Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch
After the Fall 2016

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Greatest Train Adventure


20th Century Limited



It's funny how our greatest adventures never seem to happen exactly as we'd planned. Now that I'm here in Seattle, after four and half days on trains, I can say:

The only thing that happened even remotely as planned was my rewriting, on the tracks, my upcoming winter thriller--set on the greatest American train: the Twentieth Century Limited. Even so, it took me longer to get going than I had intended.

You see, this should have included a train-bound romance...breathtaking scenery...happy hours spent online with my Kindle Fire...a movie or TV show as well...good food in the diner...all the sleep I needed after five years of working nights...

But in the past, I'd always had a private cabin, with all my meals included. I'd never deigned to travel coach. And in the past I'd always taken the spectacularly scenic route of the California Zephyr. And I'd been younger in the past, a more likely candidate for a hot fling on the rails--especially with my own cabin. And I found it tricky to sleep, even catnap, with my long legs in the coach seats. And I couldn't afford $25 for a meal. And, misery, except for the first train--an 8 hour ride--wi-fi was not included.

Finally, the scenery was nothing to get too excited about--until halfway through Thursday when it began to heat up.

So Reb MacRath, the great positive thinker, wasn't having the time of his life as he'd hoped. Enter the zone of the Big-Time Boo-Hoo...until the scales fell from my eyes. And I saw: I had a rare opportunity here to work without distraction at any time of day or night, even without a table...if I could make one adjustment. Believe me now, I'm serious: I'd never used a laptop as a LAPtop in my life. If I could learn to do that comfortably, using the touch pad or miniscule joystick...I did.

Sometimes using the adapter, sometimes the 2-hour battery, I worked as I had never worked. I worked in my seat, in the little cafe, in the observation car...completing work on the first third of my book.

Now, wait a minute, someone says. That's your greatest train adventure?

Yes, yes, and yes again. I'd had more cinematic train adventures, I'll admit. But nothing I'd seen, said or done on a train had led me to feel this empowered. I'd learned something new, pulled myself from a funk, and used my present discomfort to fuel my dream of that legendary train. I tuned into the rhythms and sounds of my train, transforming them into the Century's. For that long stretch I was as free as any hobo ever.

And so I sign off no with one last loud Yes. I had an amazing adventure. And I'll share the results in November. Till then, racing down the tracks: a tale of mystery, magic and murder...with affectionate nods to the great Oscar Wilde, who would have loved the Century.

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