Amtrekking, Day 2: Fort Madison, Iowa

Just a few disjointed anecdotes about the train…

Walking on the train is, I imagine, like walking on a ship at sea: it takes a while to get your legs. You have to be quick on your feet in case the floor decides to move, and keeping an arm or two out is a good idea in case the motion of the car sends you lurching to one side or another. After a while you get into the rhythm, and your walk becomes a rolling, adaptive gait, in tune with the train itself. But really, the best description of this process is one I overheard as a fellow passenger bounced past my seat, regaining his balance after the train nearly sent him flying: “Wobbly-wobbly-wobbly-WOW, lord have mercy, help me, Jesus!”

This kind of scenery is lost on plane riders and bus riders and motorists alike. You don’t get colors like this on well-traveled roads, passing through cities or soaring above the clouds, autumn colors more vivid than anything on an LCD screen. People who have never been on a train have never seen the vast wheat fields and solitary farmhouses of Missouri, the narrow dirt tracks stretching on through yellow grass, the tall stone tower that seems lonely without some 16th century watchman at the top.

And of course, there’s the Mississippi River, which still blows my mind no matter how many times I’ve crossed it. How is this a river? How is it real?

And now, look. Look at that sky. I must be in Illinois.

Fort Madison. About to cross the river into Illinois.

Fort Madison. About to cross the river into Illinois.

The Mississippi River, in all its glory.

The Mississippi River, in all its glory.

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