Off to Camp Patty!

Looks the same as it did 100 years ago… maybe worse.

Hey there! Chances are I’m on a train while you’re reading this!

Several years ago, Patty moved back to the Midwest to be closer to family.  Anita and I came to visit – Patty’s house is gorgeous, with this awesome pool – and we dubbed it Camp Patty.  At Camp Patty, there’s no team sports or tough hikes or lanyard-making (although we would if we wanted to!), but there is a lot of talking, eating, swimming, and camping out in the kitchen and around the pool. In fact that’s pretty much the entire program.

I’m going by train from Lamy, about 20 minutes away — the Lamy station looks like something out of a western movie, it’s hilarious. I’ve taken a lot of commuter trains (DC-NYC, or Chicago to the ‘burbs) but this will be my first legit train trip in eons.  My last two pandemic flights were the stuff of nightmares, and the train was surprisingly cheap, which isn’t usually the case – Amtrak travel has always been twice the price for a trip that takes four times as long (Amtrak motto: we’ll probably get there eventually!). Time was my most valuable commodity in my former life, so: no, why would I do that?  Those trips always seemed like last-resort options for people who don’t fly or are bringing their car to Florida. But I’ve got plenty of time at the moment, and most of the trip is in daylight hours through some really beautiful country, and I just could not face flying.

What’s it like to live in a country where train travel is a legitimate, well organized option and not a sad-sack afterthought? Must be nice. I’ve taken lots of trains in Europe and am always envious; even when the trains themselves are kind of janky, they run constantly, are affordable, and will get you there. It’s kind of wild that for a country the size of the US, we fail on trains – errybody got to get in the CAR.  Road trip!  (No thanks, just ask Anita how much I hate road trips. Are we there yet?! I want to get outttttttt.)

I had these tote bags made in spring 2020 in the early days of the pandemic that was going to last, oh, three weeks or so, in preparation for our summer camp.  Two years later we’re actually going to use them! Anita, you better have that bag or you’ll have to take a CPR certification test!

Patty has five French bulldogs (or who knows, we’re talking about Patty, she could have 12 of them and a pair of llamas by now) and they are a hoot. We ate our body weight in watermelon and other goodies last time, from a big bowl in the kitchen. We spent most of the day in the pool. Naps were taken. There was trash talking and profane language and general goof-ballery. I managed to ride her buckin’ steer toy in the water for about five seconds which was hard as hell to get onto and was my single greatest achievement, maybe of my entire life.

Tell me some train stories! Do you travel much by train? What’s the best (or, hey, worst) train trip you’ve taken? Oh, and I’m taking my little travel spray of Nishane Wulong Cha with me along with a teeny bottle of 4711, those seem like good options for hot weather travel.

  • Dina C. says:

    Camp Patty sounds like a lot of fun! Those tote bags are too cute — what an adorable design! I’m a big fan of train travel. In my college days I rode Amtrak from DC to New London, CT whenever there was a break. Lots of leg room, you can walk up and down the cars, get a snack at the Cafe car, listen to Roxy Music on your Walkman…what’s not to love? Right now it’s an especially good option when the airlines are canceling flights left, right, and center. Pricey and slow though. That’s true. Have a great time! Excited to hear a report!

    • Dina C. says:

      P.S. Thought of 2 other notable train trips. When my family lived in Turkey we took the famed Orient Express train overnight from Ankara up to Istanbul for a trip. I was 9 years old and hadn’t read Agatha Christie’s famous mystery yet. A couple years later I spent a week living on a train with a mix of American and Turkish teachers and other students as we traveled from Ankara eastward all the way to Mt. Ararat. There were dining cars and sleeper cars. We did lots of field trips, wrote journals, and practiced each other’s conversational languages.

  • alityke says:

    Trains in the UK? Shakes head sadly.
    We do have a station in the village that survived Dr Beeching’s swingeing decimation in the 1960’s but it only has the slow services that stop there.
    The most beautiful journey was one I made for work four times a year. Leeds to Edinburgh departing at around 6am. Always quiet & after Newcastle it headed to the East Coast of beautiful beaches, old castles & Lindisfarne. Some of the most memorable British scenery & cloudscapes passing the windows. Note passing not rushing by, this is the UK after all!
    Arriving at Waverley Station in central Edinburgh around 10.30am I still had a couple of hours to fill with shopping before the meeting start at 1pm.
    Guess it would all be done on Zoom or Teams now. More efficient but far less quality added to the job.

