The train trip is a mixed experience. The cause of the trip is my grandmother turning ill, which is too upsetting to want to write about here. But I love travel, and adventures (meaning stuff I haven’t done before) are a particular favorite. I have ridden the train before, but never this direction, and never this far. Going to western Nebraska is also something I’ve done several times, but never on the train.
The trip doesn’t come at a convenient time. Stuff like this never does. We don’t – or I don’t anyway – plan for stuff like this. I’ve got a book deadline at the end of this next week, and it may turn out that I’m on the train coming back on that deadline. So that means that this is a working trip. Again, working trips aren’t new to me. I’ve written chapters in the passenger seat of a rented minivan as Kim drove to Florida. I’ve been found typing away in the living room of a Williamsburg condo so I could spend some time with my parents on vacation. Typing on the train is nothing new.
What is new is tethering my computer to my cell phone to enjoy web access on my laptop where ever I can get a cell signal. I intended to not be traveling this week, having skipped SolidWorks World in part to meet this book deadline, but here I am traveling anyway. I hear some of the tweets of folks at the convention carrying multiple devices (iphone, iPad and netbook for example) which sounds ridiculous to me. Technology may never lose its appeal as a status fad, but it eventually figures out more optimized form factors. I think we’ll see phones that are more like bluetooth earpiece, with the phone built into a single portable device that is powerful enough to work like a “real” computer, yet has all of the convenience of the tablet with a cellular connection.
Anyway, I’m writing this as we travel through the wilds of West Virginia coming to Charleston. We passed the Greenbrier resort, followed the Greenbrier river, passed through back yards, farms and we’ve seen some amazing looking trout water. West Virginia is a great place to have as a backyard, although it’s not exactly very cell-signal friendly. It’s important to be able to function while you’re disconnected. We’re raising a couple of generations of folks who don’t know what to do without a plug. Going to see my grandmother, born in 1917 in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, brings up ideas like this. While I don’t exactly yearn for the good-ole days of the depression, I do value what her generation has to teach us about what life is, what communication is, and what’s really important.
Travel these days is so undignified. I keep saying my last flight is going to be my last flight. The train seats are more comfortable than first class on the plane, and the ride is smoother. You have more flexibility with walking around and where you sit. You don’t have to get felt up by a government employee, and the seat next to you is generally open unless you want someone else to sit there. True, the train to Nebraska takes 40 hours, but it costs half of what it would cost to fly, allows me to work, and is so much easier on the nerves.