in travel, unfinished

“Traversing the North American continent by rail makes no sense. It is not—and, really, I cannot stress this enough—a rational thing to do.” This is what I recently read in some hip travel magazine about a journey through the U.S. on a train. I do not agree. Or maybe I do, but then what would be the rational thing to do? Is it a rational thing to fly across the States from New York to Los Angeles? The business logic of our contemporary society would say yes, it’s the fastest and most efficient way to get there, ignoring the external costs, all the carbon and other emissions that get blown out by the plane’s engines, the huge ecological footprint that is left by lifting a man-made tin can into the air – a privilege of our generations, a disastrous legacy for our grandchildren. A rational thing to do? You want a rational thing to do? Stay at home, talk to your neighbor and take a walk through the nearest forest – if there is any left (Otherwise: Move!)

But my girlfriend lives and works on the other side of the continent, and I will travel there – rational or irrational – by train, conquering the vast emptiness of this land mass and the slowness in the passing of time. I am setting out for a ride from New York to San Diego via Chicago and Los Angeles, simultaneously embarking on a tour through the history of this country and its westward expansion shaped by the railroads. A history that is full of engineering and construction feats, along with dark chapters such as robber barons, environmental destruction, bloody conflicts and all the other glory and gory aspects of what is called human progress

For now, I am trying to find my way around at Penn Station. Rational as I am, I arrive by bicycle, riding along patches of snow through the winter landscape of New York, and I have to recognize that this huge station was not designed to be entered on that side of the building…

(To be continued. It is just lead and opening paragraphs, for now. Contact me in case you would like to ….)