Those are the trains I took to get from Ann Arbor to St. Louis on a Thursday at the beginning of March. I had ridden the Wolverine many times before, but only commuting to and from Detroit, never truly heading west or really going anywhere. I consider this trip my first foray into American rail travel.
I could have flown one-way to St. Louis for $90, instead of the $81 I spent on Amtrak. But to that, I would have added the AirRide bus, and thank goodness it exists now, but that's more money, another step. The train station is actually closer to my apartment than the bus station that would have taken me to metro airport. And, of course, I just wanted to take the train. If I, great train proponent that I am, don't, who will? So I left my home dark and early—before 7 a.m.—and walked down the hill to Depot Street, waited a few minutes (it's the train from Chicago that's usually late), climbed aboard, and settled in for a nap.
The grey clouds of the morning departed before Chicago. Most of the weekend was sunny and warm—a first breath of spring. Still, my boyfriend and I lamented how early in the season our trip was. If we'd headed south a week or two later, we were sure we would have been greeted by green things.
The train ride would have been much prettier if the world had been growing again. Tree branch silhouettes are lovely with fresh snow; they're striking as a strong silhouette against a blue or pink sky. Instead I watched naked trees against a white-grey sky that blended all too well with the lackluster snow melting on the ground. The trees, leafless, didn't hide the random buildings scattered in the distance. The dead fields. If they were green, the patches of trees could have approximated a forest. When we drove up I-75 to visit my grandparents in Flint, I loved to see all the trees along the side of the highway. Full and green, and then later, full and red and orange. It was nice to see them. Of course those several rows of trees along the railroad and the interstates aren't forest.
I thought about going up north, though. I dreamed of a summer trip to the Upper Peninsula. Please, can this be the year? Then I read the book Ali had shipped to me the week before. I read about the author growing up in northern Michigan. Listening as the calls of wolves became fewer and fainter. I thought about wilderness, as the train rumbled along toward Chicago.
I took an aimless walk in Chicago, then circled back toward Union Station and ate a grilled cheese by myself, with the wolf woman book. I thought a lot about milkshakes but didn't get one.
Then I headed into the old train station and settled down to read some more.AsympTote from Meg...and my other luggage in the other car, out of my sight. A little nerve-wracking, but okay.
Patrick Leigh Fermor south and east into the Balkans and toward Constantinople. I read about the thick, wild forest of the Carpathians while riding across flat land.
The train ended up being an hour or so late. By then, I was impatient. I wanted to be with my boyfriend, enjoying my dinner and a drink and planning our weekend of fun. But I was glad I picked the train, happy with my day of reading (and texting and instagramming and napping), happy to relax all the way to St. Louis, where I was retrieved from the train station and brought to a Bosnian restaurant serving Schnitzel and Spaetzle and Riesling, oh my. Delicious. And then we slept.
The Arch, poorly photographed from a moving train.