Have you ever moved across the country on an Amtrak train? Chances are you have not, and chances are you never will. If you do not get the chance to move across the country on an Amtrak train then you are missing one of the great joys of life. I had the experience of a lifetime as I traveled from Chicago to Taos, New Mexico and back without adult supervision in 1973 and 1974. It is one of the great joys of my life.

It is doubtful that parents would do something like this today. Imagine two boys, on a 16 day adventure at least partially unsupervised traveling west. My mom said letting me go, was the craziest thing she ever did, but my dad said it was a growing experience. Both were right. The purpose of the trip in 1973 was to backpack at Philmont Scout Ranch with a contingent troop assembled at Philmont and comprised of about 18 boys, most of whom had never met the others, that would backpack over 100 miles in ten days through a mountain range.
While backpacking was fun the real fun was riding the train. We had a blast spending a great deal of time in the lounge car, dining in the dining car, and playing cards with some unscrupulous card sharks who were riders. We moved about the train with no restraint and fell in love with the adventure. In the middle of the night we stopped in Garden City KS, site of the trial described in the book ‘In Cold Blood’. It was a big trip for a kid who loved the book and loved the freedom of being on a big trip. It made me want to go the next year.

In 1974 I was scheduled to be out for a 38 day back packing trip, also bracketed by two train trips. On the way home the same two of us were able to go to Denver for a 9 hour layover so we could catch the east bound train to Chicago. The 9 hours turned into 15 and sitting in the station turned into going into Denver and walking the downtown. I was used to Chicago (though not on foot in the tough area) and I got a full education. Including as it turned out the value of syringes in a place like that.

Both of us had a nice lunch in a cheap downtown café with a counter, and per usual I had to give myself insulin. After doing so it felt like the eyes of the place turned on the two of us. Once we walked outside a fellow who was in pretty bad shape followed us out and stopped us. Being 17 of course we stopped (more adventure) and this fellow wanted to buy any needles I would sell. He offered $0.50 per needle and of course that was a deal when a package of 10 sold for $1.75 back home.

Well I declined and the older fellow followed us for almost 5 blocks before he finally went away. I may have been a lad of 17 but when a guy follows you for five blocks and quickly runs away, it sends the shiver through your spine. So we ran off like two scared boys and retreated to the train station where we discussed our shared experience and eventually found our train east. It was an odd lay over and the end of a big time adventure in Denver.

I think that experience really did teach me the value of diabetic supplies. It put into focus how desperate a man was to obtain even one clean needle (not for a diabetic reason I am sure) and how dangerous it could be to show diabetic tech in the wrong place. Have you ever hidden your pump for fear of it being mistaken for a phone or pager? I actually did once in Times Square. Maybe it is a left over fear from my Denver experience, but I suddenly felt very uncomfortable to have it visible.

I love to travel and diabetic or not I would never pass the opportunity to go places and see new things. Of course being careful is important, and traveling by train is an awesome experience. Yes if I could, I would go back and tell my 17 year old self to be more careful. Of course not being careful might have helped me grow up. For me Denver was one more step in knowing what being a diabetic means. A lesson learned I hope.



We love traveling by train. Whenever time and routing permit, we always opt for the train over the airlines. It's better in so many ways, there is hardly enough space to list them all.

Thanks for this story. I like trains (and my son adores them), but it isn't like it used to be. When my kids were young, we would take the auto train to florida. Sadly, trains in the US are no longer a competitive way to travel. And there are very few routes that have the nice superliner cars anymore. As a nation, we have stopped supporting train travel, instead subsidizing car and air travel. A simple visit to Europe and it will be clear how much of a difference this makes. I think it is a mistake every time I hear another woe at Amtrak.

I've only taken the train in Canada once: a blurry experience that included the bar car and Neufies. I think it was fun...

i LOVED traveling to fla from nyc when i was about 13 or fourteen. i went with a friend and her mom twice on amtrak because her mom was afraid of flying. it was so exciting to have our own Little rooms and watch the night go by from my Little bed. we positively OWNED the club car, where there was a keyboard. we played the opening chords to van halens "Jump" for like 3 hours, thinking we were virtuosos for figuring them out.

the funniest part, which wasnt very funny at the time, was when we woke up in the morning of our first journey. the train had Split in half overnight and our car was the last or second to last on the last couple of hours en route to west palm beach. we were traveling thru these massive orange orchards and we stood outside on the little end of the train, wáter spraying us in the face at random moments. and we thought, oh this is great, theyre watering the orange tres. the guy working in the last couple of cars told us that no, it wasnt wáter, it was the pee of other passengers being flushed out of the train! good times.

Two years ago, when I was 23, I moved across the country by amtrak train! From Portland, Oregon to Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend school.
With five large suitcases it was a great little adventure. The characters you meet on the train are definitely memorable. I would do that again any day!