My Trip Across America 2018

Over the last two weeks, my son and I traveled across the United States visiting my daughter in the Washington DC area, my sister in Indiana, and then trained it home to Laguna Hills, California. I want to share the highlights with you. I hope you enjoy the journey!

Washington DC

My daughter actually lives in a condo in Fulton, Maryland, about an hour (depending upon traffic) outside of DC. We used this as a central point to visit her alma mater the United States Naval Academy, take a tour of the White House and the Capitol Building, have lunch at the incomparably-beautiful Trump Tower, and drive around Virginia house hunting. Here are my thoughts:

  • I carry a small water bottle in my purse to take my RA and AS pills (and migraine pill when needed) but security always takes it from me. This time, I carried the empty bottle and filled it on the opposite side. Brilliant me! I can’t believe it took about ten plane trips to figure that one out.
  • What can I say about a plane ride that hasn’t already been said? The seats are too close, the food is non-existent, and the service is efficient but rote. Since we didn’t choose to eat airplane food, Sean and I read and talked. One of our conversations was about ‘feral cows’. I contended that most domesticated animals have feral versions (wild dogs, feral cats, wild horses) but not cows. They can’t survive on their own. My son disagreed but could provide no evidence.  This came out of a post at Karen Hume’s blog about curiosity  I know my extreme curiosity makes me a bit odd. I get intrigued by lots of stuff and often tangential to anything going on. My kids are used to me.
  • Since California no longer gives away plastic bags with groceries, I will have to buy my trash bags and dog poop bags when I run out of my inventory. As a result, my daughter collects them for me in Maryland that doesn’t have this law and I take them home. I did so this time but most of the bags I stuffed into corners of my luggage were taken by my sister (in Marion Indiana). Bags are free in Maryland but sister can’t get enough for the daily cat boxes for her six cats.
  • About those plastic bags–my daughter got a bit angry with me when I wouldn’t take a suitcase-full of them. I would have had to pay to check the luggage but the illogic of that didn’t sway her. Try saying no to a LT CMDR in the Navy. She is intimidating!
  • During our visit to the Naval Academy, we joined a tour of John Paul Jones’ crypt which is located on the Yard. I forgot he was a Rear Admiral in the Russian Navy.
  • The White House tour was well worth the time and security (including a drug-sniffing dog). It was self-paced so we could take as long or short as we wanted.
  • The only other tour we could fit in was the Capitol Building. An interesting factoid: George Washington was supposed to be in the crypt under the dome but his estate won’t give up his body so the crypt is empty.
  • We received a warm welcome at both the White House (top picture–see the image in the right-hand window? That’s my tech ed profile) and the Capitol Building (Ask a Tech Teacher is my tech ed blog and Structured Learning is my collaborative publisher–for nonfiction). I grabbed these photos of the greeting:

OK, I Photoshopped them. Sigh. But I felt the warmth of their greeting.

Marion Indiana

Marion is my sister Tina’s long-time home, acres of rural land in the heart of America’s Midwest (in spirit if not geographically). She owns a sprawling home that is the center of activity for her just-as-sprawling family, a large garden, a forest, beehives, chickens, big spiders, mosquitos, and a whole lot more. I haven’t seen her in twenty years, since the last family funeral, and am amazed at how many similar decisions we made and like-minded beliefs we hold. I can’t believe how much I have been missing, not the least of which are her three dogs and six cats. Here are my thoughts:

  • Marion is filled with quintessential midwest values like really friendly people, patience, look you in the eye, and an easy-going lifestyle. No safe zones or triggers there. We got several good laughs over that.
  • My nephew works as a machinist on a press stamping out car parts. The presses slam so hard into the earth they can rattle a building. They need to be placed in a solid part of the earth such as is found in Indiana, adjacent to the craton of the continent.
  • I am aggressively looking for a new place to retire so my sister and I looked at houses in Marion Indiana. While we were there, a squall (or a small tornado–some sort of wild wind storm) crashed through her backyard and destroyed her vegetable garden. It knocked the ten-foot-tall corn over as well as the tomato cages. I think that discouraged me from house-hunting further. I was already cross-eyed over summer’s heat and humidity in summer and the 20-below temperatures Marion experienced last winter. Plus, we had to wear boots to walk around my sister’s huge backyard (which is all grass, clover for the bees, and a huge forest) because of chiggers and hats to discourage the flying insects. I don’t think this California girl could put up with that.
  • My grand-nephew and I played Minecraft for hours on his Kindle and his computer. That kid is good at the game! And he didn’t mind someone old enough to be his grandma asking tons of questions.
  • I helped my sister can green beans, pick squash, check on the bees and their honey, collect eggs, work at her church. Pretty much, whatever she was doing, I tagged along. She was great about that even though I’ve never worked a garden, played with bees, or done accounting at a church. I have a wonderfully patient sister.
  • We spent an evening at my niece’s farm and her deer, hogs, fifty chickens, forty cats, beehives, rooster, and barns. We ate home-grown pork steaks and vegetables. There is such a difference in flavor from fresh and store-bought.

Train across American

We boarded Amtrak in Indianapolis Indiana (tucked into a corner of the bus station, on a train that only ran a few times a week), changed trains in Chicago Illinois, and took that for three days to Los Angeles California where we again changed trains (at 7:30 am!) and headed to my local Amtrak station. Here are my thoughts:

  • One boarding pass worked for all three legs of our train trip. Wasn’t that nice!
  • Our first leg–from Indianapolis to Chicago–took five hours to go what a car would drive in three. Luckily, I was training it for the experience, not the speed.
  • I can’t believe how friendly all of these employees are. They listen and smile while they do their jobs.
  • Meals were community seating–four to a table. For the first time ever, someone asked me to look at their writing when I said I was a writer.
  • One morning, I went in search of coffee and couldn’t find the dining car where I’d left it the night before. Turns out the train folks had rearranged the cars while we slept. The dining car used to be one car down. This morning, I had to travel through three passenger cars and the observation car to find it. I almost gave up.
  • America’s Southwest is gorgeous by train.
  • The train must blow its whistle as it approaches every crossing and as it travels through. This was a long train so long and continuous train whistles! Often, I awoke at midnight, 1 a.m., 3 a.m., to the haunting sound of the whistle. I did go right back to sleep, thanks to the clackity-clack of the rails.
  • The sleeping cabins don’t lock. You simply close the sliding door and trust in the honor system. Even if I could get used to that, the door didn’t always stay closed. I awoke one morning about 1 a.m. to find my door wide open. I started taping it closed after that.
  • Small town American may not believe in painting buildings but they do believe in waving the flag. Huzzah!
  • There is a ton of open space across America.

Passing station

America’s hinterlands

That’s the only walking space

End of the line

What’s your favorite trip?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature collection. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


105 thoughts on “My Trip Across America 2018

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Commented-on Articles in 2018 | WordDreams...

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  3. First: welcome back Jacqui! Second: thanks for that lovely recount of your wonderful journey! I enjoyed reading it very much, especially the part where you visited your sister in Indiana (sounds wonderful btw but I can understand that it would be a great change after California) and the train ride. If it had been me I would either haven’t slept at all with the door not closing or are your son stay awake and keep vigil! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jacqui, I’m not sure you’ve followed my road trip posts over the last few days but I did a 5300 mile round trip from Chicago – Louisiana – California – Idaho and home to Chicago. The one thing that kept coming to mind is how much EMPTY space the U.S. has. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip — so happy for your experiences. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shoot–how did I miss those! I too started in Chicago but went through Texas to California. Like you, the vast open spaces and the small towns is what amazed me, and made me fall in love all over again with my country. I’m off to check your posts.