  • cinnamon says:

    That sounds like so much fun. Enjoy. And the journey. My son (who studied Urban Planning at uni) says the US is just so car-centric and big — and focused on fossil fuel use — that train travel became a very distant third focus; whenever we talk about it — which isn’t that often — he says it makes no sense that the US doesn’t have a fast train system, at least one cross country north, south and middle that links up with slower and commuter lines. Rant over.

    Trains … when I first moved here train travel was amazing. Successive governments (particularly in the past 10 years) have managed to decimate it. I still love taking the train up to London — that usually works very well (the West Coast Mainline is a horror show). A number of different routes to the same place, with my fave being via Bath.

    And the Eurostar is wonderful. You can get all over in Europe from London. I am planning to use it in spring next year for a trip to Germany.

    For the brief period I lived in Amsterdam travelled around the Netherlands. Loved that.

    Orient Express one way to Venice is on list at some point and when (hopefully very soon) the war in Ukraine is over plan is to do trans Russia train from Europe and then boat to Japan. Sigh.

  • taxi says:

    As a child, I went alone every year from Los Angeles to San Francisco (10 hours) for a week with my aunt. The dining car was elegant. Snowy white, starched napery & heavily silver-plated tiny pitchers for the maple syrup at breakfast enchanted me. Alternating cars had a small, manned kiosk for magazines, candy, etc. Later, in high school, I commuted home on weekends by train from San Diego to OC. Sitting in the bar car with ginger ale & watching adult cocktail-fueled flirtations was entertaining. (I was invisible even in my ugly school uniform.) The coastal scenery was beautiful.
    By the mid ’60s, the dining & lounge cars were gone, replaced by a snack bar offering pre-made, cello-wrapped stale or mushy sandwiches & bad coffee.

    Shortly before the Berlin Wall came down, I went by train from West Berlin to Hamburg through miles of East Germany farmland. Inspectors came through regularly to inspect passports & travel documents. It felt like something seen in a Cold War spy movie.

  • Portia says:

    Hey March.
    Could not be more jealous of you both going to Camp Patty. That will be so much fun.
    TRAINS!! I’m madly in love with them. We travel on them whenever we can and I have a list the length of my arm of more to do.
    Two of my fave trips so far have been:
    The Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia. Quite luxurious for a train and the food, scenery and stops are mind blowing.
    The Trans Siberian from Moscow to Mongolia. It’s VERY rudimentary but we made a couple of Russian friends with English and had two Dutch guys who were bloody hilarious to hang with also. The Dutch made it out to Lake Baikal with us and we caught up again our last night in Ulaan Bataar. I’m still in touch with three of them and an American woman who was with a big group we met on the trip from Baikal to Mongolia.
    WORST was a trip from somewhere to Venice in a tiny bunk situation, middle of winter and I’d eaten something awful. Running to the end of the carriage to poop all night and farting in my sleep in between that nearly killed JIn. He frequently brings that night up when we all sit around telling stories.

    Could the USA also have been less train-ish because the Greyhound buses are so frequent?
    Portia xx

  • Tara C says:

    My favorite train rides have been on the TGV in France from Paris to Bordeaux, but for curiosity and uniqueness, there was the Night Pigeon train from Dax to Paris. We were in this triple decker sleeper bunk on an 8 hour overnight slow train to Paris. Quite an experience!

  • Janet in California says:

    Camp Patty sounds like heaven. You could sell tickets and make a fortune. Have a great time!

  • Tom says:

    I have almost never done trains. They just haven been convenient or went where I wanted to go. I’ve thought a few times of taking it to SF from LA (when you factor in getting to the airport and the PITA quotient time-wise it’s a wash) but there are no direct trains. Go back, read that again, and let that sink in.. I never took it home to amass from NYC because it didn’t go all the way to good old Northampton in those years, it stopped in Springfield, so I’d take the Peter Pan bus.

    I’d love to take one of those scenicruiser deals through the Rockies and would love Togo back in time to take the 20th Century but alas.

    Anything to avoid the airlines these days. I’d prefer a medically induced coma and Fed-Exing myself thanks..

  • Rina says:

    I love trains! We took a fam vacation last month that was London/Paris/Rome by rail. Rome was the least enjoyable because it took a full day with janky WiFi but the countryside was beautiful. Took the Pacific Surfliner from Orange County to Del Mar to play the ponies for a work trip last Fri and it was gorgeous! Right along the coastline. And cheap! Will def make that trip again. (also, shhhh…trying to get my 1st Frenchie, wish me luck!)