I reserved the tickets months ago for the same trip this June that we did last June: the Lake Shore Limited from New York's Penn Station up along the Hudson to Albany, then veering westwards toward Buffalo and on through Pennsylvania and Ohio and Indiana to deposit us in downtown Chicago on the sunny southern shore of Lake Michigan. Then a five-hour interlude of wandering within a two-mile radius of Chicago's Union Station (oh the sunburn that ensued) before climbing aboard our home-away-from-home for the next two days: the legendary Empire Builder, that great train plowing through Minnesota and Wisconsin, across the plains of North Dakota and Montana, through the Idaho panhandle and eventually up into the Cascades and down to the western seaboard of northern Washington.
It was quite the trip, quite the adventure, and we loved it so much we decided to do it again this year. But late Tuesday night I got an automated phone call from Amtrak informing us that our train from Chicago was canceled, that there are no alternate forms of transport along that route, and please hold to talk to a ticket agent.
There is severe flooding in North Dakota, and parts of Minot and Devil's Lake are being evacuated, and all train service has been shut down.
Now we are booked for a different route, and once the dismay and frustration abated, the excitement kicked in. The first leg, up to Chicago, is the same. But from there we are taking the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles via Missouri and Kansas and Colorado and New Mexico and Arizona. And then we are taking the Coast Starlight from LA all the way up to Seattle. And it will be gorgeous and wonderful. But also very, very long.
All told, this is 96 hours and 40 minutes on three different trains, from Saturday afternoon to Wednesday night. This is a lot of reading time, and it's not like I wasn't neurotic enough already about what books to bring when our trip was going to be a mere 65 hours and 10 minutes on two trains. Even then, I had a pile of books that I was attempting to narrow down to three.
I started emailing titles to Evan yesterday morning to put on his Nook, and then I started obsessing over monopolizing Evan's nook just because of my own stubborn refusal to purchase such a thing myself (or to acknowledge the world of ebooks as a viable alternative to "real" books).
Finally, last night, in the middle of a long rant to the poor dear boy about reading in general and what books to bring in particular and the evils of turning literature into mere content and so on and so forth, I somehow finally convolutedly ended up at a terminus: that I will go buy myself this Nook before we leave on Saturday. And then I will dump all my newly acquired young adult dystopian fiction into it. And my pile of books. And Erica's lovely birthday gift, A Visit From the Goon Squad.
I told Evan last night, though, that even with my brand new nook full of lots of things I want to read, I'm still going to bring one or two paper books. Because an old-fashioned girl like me? I can't quite give up the pleasure of sitting curled up in a train seat, legs draped over the armrest, window to the right of me, fingers flipping the pages of their own accord as I pour over the words in front of me. And I can't quite give up the odd little pleasure of placing my bookmark (someone's business card, some folded up wrapping paper, a library reserves card) each time further and further in, and seeing so physically the progression of the story as you read it, as it unfolds. (Even if the Nook does have a little bar across the bottom indicating how much of the book you've read, it's just not the same!)
But I'm pretty sure now that I won't run out of reading materials and I won't get bored. After all, last year I ended up only reading one book the entire trip out. Much of the rest of the time was spent caught up in Final Fantasy I (yes, I) and staring dreamily out the window while listening to the Boss.