  5. What a great trip, Jacqui, and you packed plenty in to it.
    About the wild cattle question – I would automatically think of buffalo and bison. Okay, they aren’t exactly like domestic cows, but they are the same genus. And there are always the wild cattle that roam the streets in India.
    My favourite train trip so far was back in 2009, when we did the ‘Golden Circle’ on the Rocky Mountineer – Vancouver across to Banff and Calgary, then up to Jasper, and then to Whistler and back to Vancouver. 6 days on the train with the most amazing views of the mountains and wildlife, and 2 days on a coach, including a trip to a glacier and staying at Lake Louise. Absolutely gorgeous.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is a good case for ‘feral cows’. I’m going to do a bit of Googling. Thanks for those thoughts.

      The Canada train ride–would definitely be interested in that. About the rooms–were they closets? Or maybe as large as a cruise ship would be? Hmmm…


      • Because the trip is all about the sightseeing and not the travel from one destination to another, the train stops at night and you sleep in a hotel. Bliss.
        If you do try it, one word of warning – don’t get carried away with eating too much at the first meal – by the end of the first day we were pleading not to be offered any more food! It’s gourmet meals on the train, and constant refreshments between meals.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. So funny you had a conversation about feral cows. Just a couple of days ago I had a debate with my son about the fact there are no wild cows, and that I think they’re the only animal we can raise that doesn’t have a wild cousin. He tried to disagree with me citing all the cattle out west that seemingly have no owner, but I quickly reminded him how all that operates. He’s thirteen and he knows better but he prefers to argue for the sake of arguing. 🙂

    I have loved so many trips I’ve taken over the years, but I have an absolute favorite, Walt Disney World, which I try to visit every three years if possible. I was just there a few weeks ago, actually, and I blogged about it too! How funny–you and I seem to be on similar wavelengths. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is serendipity, isn’t it? I am going to share this with my children so they will think mom is a little less eccentric! And, I just subscribed to your blog–I can’t resist someone who thinks like me.

      OK–great post about Disney World. I haven’t been there since my kids grew up and now realize I may need a dose of that whimsy.


  7. An amazing trip Jacqui an demonstrates how richly diverse America is in geography and climate. Thanks for taking us along. My most memorable train journey was 37 years ago when my husband and two friends trained it from Paris to the South of France sleeping in a couchettes for six people. Our two companions for the night were heavy drinking and garlic eating gentlemen who expelled fragrant reminders of their dinner all night. It was a very small compartment and we were lucky to get out of there alive..😆 Great trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That was a truly fun story. I keep my Imitrex with me at all times. I loved your observations on plastic bags (3 dogs, lots of bags). Your observations were witty and the pictures wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an exciting trip you had, Jacqui. I love trains, especially having a berth as you did. My favorite and unforgettable train ride was from Munich to Vienna. Although it was night time and I slept all the way (better than a hotel) on the way back I took a day trip so as to see the scenery. Welcome back home! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Looks/sounds like you had a wonderful trip and managed to squeeze in a good amount of sightseeing. And they rearranged the train cars? I wonder if they film confused passengers hoping for a winning entry for America’s Funniest Videos 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Loved the vicarious trek I took with you! Plastic bags made me laugh, BIG spiders and mosquitoes made me cringe, a 20 year lapse in contact made me miss my brother but most of all your sharing it all made me smile.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Jacque, what a great travel log of your trip across the U.S. Unique and personable writing. Loved reading what you saw and your down to earth thoughts. I’d be leery of living in the Midwest too! Laughing at the plastic bag collecting! Yep, My (CA) collection diminished too! I double bag produce at the supermarket! The bags not as large & strong but usable for yard clippings and doggie waste! 📚 Christine

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Such an interesting trip you went on, Jacqui. Everywhere you visited sounded wonderful but the train trip must have been a real highlight. I took a train trip that was overnight when I was 11 years old. I naughtily climbed out of the window at a station to go to shop and buy sweets. I nearly got left behind. Very scary at the time and now when I think back.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Jacqui – great summary trip – fun to read … and to think of you and your son enjoying your time together … seeing your daughter/ his sister … and the time with your sister – sounds amazing fun – though a bit much after the storm … but at least you were fully active?! And yes – wise to leave your hubby behind to deal with the ants! They just have a way of following the crowd and finding their way in … but glad you’ve experienced the train, and slept on one … I used to enjoy my journeys from London to Penzance, Cornwall when I didn’t want/need to drive …

