Posted tagged ‘trains’

“Never hesitate to go far away, beyond all seas, all frontiers, all countries, all beliefs.”

June 22, 2017

Today is lovely. I woke up to a blue sky and the brightest eye squinting sunshine I’ve seen in a while. My house is comfortably cool. Outside my window, I can see chickadees on the branches munching sunflower seeds. None of the leaves of the oak tree are blowing. It is a still day.

Though Gracie ate on Tuesday, around midnight she started panting and walking from room to room. She’d sit on the couch for a bit then get up and walk some more. Around 12:30 am, I took her to the emergency vet for the third early morning in a row. She was given anti-nausea medication which settled her down. The vet told me that this was treating only a symptom. I already knew that. She suggested a battery of tests, most of which I probably can’t afford.

Last night was different. During the day, she ate two small cans of dog food, not her usual as I was tempting her taste buds. She ate treats, new treats. She napped and last night slept through the night. I had anti-nausea pills for her, but she didn’t need them. She and Maddie, the cat, are having their morning naps now. I’m going to take one later. I am exhausted.

The best part of any summer has always been having empty days to fill.  When I was a kid, it was games and crafts at the local playground. I’d be there all day. During high school, I did little on summer days, but I was never bored. When I was in college, it was a summer job which I didn’t really mind. Working in the post office was easy and paid well. The pace was slow. Europe filled my summers when I was a teacher. My trips generally lasted 4 to 5 weeks. I knew how to travel on little money. I slept in hostels or on night buses. I ate as cheaply as possible sometimes buying bread and sandwich fixings. I found bars where I could get a drink and eat my way through happy hour. I had only a broad itinerary open to change. It was a wonderful way to travel. They were some of my favorite summers.

Posting my Ghana pictures yesterday got me thinking about the faraway places I love. Ghana, of course, is my favorite. The rest are in no order, no preference. Old Quito is on that list. The narrow streets, the old buildings, the colors and the women’s hats still have a prominent place in my memory drawers. I loved Portugal and Morocco and the Roman ruins in Italy. Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso was my second favorite spot in Africa. It was my weekend getaway. The beauty of the Andes took my breath away. On overnight bus rides, stops at roadside restaurants where the menus were in languages I didn’t understand and peeing in a hole in the little house in the back were part of the adventure. In Morocco and in Ghana I found out that thitting the hole is a lifetime skill.

I don’t travel summers anymore, but I keep my passport up to date just in case.

“Trains tap into some deep American collective memory.”

May 4, 2013

I always think May is the sweetest month. The gardens have come to life, the days are warm and the air smells of flowers and of grass mowed for the first time. I can hear neighbors working outside on their yards. Winter hibernation is finally over.

Saturday was the best day, a whole day to be outside, to ride my bike or just walk around town to explore. We’d walk the tracks to the old depot. The depot is red brick, has granite window sills on the outside and a neat overhanging roof. It was never open, but we used to peek into the windows. The depot was built in 1895 and was part of the Boston and Maine Railroad. In front of it were a series of tracks which went across the road and down a bit further where they ended. I used to figure that’s where the trains would turn around to begin their journeys back. Across from the depot were a couple of cars just sitting on the outside track. We’d climb the stairs to try to find a way inside but we never did.

Until I was around 8 or 9, there was a freight six days a week and two passenger trains to Boston. A couple of factories were right beside the tracks. The one I can still remember was a tall wooden building painted grey. Around the top painted in black was the name: E.L.Patch. It was a company which made chemicals and pharmaceuticals. I also remember when the trains would cross the road near my grandparents’ house not far from E.L. Patch. I’d hear the bells and run to the front door to see the train pass. There were no gates, just the signal which flashed red, sounded the bells and had a warning waving back and forth. The sound of those bells is one of my favorite train memories.

Years later the depot became a gift shop, and I finally got inside. It had a ticket window with bars like the ones in the movies. I wished I could buy a ticket and board a train to Boston right outside. Now the depot is a credit union, designated a historic building. The tracks are long gone, replaced by a road. I’m thankful for my memories of walking the tracks, of jumping to the side when the train went by and of hoping it would flatten my penny.

“Love is a selfless service to mankind like a showcase done by the twinkling stars in beautiful nightly sky.”

