Recently we needed to be in New York to have a cello bow evaluated for a sale. Our first thought was to hop on a plane. Immediate thought number two was expense. Another option, which we have taken many times, was to drive. We love a good road trip, hours to catch up with each other, the freedom of unlimited bathroom stops, the great road snacks. Then our final option, the train. This option, while not without cost, seemed a no-brainer to Paul who has loved trains since he was a little boy. So we made the drive to the Rutland station to catch an express train to the city.
We clamor on board whacking our suitcases on every other seat as we maneuver down the isle. I should note that travel, on the whole, seems to put me into another time dimension altogether. The minute we get into an airport my heart begins to race and I feel the need to run…. everywhere. I race to get coffee, zoom into the bathroom and breathlessly grab a magazine for the trip. I sprint back to our gate only to find Paul dozing in the waiting area since we have another 2 hours before we fly.
Our scheduled train departure is 8:00 AM and, sure enough, exactly at 8:00 I feel a lurch and we begin to move. In travel mode, I quickly gather my possessions around me. Three books which require reading glasses, so regular glasses get safely, but speedily, stuffed into their case. I check my credit cards several times to be sure there is good access in case I feel the sudden (obviously) urge to nosh.
We begin rolling and I find myself leaning against the glass watching the world chug past. Train tracks are actually behind everything. The path that we are taking seems to put the utilitarian side of things toward us: people have taken time to renovate the front of buildings but tend to leave the backs untouched. Looking at the rickety back stairways leading to old porches, it seems as if the laundry swinging on the lines is waving to us as we travel by. Crooked sheds, stuffed behind modern facades give us a glimpse into other decades. I can almost see my lanky, high school age father making lay-ups in the net-less hoops leaning off the wooden garages.We see the back doors of large businesses. The places where they keep the industrial size garbage bins, and the picnic tables where the staff sits, smokes and watches us watch them.
The morning sun warms the glass where my forehead rests. If I close my eyes into the warmth, even for a second, I am sound asleep. The rocking of the train is primal and my body remembers it.
This train travels along the Hudson River and soon I’m gazing at ice chunks swirling around small patches of open water. I see lighthouse after lighthouse perched on piled stones. Small but sturdy in their offering of protection. Because we are on the Hudson and not too far outside the city we are voyeurs to the backs of huge abandoned houses. Paint peeling from the gingerbread decorating the roof line. Enough left of them to help us imagine their ornate stories, enough left of their stairs to the river that we understand the privilege.
Barges calmly stomp their way through the ice, unflappable in their steely determination. I can see a deck hand scurrying to a task - strange to see him in a wool hat and gloves on a ship.
Someone comes around to collect tickets. They make friendly banter with us about the cold then tip their train hat as they pass by. Time changed only by the scanner for your tickets instead of the punch- much to Paul’s dismay.
My books sit next to me untouched. Paul mentions heading to the food car for some lunch and I lazily offer up my order but never break my gaze out the window. Quickly nearing New York I find that the slow and steady rhythm has been deceptive.
We pack away our unused books as we come into Penn Station. We remain relaxed in our seats entering the darkness of the tunnel.
And here we are in New York. I recognize that I would have made it to this place had I chosen to travel in any of the other means available. What has mattered on this trip is that I’ve realized that the journey, not unlike the journey of learning the cello, has been as important as the destination.