    I’d like to do a trip – probably a repeat one … I love the historic trains … I did enjoy the one over the Rockies – but we had a Texan plastic surgeon who only talked about himself for both the meals we had together … could have done without that … ! Stunning journey though … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Neat trip. Interesting about Washington’s body. Love your photoshopping! LOL. I feel your struggle about the plastic bags, too. You’d have to stuff a lot of plastic bags into a checked bag to make doing so worth it. On the plus side, it would be light weight. Maybe she could mail some to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. How wonderful that the White House greeted you with promotions of your books! But so sorry you lost the dining car. Must be sidelined on some unused track in East Kanipitchuck – hope they like the coffee.

    Seriously, thanks for sharing your fabulous trip across the US. So glad you got to visit family you haven’t seen in such a long time. Welcome home, Jacqui.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Hi Jacqui,
    I love the way you’ve accumulated little vignettes to tell us the story of your trip across the country. It was a very effective approach. I enjoyed reading them.
    P.S. – Thanks for the shout out about the curiosity post.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Nice recap of your trip. LOL about the plastic bags. Hubby and I have been talking about taking train trips across the states and so I was interested in your experiences there. He would have had a fit with a door that kept opening and no locks would bother me a bit. There is one trip that goes up and down the Pacific Coast that we might try first. Thanks for sharing. Glad you had a good time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Prior to the trip, I didn’t find a lot of overviews of train rides. I read one from a 20-something who took the passenger car sleeping option but not much else. A scenic, vacation sort of train ride might have larger rooms (maybe–not sure) but this was definitely to move lots of people from Point A to B.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m so please you finally met the bees. (Oh, and chickens, too!) When I was a kid, we visited friends in Indiana. We were horrified that they have chiggers. But then, we were from Michigan, home to almost every blood sucking insect known to man. It’s funny how somebody else’s pest looks so horrible and your own, a mere inconvenience. When I lived in California, my Michigan family was aghast that I lived in the rainless land of quakes and fires.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Sounds like a whirlwind, Jaqui. And what a joy to spend some time with the “kids.” Nice seeing your signs everywhere too! Ha ha. Great promo idea. I’ve never taken a train anywhere (the eat and sleep kind of train) – someday. And I’m curious how you handled the “will you take a look at my writing” question. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • The woman who asked actually had a great story. She was a free-spirited gypsy, her entire life, with an abusive relationship behind her. We talked over lunch about her story–memoir or the journal she preferred. After that, I didn’t seek her out, left it to her if she wanted to bring to piece to me.

      Liked by 3 people

    • My son’s been in Okinawa for a year. He loves it there–the people, culture, food–but It’s a tiny island you can walk across in no time. He was born and raised with endless land around him and missed the vastness of America so I thought this would be fun.

      Liked by 2 people

  21. I agree with the others, this is a great travel write up and makes me wish I had a holiday coming up. A trip across country would be perfect. As an aside…I’ll be posting a review of Born in a Treacherous Time on my blog on Wednesday. I absolutely loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Wow! You certainly covered some ground, Jacqui. I’m happy you had such a warm welcome at the Capitol Building. I should have had you say hello to my niece, that’s where she works. 🙂 That DC traffic is kind of crazy, isn’t it? Thanks for taking us along on your trip!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s pretty affordable without the sleeper car. That about doubled the price but I didn’t want to sleep in the ‘comfortable’ seat for three days.

      So you know what I mean about the LT CDR Presence? It makes you want to nod, vigorously. My daughter pins her new rank on tomorrow. Pretty exciting.


  23. Amazing write-up Jacqui. I feel I know you that much better. Envy people who are able to make a life so much closer to nature, like your sister. I would like to, but doubt if I will survive, after living all these years in cities.

    Liked by 2 people

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