Reviewing for the umpteenth time pictures and stories from my trip to South Africa’s Kruger National Park in early March, I am already thinking of going back to the Kruger next February. The confinement shock I encountered since getting home obliterated the immediacy of joyful remembrance of the experience. The images now seem unnaturally remote in time despite occurring less than a month ago.
Okay, I am afflicted with wanderlust. I always have been. I loved going on trips to places I’d never been when I was a kid, usually, of course, with my parents and siblings. But with money earned from delivering newspapers and cutting grass when I was 12 years old in 1960, I took a train by myself from Raleigh to New York and back in 24 hours. Didn’t tell my parents or grandparents (with whom I was visiting) where I was going. They thought I was indulging my love of trains by hanging out with railroad friends in Raleigh. Oops! I waited to tell them about that trip at age 12 until I was an adult.
Walked all over Manhattan from Penn Station between trains, and then barely made it back to get aboard the southbound Seaboard Air Line Railroad “Silver Meteor” returning to Raleigh. I took the below picture of the same train’s round-end observation car in Raleigh in 1965.
That was only the first time I did that trip alone. In those pre-Amtrak days (before 1971), train travel was fun, and the Raleigh-NYC round trip ticket (in coach) was $36. I continued taking the Seaboard to New York for a decade, off and on. Here I am below sitting in the cab of a Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive in the bowels of Penn Station when I was 15.
And here’s what Penn Station’s main concourse looked like in the 1960s through the lens of my trusty Kodak Retina Reflex SLR camera.
By the summer of 1964 I had planned and executed a cross-country train trip that took nearly three weeks: Raleigh-Atlanta-Birmingham-New Orleans-Houston-Grand Canyon-Los Angeles-San Diego-L.A.-San Francisco-Salt Lake City-Denver-Kansas City-St. Louis-Chicago-Washington-Rocky Mount (NC).
Before Amtrak, railroads each proudly ran their own sleek streamliner trains. I planned the trip to take me on as many railroads and as many famous trains as possible, including: Seaboard Air Line’s “Silver Comet”; Southern Railway’s “Southerner”; Santa Fe Railroad’s “El Capitan”; Southern Pacific Railroad’s “Coast Daylight”; Western Pacific Railroad’s “California Zephyr” (with the Denver & Rio Grande Railway and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad); Union Pacific Railway’s “City of St. Louis”; Baltimore & Ohio Railway’s “Capitol Limited”; and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad’s “East Coast Champion”.
On that 1964 trip (I was then 16), the picture below is of me at Williams Junction, Arizona, gateway to the Grand Canyon, holding up the tail sign for the Santa Fe “Super Chief”, the famous all-first class train between Chicago and Los Angeles, as the train was switching Pullman cars.
Point is, I have been traveling steadily since I was 12 because I like to. I am insatiably curious about people and places. Extended isolation doesn’t suit me. Of course I have adapted to our shared coronavirus reality, like we all have, but I want to plan a trip somewhere when it’s over, and then go!
Right now, though, I can’t even yet make plans for air, hotel, rental car, or anything else. As Joe Brancatelli reminded me, it makes no sense. There is nothing to book now that is reliable because we don’t know:
- When countries will lift their quarantines (or even when individual states will do so)
- What airlines will fly where (assuming all survive)
- How much anything will cost
Granted, it’s a mistake to book anything now, so I wait. And wait. And wait.
But the instant that it’s possible, I will be booking flights again.