Thursday, October 30, 2014

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

We have been traveling of late.  With our two children living at geographic points some 5,500 miles apart from each other, with the California kids living 2,600 miles from us and the London kids living 3,600 miles (all distances are rounded to the nearest number), if we want to get together as a family--we travel.

And that does mean planes, trains and automobiles!  Many times over.  

We just returned from London.  And soon we will travel to San Diego.  These trips are lovely, and always anticipated.  What great places to visit: San Diego with its near perfect weather year round, with the ocean within a few miles, with charming geography, with great restaurants, with the beach to drive along or walk along...what's not to like.  And London with its not so perfect weather, with the ocean no more than a train ride or drive away, with its wondrous history, with great restaurants, and parks to walk in...what's not to like.

Of course, the real reason we go either place is to visit our children, their spouses, and our granddaughter.  That means that wherever they lived, we would travel to see them. But what a bonus having two such wonderful places to visit.

Traveling always makes me ruminate on the means of travel.  A cruise makes me think of the days of sailing--when ships were the only means to travel great distances.  Ships today which carry passengers are vastly different from ships of decades and centuries ago.  No doubt, the early European immigrants who braved ocean voyages would be gob-smacked to see the obscenely over-sized cruise ships that stuff the vessel to the gills and then stuff the passengers likewise to the gills.

Planes shoved ships out of the way as the glamorous way to travel, and have been going down hill ever since. It is quite fun to look at old ads for airlines.  The glamorous way to travel, indeed.  On our most recent flight, when my husband checked us in online he snagged the bulk-head seats for us which meant we had legroom.  One practically kills for legroom on flights these days.  If we had sat in the usual seats in steerage, oops I mean economy class, we would have had about 30 inches of "seat pitch."  That's airline speak for legroom.  And that's before the guy in front of you decides to recline his seat the full amount.  You can end up with the video monitor inches from your face.  But--I digress.

During our various visits to England, we have taken several day trips--all by train.  Now, I love trains.  They continue to be my favorite way of travel.  Having grown up in what was then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), I with my parents traveled multiple times by train.  Of course the trains there had individual passenger cars, so we as a family had our own room--complete with fold-down bunk beds where we slept on the journey.  About a decade ago, my husband, daughter and I made a trip to Spain, and we took an overnight train from Madrid to Granada.  That trip (where I had my wallet pinched) included a small sleeping berth for my daughter and me.  Not quite the same as the family cars of my childhood, and of course my husband was left to fend for himself elsewhere.

Trains today in England as quite efficient and immensely apologetic if they get off schedule or are delayed.  Frankly, since our trips are for our own leisure, we can be a bit sanguine and not mind the delays.  Plus we have great fun with the youngest passenger in our group.

We have also used the underground trains in a number of cities we visit.  The London Tube is something I have not mastered--but thankfully we have an excellent guide in our daughter.

Which brings me to the last mode of transportation--automobiles.  The United States once had a flourishing train system, but that was pushed aside with the building of the interstate system.  Passenger trains now vie with transport trains for track use--and in fact Amtrak has no tracks of its own, so it can be pushed aside.  Interstate highways beckon--taking us where trains no longer go.

I learned to drive when I was 20 years old.  From the outset, I have loved driving.  In my career, there were times when I had to travel some distance--and driving was frequently an option.  I still enjoy driving.  However, driving in southern California has put a whole new challenge into driving.  During our first trip to San Diego (and every subsequent trip) we rented a car.  You can't get anywhere in southern California without driving.  As we left the airport, we followed the GPS instructions to get to the freeway--and then we ROLLED.  People do not drive in southern California--they roll.  You merge as quickly as you can onto the freeway and then you keep moving.  If you change lanes, you just do it.  I am sure local drivers can always spot an out-of-stater--we use turn signals.  That's a rarity in southern California.  There is one place where we out-of-staters can shine over California drivers--we know how to drive in rain.  And ice.  And snow...sometimes.

Planes, trains and automobiles.  Love them all!    (And ships...but they weren't mentioned in the title.)


Mary Lee said...

Oh, Donna, I may not complain about our kids being spread out ever again! WOW!

I'd love for trains to come back as a reliable method of transportation. I used to love them as a child.

When my husband and I go someplace together, he always drives...and the driver has control of the radio. When I travel alone, however, I listen to audio books. I think I could drive around the world if I had enough books. :)

NCmountainwoman said...

I'm also a train lover. When we lived in Milwaukee we often went by train to Chicago for museum exhibits or plays or even shopping.

I love to drive as well, but having seen some videos of Southern California, I'll stick to my winding mountain roads, thank you very much.

Ginnie said...

I still prefer driving my own automobile to all other forms of travel ... but the train is fuu and I'll be taking one to Tampa for Thanksgiving.