April 19, 2013

The sun is on hiatus again. The sky is white cloudy and it’s chilly, not cold. The birds are busy at the feeders, and the chipmunk is somewhere else. Gracie has been in the yard most of the morning. Every now and then she barks and then comes in to check on me then goes back outside. She loves the yard.

Every morning since Monday I have turned on the TV just to check for any news about the bombing. If there is nothing, I turn off the TV, but this morning’s news has me intently watching what is happening. It didn’t take long from yesterday’s briefing by the FBI which showed the pictures of the two bombers, brothers, for them to be identified. A comment the other day was that this isn’t a CSI case and don’t expect an instant ending, a quick solving of the crime, but it does feel quick, only three days to identify the bombers. One has been killed, and the other is the subject of a manhunt the likes of which this state has never seen.

I have traveled many parts of the world and been treated with kindness and sometimes even concern. When I lived in Ghana, I had my pocket picked, was the victim of an attempted purse snatching (during training and during my first weekend in Accra) and had my house broken into, but I was never afraid for myself. Even the purse snatching was a bit of adventure as the snatcher and I fought over the bag, each of us pulling a handle. That incident didn’t stop me from continuing training and taking my oath as a volunteer. It just became a story to tell.

Once on a train from Denmark to the Hook of Holland, our train-mate fed us, my friend and me, the whole trip from a huge basket she had packed for the ride. She was an East German heading home to England and her husband, an Englishman. The food was amazing, and, like the loaves and the fishes, the basket never went empty. In Morocco, I’d get tired and my back would hurt so I’d stop and stand for a while. Each time I did, someone offered me a seat, and I always took it and sat and watched the world around me. They’d tell me to stay as long I needed to sit. Once I even got coffee, strong Moroccan coffee, in a small cup.

In South America, my travel mate and I were quite often the only non locals on a bus or train. At every stop someone would tell us where we were, and when we stopped for dinner on the night bus, the whole menu was translated for us by another passenger. In Columbia, in the salt mine, I asked how the blackened salt was turned white. A man heard my question and invited my friend and me to see the factory down the road where he worked. We were given hard hats and a complete tour of the factory. I remember the taste of salt in my mouth stayed for what seemed liked forever.

After my second surgery, I got on the bus and immediately the man in the front seat stood up and said take my seat. You shouldn’t have to walk.

I am not naive just because I believe in the innate goodness of most people, their willingness to help, even their eagerness to help, but goodness doesn’t usually make headlines and small stories like mine are seldom told, but good heartedness is not rare. It is all around us. We just have to look.

“Nothing gives me as much pleasure as travelling. I love getting on trains and boats and planes.”

August 18, 2011

Yesterday was a perfect birthday. Waiting for me outside when I opened the door were mums from my dear friends Tony and Clare. What day doesn’t bring wonder when it starts with flowers? After that, the present which had been sitting where I could see it for a few days finally got opened. I loved it. My sisters called in the morning and one of them sang a bit. I had my usual Wednesday dinner with friends, and it was ribs, one of all time favorites. I got a cake, more presents and a rendition of Happy Birthday. The evening ended with a very funny play. My birthday continues with dinner tonight and tomorrow night! I love an endless celebration.

I have strange random thoughts bouncing around in my head today, and that’s what you’re going to get. It occurred to me that one of the changes over time is that men and women shake hands. When I was a kid, only men shook hands with each other. Women sometimes clasped each others’ hands, but they didn’t shake hands with men.

I don’t like hats all that much except at a baseball game in the sun, but strangely enough I look good in hats. I collect them, and I wear a few more for laughs than chic or fashion. My pink one is from the fifties. I should have a waist small enough for my hands to go around, tall heels with straps and a swanky dress when I wear it. It is hanging from the shelf right next to the fedora. They seemed the most natural pair.

Train travel is one of my favorite ways to get from one place to another, but I haven’t traveled by train in years. In Europe I have crossed the continent by train and gone from the coast of Finland to Lapland, and I got to sleep in a couchette. In South America I went a good portion of Ecuador on an auto-bus. Ghana used to have a great train system, and I usually traveled from Accra to Kumasi by train. Once I took the sleeper from Kumasi to Takoradi. On my yet to do list is to take a train to Colorado or as as close as I can get to visit my sister. I want to go across country with Ricky, Lucy, Ethel and Fred.

