Good Night America, How Are You?: Day 15 — “The Midwest and The Evening of the Day…”

All of us arrived in Milwaukee at 6:00 pm and three of us got off the train. I stayed on because I have to get back to my clients and my business. Being my own employer now means that I can’t take a lot of time off. It’s still within my first five days of operation this way, so I thought I shouldn’t ruin the business right off.
Yesterday it seemed like a great idea to go home “early” but today, not so much. They have been off the train for 10 minutes now, and pulling out of the station, I missed them. The song that keeps going through my head is The Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By” with its lyrics: “It is the evening of the day/ I sit and watch the children play…”
The family will be staying in Milwaukee tonight with our friend Chuck, an Episcopal priest that my wife new from her time at a church in Willimantic, CT. He is a former lawyer or accountant — a brilliant but kind and wise man. They’ll spend time tonight there and then he’ll take them all to Chicago before they board the train home for their final leg of the journey.
So, the midwest… pretty much everything I’ve seen today is flat — beautiful, expansive, natural and flat. After leaving the mountains yesterday and leaving West Glacier, we entered the plains — Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and now Wisconsin. Of the bunch, I like Wisconsin the best. It seems to have a growing economy — it seems to be building houses and big ones. There are farms, some manufacturing, but mostly a lot of open space and farms. It’s a weird thing to hone in on, but the spirit here seems bright.
We crossed the Mississippi River a few hours ago and it seemed strange to be “back East” again, but so it is. Last night, we had a four-hour excursion in Minot, North Dakota and checked out the wireless at Starbucks. It was 75 degrees at 9:30pm, but it was a dry heat and the streets seemed calm and open. If there has been a downside to this trip, it is that I am used to having wireless nearly all of my train travel between Hartford and Springfield and 90% of the trip has been no wireless, so I feel out of connection with people and things (events). On the other hand, staring at a two-inch-wide screen really narrows your vision, while cornfields, mountains, rivers, and livestock of all sorts expands it.
Another odd thing today on the train: There must have been 50 senior citizens suddenly on the train when we started at 5:15 am from West Glacier. This meant that the average age of the people in the observation car went up about 30 years. I had a nice chat with an older woman from Portland, Oregon going to her childhood home in the Twin Cities. Her father, a “tinkerer”, moved out to the mid-west to work for 3M in the days when having good ideas and no real education still got you a good job. The family did well for themselves and she seemed happy. She seemed to be an environmentalist of sorts, complaining about the oil containers that the trains carried from Portland and hoped that the oil rig/fire in North Dakota would “teach them a lesson about how dangerous that stuff is” and how we needed more government regulation so people were protected from possible dangers involved. She, unlike her father, had gotten an education, because it was a new day and she needed one/could get one. As I left her in the Observation Car, I heard the announcer say that the 50 people of their group could head to the dining car if they wanted. When I get old enough to be part of a seniors’ group, this would be a group I’d like — rowdy travelers who played cards with people of all ages and talked about world events without getting very emotionally involved in them.
….I’ll be pulling into Chicago soon and post this to the web. The posting of this travelogue has been in the 5 minutes or so where we might find wireless. I typed them in plain text on the phone and uploaded them from the phone, often just before bed. It has been an adventure — one that will live with me and my family for the rest of our lives. I would encourage anyone to do it, with their families or without. Having family and time together of this length was an incredible bonding experience — a decided difference from our normal overly-packed normal existence. The brain becomes clearer out here as you have time to think. Awe fills you up at times, and God’s presence can be felt in nature and in the people we visited. America is a great country and it’s wonderful to see it.
If you read all of the pieces about this trip, thank you. I wanted to get practice writing and hoped to be able to evoke with words the things my wife was showing in pictures on Facebook. Some fo the writing was good, some of it eh… , but it was good experience. When I get time, I’ll attach a picture or two to each post, but only because they go with the words. The memories will stay in my heart.
Peace,

John

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