The Zen of Traveling Retired: The Train Epiphany

by Carol Voigts /
Carol Voigts's picture
Apr 29, 2008 / 4 comments

Hubby and I are both retired now! Traveling is now relaxed, no need to get to the destination, have your fun, then rush back to start work again. It's the getting there that's the fun now! And the way to get there for us has become the train. We're planning all our vacation travel that we can to center around where trains go. There's so much we have not seen and that is accessible by rail!

Our epiphany came a year ago when we were traveling west by car on I-80 across Pennsylvania/Ohio and missed probably 3, maybe 4 exits because of trucks, pouring rain, badly placed road signs, and no doubt, our having been in the car for over 7 hours. Jack pulled off the road, looked at the computer map, determined how to get home the last 500 miles without seeing another truck and we made our resolve to find a better way to get
there, wherever we were going.

Carol Voigts

















We had already decided to see the Grand Canyon via Amtrak on the Southwest Chief route. Chicago to Williams, AZ and then up to the Park on the Grand Canyon RR. So when the time came, we found that our trip was more than we expected! We went with the compartment instead of coach. Though we spent most of the time in the observation car enjoying the sites, and pointing the cameras out both windows for hours, it was nice to get into a horizontal position for a few hours too. The trip was supposed to take 31 hours. It took 36 hours. So what. We weren't driving. We had a great attendant in our car named Victor. He was a living history lesson! "Around this curve is a Confederate grave", or "coming up on the left just through the pass is where ol' Pete was shot.", etc.


Carol Voigts


















In the dining car for the first evening, we chatted with "Ms. Gloria" on her way to her home in California, having just spent 3 months in her Vermont mountain home. She’s traveled by train since the 1940's--loves it, is in no hurry to get there, just enjoys the view, the good meals, the delays and all of it. The next morning we ate a leisurely
breakfast with the Smiths who were going to the Canyon too, but were getting off at Flagstaff and renting a car for a week. Each meal on the train had interesting conversation with someone new.


We got to Williams Junction early Sunday morning--3 am, but we were just staying at a B&B and the owner left the key out under the mat after we called her earlier from the train. I had some inkling that we needed extra time so had planned our Grand Canyon reservations for Monday. The train to the Canyon was a delightful 3 hour excursion. We stayed at the lodge up there, used the park shuttles, got great pictures including a double rainbow and a sunrise. We had planned extra time back at Williams just lazing
around that little town on old Route 66, and then back to the Amtrak in the middle of the night for our return trip back to Chicago. We took the Indiana South Shore Line back to our car, parked in Michigan City, IN and rolled to home 4 hours away in northern Michigan, traveling back roads sans tractor/trailers.


Carol Voigts

















As we went through our journals, sketch books, and pictures, we discovered we had more pictures, more things written down, more memories recorded than ever before. We found that while we were traveling, we had the time to record our trip.


Carol Voigts


















What a lovely bonus from the journey. Plus we had just had the most relaxed, the most laid back, the least harried time ever. Now it is my opinion that we had that kind of vacation because we got into the Zen of our trip. Our circumstances of being retired had provided us the opportunity to enjoy our journey, the passage of time as we get to our destination. So few of us in our time-strictured slots can afford to reach those destinations in a leisurely fashion. As McLuhan said in the 60's about the message "The message is the massage", so we could say about travel in our times "our destination is our determinate" or something of that silly sort. That's the way we think travel should be, but it doesn't have to be if you're retired and determined to break that mold.


Anyway, travel by rail is helped along in our situation by a husband who is a railroad nut in the nicest sort of way. He has computer files full of pictures of old railroad cars, engines, houses that used to be stations, empty lots that probably used to be the site of a station, old railroad grades, and copies of railroad postcards. Plus I'm getting into sketch books in my retirement. What better way to practice quick sketches than as the scenery passed quickly by while I'm seated in the club car. Not so great sketches, but it helps with remembering the trip sequences.


Since that trip, we've been on two more, and have five more in the planning stages. Since the first trip I’ve purchased a travel Scrabble game to carry along. We tried the coach class and that was pleasant enough but for longer trips, we’re going to get the sleeper. I’ve gotten a little traveling water heating wand to make tea along the way. Gradually we’re paring down what we need to take or NOT TAKE. I'm planning on giving you some blow by blow descriptions of our trips , some cute stories, a bit of history, some travel tips and of course some great pictures. In the meantime, enjoy the rainbow. Maybe that rainbow was our sign "Slow down, enjoy every moment, especially on the way there."


Carol Voigts double rainbow

















Carol Voigts
















  Carol Voigts is Co-Editor of Retiree Travel, and has a monthly column here at, entitled The Zen of Traveling Retired.




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