Ever since I read an article about writer Jessica Gross taking a writing residency aboard Amtrak, Arlo Guthrie’s “The City of New Orleans” has been on endless loop in my mind. Then, when I heard about the possibility of more residencies on trains, I immediately tweeted:
@Amtrak Would love nothing more than to write an #AmtrakResidency from Maine to Cali, blogging all the way…#dreamcometrue #pleasepickme
I knew it was more than a long shot because within seconds I saw more tweets (and Facebook postings) than I could count—other writers like me, wanting a residency. Now six days later, with no reply from Amtrak, I impatiently took matters into my own hands. I made a reservation on Maine’s Downeaster that goes only as far as Boston’s North Station. I wanted to take a test run: seven hours round trip, a daylong residency.
The Railroad is in my Blood
My grandfather was a brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Baltimore. He lost all the toes on one foot when one very cold day he slipped while he was climbing a freight car’s ladder and his foot went down to the rail and was run over by the car’s wheel. If the railroad is in my blood, it’s in mind and soul as well. The year after we were married, my husband and I took Amtrak from Denver to New York City. The next year we completed the romantic cross-country trip and rode Amtrak from Denver to Los Angeles.
Just hearing the conductor yell All Aboard yesterday gave me a shiver. I boarded and sat at a window seat—I stopped short of pressing my nose against the smudged window. I had my laptop unpacked before the train even left the station, though. As the train began to move, I was faced with my first of several challenges: I was sitting facing backwards. That’s when the reality settled in. [Read more…]