By Trish Milburn
People who know me know that I don't fly. I have flown in the past, but was never comfortable with it. But after a particularly bumpy flight where I thought the plane would shake out of the sky, I called it quits on flying. If I can get there by car or train, I'm sticking to terra firma. And recent stories about flying make me even more glad that I'm not a frequenter of the "friendly skies." Why?
1. I don't have to be scared for days before traveling.
2. I don't have to deal with huge airline delays and flight cancellations.
3. When airlines announce they're going to start charging for the first checked bag, I don't have to worry about it.
All those reasons focus on negatives though. What I want to focus on in this post are the positives of slower modes of travel like driving and taking the train.
First off, I find them less stressful. When I travel by car, I can start when I want, stop when I want. If I want to stop and examine the wagon ruts left by Oregon Trail travelers in western Nebraska, I can. That also brings up the fact that you get to see all kinds of interesting sights that exist in what is sometimes called "flyover country." I love seeing places and things I've never seen before. If not for a road trip from my home in Tennessee to points west, I wouldn't have been able to see:
Wall Drug (Wall, South Dakota), 76,000 square feet of touristy goodness. You see so many different Wall Drug signs driving across South Dakota that by the time you reach Wall, you have to stop.
The Enchanted Highway (Regent, North Dakota), home to some of the largest scrap-metal sculptures in the world, including "Geese in Flight," which holds the Guinness Book of World Records title as the largest such sculpture.
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montanta, Idaho), America's first National Park and one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.
South Dakota's 1880 Town, a replica of a frontier town that's also home to props from the movie Dances with Wolves. The horse that played Cisco, Kevin Costner's character's horse, in the movie is also in residence.
Even though he's not as hot on road trips as I am, Hubby and I have enjoyed some road trips to Florida and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In addition to trips to see The Mouse, we've enjoyed drives along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, visiting everything from the remnants of an old sugar plantation to historic forts. Here we are at Fort Matanzas National Monument near St. Augustine, Florida.
In recent years, in order to save a little time, I've started taking Amtrak trips. In fact, I've got one planned for later in the summer when I head to the RWA National Conference and then to visit my sister. What's really cool about train travel is that I get to watch all the scenery without having to worry about also watching the road. I can sit in my little sleeper compartment and watch the sights go by, plug in my laptop and write for hours on end without the temptation of the Internet, and continue to cover miles as I eat in the dining car or sleep at night. And sometimes the trains take you through areas the roads don't, affording the view of even more scenery. Among these sights are the winding Colorado River as the train follows it through the western part of Colorado. (I took the photo above from the California Zephyr in November 2007 on my way to San Francisco.)
Here is the California Zephyr rolling into downtown Reno in 2005. I was about to board it for the first leg of my trip home after the RWA National Conference.
Another cool part of riding Amtrak's long-distance trains is that they often have volunteers from museums and national parks on board to give presentations about museums and parks located in the areas through which the train is traveling. If you're in a sleeper room, you don't even have to leave to hear the presentations. You can turn on the intercom in the room and listen.
I realize that it's nearly impossible to indulge in the slower, more scenic modes of travel when you work full time and you only get a week or two a year of vacation. Been there, done that. But if you have the time and inclination (and the money for gas, if you're driving), I highly recommend taking to the highways or rails for your next trip. It's more relaxing, and you get to see more than clouds and the insides of airports.
So, any other lovers of the road trip or train travel out there? Anyone love those goofy tourist sites like Wall Drug?