Trains fuel sense of adventure

Published 1:28 am Saturday, December 1, 2012

During the mid-1950s, I boarded an airplane in Columbia, S.C., to Birmingham to participate in a friend’s wedding. I was a little nervous, but what an adventure. It was my first flight experience.

I always loved traveling and enjoyed my first solo trip at 5 when my mother put me on a Greyhound Bus in Birmingham bound for Dothan. She asked the driver to direct me to a bus bound for Panama City, Fla., upon our arrival. Through the years, I made that round trip during summers to visit relatives who met me at the station.

I sometimes sat in the seat across from the driver where I enjoyed the view from the great big windshield in front of me. When that got monotonous, I would get out a book. If someone else beat me to that preferred seat, I chose one down the aisle beside a window. It was interesting watching people pop on the bus when we made stops along the way. Sometimes a seatmate engaged me in conversation. Motion sickness occasionally crept up when I read. I put the book away. Then I waited for that horrible feeling to fade.

When I was in high school, I traveled home every afternoon by train. It departed from the wonderful Birmingham Terminal Station that no longer exists. If I close my eyes and concentrate hard even now, I can imagine the echo of the voice calling arrivals, departures, and boarding alerts reverberating through that tall, majestic domed ceiling. My train’s destination was Columbus, Miss. My stop was an hour into its route.

My longest train ride came after our family flew to the United States following my husband’s three-year military service in Germany. A mechanical problem with the airplane that we boarded in Germany resulted in an unexpected overnight delay in Prestwick, Scotland. We finally bedded down in Quonset huts at the airport in the wee morning hours. We resumed our flight to the states the next day. My husband had selected train transportation for the final leg of our journey. We were so tired from all the trauma that we slept during almost all that lengthy rail ride to Birmingham. I regretted we missed some beautiful scenery along the way.

My flights to Tucson, Ariz., Lafayette, La., and Dublin, Ireland, gave me a different perspective on flying. Back in those 50s flights, I looked upon them as exciting adventures. These days, even the thought of maneuvering around the huge, bustling airports in Houston and Atlanta, changing planes, dulls my adventurous spirit. There is that anxiety as to whether I can make the transition from one flight to the other on time. Or either I wind up with an overly long wait squirming in seats that get more uncomfortable by the hour.

Flying is great to get us overseas. I prefer it to traveling by ship. But if convenient choices were available for train travel here in the U.S., I would choose it to refuel my sense of adventure.