This trip is my third train ride since Michael died. Somehow I’ve turned our dream of taking a long rail trip together into my favorite way to travel. I still love road trips but I can’t quite fathom driving thousands of miles on my own. Too many potentially unpleasant possibilities to consider. What’s most surprising about these trips is that I thought I’d get a lot of reading and writing accomplished as I rattled along. Instead, my head is turned to the window, looking outside until it’s too dark to see anything. You simply don’t get exposed to the same slices of life from the car as you do from the train. Just over 40 years ago, Michael and I did a long road trip to Colorado which combined camping, national parks and rustic towns. I remember virtually everything about that shared experience. In the fall of 2016, we flew to Denver, rented a car and drove through the state to get to Utah, with the goal of seeing all five of its remarkable national parks. We saw some incredible scenery. That was the last of our lengthy excursions together. I treasure them. These adventures on my own are different. I delve into myself in a way that’s quite different from the sharing type of vacation. I’m thinking all the time. On the train you slice through huge swaths of the hidden parts of this vast country. Wealth and squalor. Sprawling empty spaces where you see nothing but cattle and horses. No hotels or chain restaurants. I wonder why so many people are squished together in the urban areas when there’s all this beautiful land out here. I’m not naive. I understand the principles of capitalism, private property and ownership. Understanding doesn’t mean you have to like it. The vast chasms in wealth are reflected in what I’m rolling past. If I was in charge of everything, I’d fix this. But unfortunately I don’t have any power.
Sliding by the remarkable mountains is a whole other issue. There are points on this route when you could literally touch the dazzling geological formations if you could get your hand out the window. I stopped counting the number of tunnels carved out of the towering peaks on either side of the train tracks. Some places are strung with metal supports to allay what are certainly potential rock slides that could happen at any moment. I am continually amazed at the colorful striations ribboning their way through the jagged walls. I think about glaciers and earthquakes and storms that formed what surrounds me. I think about all the people who died as they worked to build these convenient rails that are somewhat bedraggled, in need of the money which could or could not be freed up by the infrastructure bill oozing through Congress. And of course I think about all the indigenous people and the indigenous animals slaughtered along the way to what is now. As I mentioned, while I’m appreciating what I see, my mind is consumed by what’s already happened in this part of the country. I try not to go too far forward in my imagining because frankly, I fear the future. Always mindful of dry ground, low waterways, skinny animals. I have to remind myself that I’m supposed to be on vacation. I’m not terrific at turning off those information and processing spigots in my head.
Bear in mind that this lengthy part of my trip had the lowest risk. Masks were required and dining was socially distanced. My little room was a safe zone. Now I will share some of the photos I took through the train window as we traversed the state of Colorado.
Opportunistic plants and trees extrude from crags and slivers of dirt. Of course there are my adored rocks which I wanted to pile into my suitcase.
So there you have it. A sampling of my photos of the Colorado Rockies, up close and personal from the train. The next piece of my trip is the part in which my risk gets elevated as I step off the train, into the states that are among the ten worst in the country for vaccines and mask wearing. A stunning difference between my regular world and elsewhere. My ultimate destination takes me through four of them. Stay tuned…