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Would you, could you, on a train

May 14, 2024

“Bye train! Bye train!” It was 3:30 in the morning, and although he’d just been roused from deep slumber, somehow my 2-year-old found plenty of energy and goodwill to enthusiastically wave goodbye to the departing Amtrak.

And thus ended our Great Train Adventure. I’d been hyping this trip up for weeks now to Benson, knowing that a good dose of optimistic anticipation would help us both, especially since we were leaving Daddy behind. A train ride is an adventure, but it’s even more so if you call it that.

The goal of the trip was to visit some of my college friends who married each other and have a lovely family. We’ve kept in touch over the years (15!), and during a phone conversation recently, I mentioned that Benson and I should take the train out there sometime. It’s too coincidental that the Amtrak stops in my little Kansas town and also in her little Illinois town. As I was saying that, I realized that if I’m going to, now is the time! Adding a baby to the mix will not make travel easier, and this one will be here in just over three months, so we needed to make it happen asap.

Fortunately, we found the few days left in our busy summers that corresponded for both of us, and the tickets were bought. Would driving or flying not be better? It depends on your definition. Either would be faster; driving might be cheaper; but neither has quite the same adventurous appeal. My perspective is entirely colored by the fact that I love Agatha Christie mysteries, and it seems everything dramatic and romantic happens in train cars.

To be fair, however, I don’t really want murder-mystery-esque drama happening during my experience riding the rails. On our first train headed east, still in the dark hours of the morning, there was an incident that began just a few rows ahead of us that necessitated forceful removal of the passenger by law enforcement. Trust me, that was more than enough excitement to negate the need for any further unanticipated action, especially when that delay led to quite a few hours of unanticipated inaction waiting in a train station after missing our connection. We were safe, and got to our friends eventually, and that’s what mattered — but it was a long day.

Not technically quite as long as our westward trip home though, which clocked in at 19 hours of travel time, including five hours layover in St. Louis and Kansas City stations. But all that said, I’m hearing a train whistle as it goes by right now, and I’m feeling nothing negative. (I did feel the rocking motion of the train continue as I laid still in bed after getting home that that was weird.)

In fact, while I will immediately concede that taking the train is far better in theory than in reality, I will still recommend it, just for something different. Also, the travel needs of both a two-year-old and a 24-week-pregnant woman correlated nicely with what train transportation has to offer: roomy seats without constricting seatbelts, ability to get up and walk around at will, snacks and bathrooms immediately available. Unlike air travel, there are also no carry-on food restrictions, so I came well prepared — not an entire backpack of snacks, but maybe close.

“Normal people” things like granola bars, crackers, and apples, and some more Benson-specific items, like plain tortillas, cherry tomatoes, and homemade dried bananas. This child could live on banana products in general, and dried bananas are the current magic panacea for whatever ails him. For breakfast I had also packed some vanilla yogurt in a reused sour cream container, and realized that looked exactly like I was feeding my child a carton of sour cream...oh well.

Between the dried bananas and watching Curious George on a borrowed DVD player, Benson fared remarkably well on our train adventure. All the same, I think we’ll wait a while until our next one.

Dried Banana Chips

These dried bananas are much less chip-py, or crunchy, than most commercial ones I’ve ever eaten, but we love how rich and chewy they are. And I love how easy, cheap, and healthy they are, not to mention portable. The only problem is that they are a little too eat-able, and I don’t know the equivalency of how many bananas Benson could eat in a sitting if we didn’t cut him off. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can oven-dry them...but you have to Google it because I haven’t done it.

Prep tips: you don’t want the bananas mushy, but they can definitely be on the riper side; you can often find a bunch (pun intended) discounted at Smith’s or Dillons.

bananas, sliced into ½” coins

Dry in a dehydrator at 135° for around 18 hours, until dry but a little pliable still. Store in a sealed bag or container. You can use them in things like cookies, cereal, or trail mix, or just devour them as is.

Amanda Miller lives with her husband, 2-year-old son, and whoever else God brings them through foster care on the family dairy farm in Hutchinson. She enjoys doing some catering, teaching cooking classes, and freelancing, but mostly chasing after her kid(s). Reach her at [email protected].