A low lying scrub land stretches out on either side of the train, in the early morning light. A golden hue forms in the sky but the ground lies covered in white. Not snow, but a cold, crisp cloud that has crept over every surface while faces were sleeping. Telephone wires sew a straight line to the future, the chords too, wrapped in a powdery mist. A lone tree stands in a field, and its crackling roots seem almost audible.
And then the sun peers out, finally, and gently whispers away a wind, forcing the frost over new landscapes.
I’ve never done this before – Amtrak. Warmth, pillows, allocated seats… but slow. Slower than most other motorized vehicles anyway, and to be honest, watching the frosted hills from my armchair, I can’t say I envy the hobo’s in the boxcars, running from side to side to stay warm, or the touring cyclists, if they’re out there, for their brittle knuckles and bone chilling breeze.
Now there is snow on the ground, up in the hills, and orange, yellow, golden leaves scattered throughout the forest. Every so often suddenly everything goes black, and we pass through the belly of a mountain, tunneling our way to light. I’m on my way from San Francisco to Seattle, bike-less once more, but that will make the hitch to the San Juans simpler. I wasn’t quite ready to bid farewell to that magical scattering of islands, so I’ll be spending 3 weeks with old friends, both in Canada and Washington.
Alas, it has become too cold for bicycle camping (at least for me), but as we all step down onto the platform in the crisp morning light, and some run into the arms of lovers while others hurriedly bid each other farewell, I can almost pretend it’s not 2010, and that the train is our last one true connection to the travelling world, binding us all with it’s rhythmic clickety-clack through the ages.