I take Amtrak down from Boston, MA to Charlottesville, VA with a short stop in Washington, D.C. Train is a wonderful way to travel, when you have the option. It's slower for sure, but totally relaxing: Security hassle is limited to one or two ticket checks over the course of the ride, so I am not made to feel a felon. It's also a chance to watch the countryside unfold and change as I progress from New England to the upper edges of the South. Watching the scenery fly by eventually produces sensory overload and fatigue, but that is no matter. The seats are big and comfy with a power outlet each, so I alternate gazing out the window with eating, sleeping, programming, listening to music, and reading. When my butt starts to hurt from sitting for hours, I simply take a walk up and down the length of the train.
Usually, as I noted, the scenery goes flying by, and nearby objects pass too quickly to see. Sometimes the train shudders as another commuter train shoots past in the opposite direction. But today I experience something novel: We pass another Amtrak train on the left, going only slightly faster. I have a moment of confusion similar to when the car next to me at the stoplight rolls forward, but instead of an illusion of motion I feel that we are stationary. An hour later the roles are reversed, and we are passed (on my side) by another train. For half a minute, I have the opportunity to look into the windows of a speeding train and make eye contact with the passengers. Many faces reflect my own silly grin. For so much of the journey, I had felt isolated from the outdoors, as if the window were merely a high quality video screen. When we match speeds and locked eyes, the barrier dissolves.
When I arrive at my parents' house and step out of the car, I can smell the woods: clean and fresh. It's good to be back in my home ecoregion.