Crossing the Empire State

Last week, a minor emergency prompted a last-minute change to an already postponed family visit to Western New York State. Not wanting to call off my long-awaited and now necessary trip, I purchased a round-trip ticket from New York to Rochester on Amtrak’s Empire Service line.

As an individual long ago seduced by train travel, I was excited for my journey. For most of the day, I would be cloistered from the world: the demands of home and work would not be pressing me. My bag was packed with books, pens, notebooks, food, and a laptop. I needed nothing else.

Shortly after departing New York Penn Station, the passing scenery settled any lingering doubts over my mode of travel.

Amtrak_Saturday_Palisades
Passing the Palisades and entering the storied Hudson River Valley. (Photograph by author)

Time slowed down on the train, much as it would for one on a silent spiritual retreat. Looking out my window, I glimpsed at the majestic landscapes captured by the Hudson River School and other artists, poets, and writers.

View from Train
Riding along the Hudson River. (Photograph by author)

The Empire Service line passes through small and large New York cities.

Amtrak_Saturday_Albany
Crossing the Hudson River and approaching Albany, New York. (Photograph by author)

Although many identify New York with Niagara Falls or Manhattan, the state is largely rural–cities and suburbs with vast, open stretches in between.

Amtrak_Sunday_Snow Field
A snowy field on a late weekend afternoon. (Photograph by author)

Another reason to take the train: most stations are centrally located–not in some nightmarish infrastructure node on a highway as are most airports. Waiting for my return train in Rochester, I looked up and saw the Kodak Tower. A reminder that the city once stood as a creative and technological center.

Amtrak_Sunday_Kodak
The Kodak Tower, Rochester, New York. How many photographers and filmmakers have told their stories with Kodak film? (Photograph by author)

Riding the train provides one with a relaxing and daresay civilized way to travel. No pat-downs. No security lines. No air sickness. While riding the train, you might enjoy the scenery, the quiet, and the moment. Simple luxuries increasingly difficult to obtain and experience.

If given the option, why not ride the train?

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