Houses should be built with porches. That way we get to wave at our neighbors and enjoy the swing. Every Sunday Andy, Aunt Bea and Barney sat on the porch after dinner. Aunt Bea rocked, Andy sang and Barney fell asleep. We lose touch with people when we stay hidden in the back on our decks. I do love my deck, but I also think I’d love a porch. After he retired, my dad used to sit on the front steps and drink his coffee during the nicer seasons. Everybody waved from cars and people wished him good morning when they walked by his house. That was his version of a porch.

When my sister was coming east from Colorado to visit, she never started the countdown until a week before her trip, but she came fairly often when the kids were young. I am not so patient. It has been forty years so I have started the countdown. Nine days to go!

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

May 21, 2011

I spent so much money at the garden center yesterday, the employees stood in a group, applauded and then released balloons. My backseat and my trunk were filled. Now, those new herbs and flowers, lined up on the walk, wait patiently in their pots. They wait to be planted into the deck window boxes and the two gardens, but it won’t be today, another dank, cloudy and damp day. Earlier, when I went to get the papers, we had misty rain. The weatherman predicts the rain will be gone on Tuesday and leave in its wake a sunny day in the 70’s. I guess that’s Mother Nature’s gift for this stretch of over a week of rain. I keep looking out my window here by the desk at the forlorn and empty deck.

I miss trains. One ran through my town when I was a kid. I used to watch it and listen for the whistle. Near where my grandparents’ lived was one train master’s house. He’d come out and lower the wooden gate to stop the cars. That house still exists, but it is just a regular old house with a strange configuration. The other house was torn down to make way for a lumber yard. The square brick train station has been many things including a gift shop. I don’t what it is now. The tracks have disappeared for the most part. They have been gone so long many people probably don’t even know they existed.

A train ride is like nothing else. The clack of the wheels is background music. The windows give views of the backs of houses, and I’d peeked through those windows as the train went by them. I took night trains when I backpacked through Europe. They were my hotels. I remember as we’d near the station, the view would change, and I’d see factories and lines of track after track. The stations were always busy. I’d get my bearings, find a tourist kiosk and a cheap hotel room, change money and use my map to find my way around.

I took trains in Ghana. In the first class compartments with their huge leather chairs and sliding doors, I always felt like a character out of an Agatha Christie book. I’d travel from Accra to Kumasi, but from what I’ve read, most of those trains are gone too. That’s too bad.

I think we need to bring back trains. I’ll take a berth and fall asleep to the music of the wheels.

“From coast to coast the railroads roam, yet every inch of rail stays home.”

February 15, 2011

The wind is fierce on this very cold day. I had to go to the dentist this morning, and his office is by a field. The wind came whipping across, and I was freezing as I walked from the car. Today is a day to be home, warm and cozy.

A wind advisory is in effect with winds ranging from 30 to 50 MPH. It’s 24° but, according to the weather channel, it feels like 10°. From my window I can see even the tallest pine trunks swaying to the wind. The backyard will be filled with their dead branches. Pine trees, even the largest, are not hearty. Tomorrow will be in the 40’s, a virtual heat wave will be upon us.

I’m amazed when I think back to my childhood and remember walking to school in every sort of weather. Nothing fazed us. We’d open our arms to the wind and hope to fly. When it snowed, we’d stick out our tongues to catch the flakes and throw snowballs at each other all the way home. Rain was the least popular weather. We would take advantage of any large puddles, but mostly, we just got wet.

I really like traveling by train. My favorite trip was from Quito to Guayaquil, a route no longer available. The train left Quito and my first view was of the volcanoes which lined both sides of the rail. From there we started mountain climbing through to the summit at Urbina. Then the train went down the mountain and continued into the tropical zone where we could see bananas growing on farms on each side of the rail. It was the very first time I had seen bananas in the wild, so to speak. The most exciting part of the ride was the switchback when the train zig zagged up the mountain then switched and rode backwards to the lower line. Okay, that was a bit scary. I admit it. The train ended at Duran where we had to take a boat across to Guayaquil.

I know there are spectacular train rides here and in Canada, but I just haven’t gotten around to taking one. I’ve put it on my to do list, but I’ve always said I want to do my overseas travel when I’m young and save the US for when I’m old, and I’m not there yet.