Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Of Birthdays & Doing Something Cool

Birthdays are a mixed blessing. You can't celebrate one if you're dead, but it's still a day where you have to slow down long enough to go, "Hum, another year. How many more?" When I turned 45 I was in India. I'd spent the night before in intestinal distress, though certainly not because of the inattentiveness of our Indian hosts. They were fastidious about what we Westerners ate. The spices finally caught up with me so I did not come close to getting a good night's sleep as it became my birthday. I finally dozed off and at sometime after five in the morning the call to prayer began in the minaret nearby. On a loudspeaker. I lay in my bed thinking how cool it was that I was in here, on my forty-fifth year of life. That contuining desire To Do Something Cool on My Birthday is what inspired me to take a trip.

As you read this we are on an adventure. The house sitter in is place, the mail on hold, the luggage stowed and we're heading north. On. A. Train. I suspect at this point Stephen W. who posts comments to this blog just spit coffee all over his keyboard. Yes, we're on a train. Why? Well, why not?

Friends of ours have been waxing enthusiastic about the wonders of train travel for quite some time (Stephen included) so we decided to give it a try. In honor of my *mumble-mumble* birthday, we're taking Amtrak and in particular, the Crescent to Washington, DC. We have about a six hour layover so we're meeting my buddy and frequent roomie (Jean Marie Ward) who lives in a suburb of DC. I was last there in 1964 (when racial tensions were high) and the spouse has never been to the Nation's Capitol. Our brief layover is only going to allow time for a quick spin down by the Mall and some lunch, but I figure that will whet his appetite for a lengthier trip next year.

Later that afternoon we will board the Capitol Limited to Chicago. We're due to spend four full days in the Windy City and I'm looking forward to it. I hope to set a future Time Rovers book there, I adore the architecture and I want to hit the museums. And have a genuine Chicago hot dog. YUM.

It's about 13 hours to DC and then 17 to the Windy City so we reserved ourselves bedrooms on both trains because no matter how comfy a couch seat, they don't beat your own bed. We'll be on two different kinds of trains so it will be fun to compare them. I'll be sure and blog as we travel.

We finally end our trip in Iowa with the family and then back home via a plane to Atlanta. Husband has two weeks' vacation and he's so ready for this trip. I have to admit it, so am I.


steve said...

I hope all goes well. Unfortunately, the best scenery on the Capitol Limited is between Washington and Pittsburgh, where the train wends along the river valleys of the Alleghenies. It will be dark through almost all of it. If you have a chance to do the trip again, fly out and take the train back, so you can see some of the most beautiful landscapes in America.

But the ride across northern Ohio and Indiana is quite lovely, through the Amish country around Goshen and Elkhart, and the flatlands of the dune country west of Gary. And there's a haunting beauty in the wrecked industrial landscapes of Cleveland, Toledo, South Bend, and Gary, as well as in the approach to Chicago through the big bad South Side.

I've never been on the Crescent, so I don't know about that train's best views.

I'm not a coffee drinker, so my keyboard is safe. And luckily I wasn't guzzling Dr. Pepper while reading this.

While the first Richard Daley did all he could to destroy historic Chicago, a lot of it remains, including the 1925 Union Station, though without its beautiful concourse. I don't know when in Chicago history your Time Rovers will show up. I'd avoid the Great Fire, because it's been done so many times. But then, you've given the Ripper era an original take, and it's been done a lot more time than the Fire. The Columbian Exhibition of 1893 irs a fascinating time and place. If you haven't read Devil in the White City, by all means read it.

And belated happy birthday. I'll be turning 57 on the 30th--a prime number, so I'm hoping to make it a productive year.

Jana Oliver said...

All is going very well. Alas, I failed to load my photo editing software on my new baby Dell and downloading it at the hotel isn't working, so my planned blog updates with photos is a no go. I'll catch up when I get home or to a faster connection.

Didn't get to see much as most of the trip was after dark. This train trip was a warm-up to one we home to take next October: Seattle to Chicago. Infinitely cooler scenery and a longer trip. But on the whole, the train was workable. It just takes a bit to adjust to a smaller footprint. Having someone else do all the driving was a joy.

I was eyeng the 1893 Columbian Exposition as the setting for one of the Rover novels. I set it up in Madman's Dance so it won't come out of the blue. I am totally fascinated by that time period and Devil in the White City was the catalyst. During the last few days, I've gone out of my way to find buildings designed by Burnham and Root (and a few Sullivans). At least Chicago gets the notion of incorporating newer buildings with their gems in a way that compliments rather than nauseates (yes, London, I'm looking at you.)

Allow me to wish you an early Happy Birthday! May it indeed be a productive year for all of us.