Train Trip

Four summers ago, my family planned an Amtrak journey from Vermont to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in what would be the longest family trip of our girls’ childhood. That summer trip evolved into an illustration of that Robert Burns’ line about the best laid schemes not following the script.

We set out with a curveball detour to Charlottesville, then to New Mexico via Chicago. Somewhere in the month of  August, driving my dad’s old Subaru through the Navajo reservation, I wondered what if the hydrangea outside our back door was blooming, and if we would ever return home.

We did, of course.

In Travels with Charley, Steinbeck writes about how trips take over — true, true….

Yesterday, for a writing assignment, I took my 13-year-old and her friend to the southern end of Vermont on Amtrak  — just enough of riding the rails, of licking ice cream and browsing bookstores, walking across the bridge spanning the Connecticut River so we stepped into New Hampshire.

Back the Montpelier station, we drove home through the breathtaking July dusk, along dirt roads flanked brightly with David Budbill’s ubiquitous day lilies. My daughter went to sleep last night with her cat curled at the foot of her bed.

I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation — a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every states I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.

— John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America


Brattleboro Museum of Art, Vermont

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