Chicago to San Francisco

The train trip from Chicago to San Francisco was the longest yet — about 50 hours total. I spent most of my time revising and rewriting my next book, which is always a slow and painful process. My rewriting was interspersed with some journalism, too. I interviewed several interesting people, and it’s fascinating how people are seemingly more thoughtful on the train. One woman said the gentle motion of the train put her into a meditative and even contemplative state, and I believe that.

To check out some of my ‘Tales From a Train’ dispatches for The Associated Press, click HERE.

But the best thing about being on the train — well, the second best, after the amazing scenery — is the fact that for large chunks of time, I don’t have internet access. Not being able to check every social media account every second is good for my brain. I think that’s one conclusion I’ve come to during this trip, that going forward, I need to reacquaint myself with the Freedom app and block internet so I can focus.

I’m in California now, my home state. I was born and raised in Santa Rosa, not too far from where I am now. There’s something about the light, the air, the smells, that just feels like home. I get a little melancholy whenever I’m here because I’m hit with an overwhelming sense of … something. Longing? Sadness? There’s no word for it in English but in Portuguese it’s called Saudade: “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”

With that, I give you some photos taken along the journey from Chicago to California:


Carl Sandburg mural, in Sandburg’s birthplace of Galesburg, Illinois. The quote: “Nothing happens unless first a dream.”



Sunset, midwest



Burlington, Iowa



Had it not been seven in the morning, I would have indulged in a “boozy milk shake” at the Denver train station



Union Station in Denver











That is a tumbleweed in Colorado



Gorgeous views everywhere








Snow in the Sierras



I happened to be on the same train as another Amtrak Resident! This is Erlina Ortiz, a Philadelphia playwright.









Finally in California with the golden sunshine




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