¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.” ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.” ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.” ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).
“TAKE THE TRAIN”
“Take the Train” is the title of a popular song, an advertising slogan for Amtrak, the name of a patented card game, and who knows what else besides. We’ve taken lots of trains.
North American trains have generally gotten a bad rap. True, they run late more often than trains in Europe, but that may be because slow freights are given precedence over passenger trains. In some cases it’s the freight line that actually owns the tracks, so who can blame them?
I have had generally positive experiences on American trains. Many years ago I rode the old California Zephyr all the way from Omaha to Oakland. After retirement I worked for five years as a volunteer train host on the Piedmont, which runs every day from Raleigh to Charlotte and back. Twice we’ve been up the narrow-gauge line winding through river valleys and mountain heights from Durango to Silverton in Colorado.
Yet we’ve ridden trains a lot more in foreign countries than in our own homeland. Speaking of narrow-gauge, most lines don’t really deserve that name, compared to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in England’s Lake District. Believe it or not, the tracks of this miniature marvel are only fifteen inches apart. We’ve ridden the tiny R & E from Ravenglass on the coast, up seven scenic miles to Eskdale in the hills.
In Indonesia, the early-morning run from mountainous Bandung down to the port city of Jakarta includes some of the most scenic vistas anywhere on earth. You seem to be gliding along through the clouds as you look down on neat terraces of rice and other crops. Tapioca plants have five-pointed leaves, so you feel as if you’re gazing down on fields of fallen stars.
One of the most interesting and scenic (not to mention expensive!) days of riding the rails anywhere on earth is in Switzerland, the route from Interlaken up to Jungfraujoch. You have to board four different trains during the journey. The waiting times between them are so brief that you might despair of making all your connections. But (shall we say) everything runs like clockwork in a Swiss watch. The last of the four trains is a narrow-gauge cogwheel that climbs up through a glacier.
We took this incomparable day-trip when our younger son was still so tiny that he remembered very little of it – not even two kind fellow passengers, a genial magistrate from the Australian Outback and his wife who treated our little boy like a surrogate grandson. So when it happened that his fourteenth birthday would be coming up as we were crossing Europe yet again, we decided to give him (and the rest of us as well) a return trip to Jungfraujoch as a special birthday present.
A spectacular view of an avalanche just across the valley.
Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas