. Ok, I need to get back to saving my pennies again. 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      That’s a beautiful trip along the ocean to San Luis Obispo….you’ll love it! Hope you have a “parlor car” on board.

  7. Lori says:

    I’m so glad you’re a train fan–so many people seem to miss this wonderful way to travel! I had my honeymoon on a train trip and it was wonderful. We’ve had many more trips since, and have introduced our kids to traveling this way and they are hooked too. I love the interesting people you meet at meals in the dining car, and seeing the back porches of small towns, farmers working in the fields, kids riding their bikes, beautiful rock canyons and snowy glaciers as the train goes rolling by. It’s a great way to see the United States!

  8. Lynn McMahon says:

    Hi Susan
    Sorry this comes as an after thought 🙁 If on your way back East you find yourself in Racine, WI you really should stop by OH Bakery ( for kringle & Danish layer cake) and Milaeger’s, a garden center, with the best plants and seasonal decorations. If you cannot stop they have websites you can check out.
    Have a safe trip back!

    • sbranch says:

      I’ll have to remember for the future — this trip back will be straight through by train, so we won’t be able to get there this time. Thanks for the idea!

  9. Kristie says:

    I started traveling by train last year. My husband is doing a job in the New Bedford, Mass area and it is so much easier for me to make the trip by myself from our home in PA to our apartment in Mass. My trip is only twelve hours and it’s so pleasant. I take my knitting, my pillow, the current book I’m reading, DVD’s, my sons iPad…and fuzzy socks and a blanket. A goal I have, is to take the train on an overnight trip so I to can have a room with a view. It beats flying any day!

  10. Veronica says:

    Congradulations Cindy! Be well and warm! Here’s to you…
    A Soldier’s Quilt
    Born in 1864,new life was given me.
    My strips and squares of tattered cloth,sewn so lovingly.
    The pins they prick my thread so rich;
    The needles hurt my every stitch.

    I am a soldier born to live and then again to die.
    The battled blood of fighting men,their echos and their sighs.
    I am freedom,justice,strength and pain.
    Something lost yet something gained.

    I am my mother’s precious tears;
    My father’s hopes and dreams and fears.
    My mother’s skirt it wiped her tears,the day I went to war.
    My father’s shirt kept out the cold,beneath the kitchen door.

    My jacket and my trousers that,
    I wore with pride each day;
    They’re the many shapes and sizes of
    ‘The scraps of blue and gray’.

    “From mother to her dearest son”is what the letter reads.
    “For all your time and patients and your heroic deads”.

    Be blessed,Veronica

  11. Veronica says:

    Thank you for being you. For bringing such light and life and joy! My life is blessed by you and because of you. I am so new to this.I’ve never done this before,but I’m glad I’ve found a friend.In fact,many friends.My seasons are fall and winter! And what a warm and inviting welcome to change. Much love from a friend.

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