We will be arriving in Chicago’s Amtrak station in about twenty minutes. As we buzz through the Chicago suburbs, I feel the need to reflect on my first long-distance train journey. Over forty seven hours on a train is a long way, but in most every way it has been enjoyable. I had some good conversations with Richard, the retired airforce mechanic who now lives with hippies on leskeegy island, the two high school boys (one an exchange student from Berlin) who are on their way back from Seattle, ready to begin school, the boys from Fargo, North Dakota (both the one who dislikes the movie, and the comedian who said nothing but “Soda or Pop” for most of the evening), and Rebecca, from the organic dairy farm.
I also met Ted, who unabashedly declared himself interested in high-end audio and started a conversation. He was on his way back from delivering a 4 wheel drive UPS truck out west. Said he got 17 miles per gallon – pretty impressive considering they are not really highway machines. He knew a lot about high end audio, said he had 50,000$ worth of gear himself in various combinations, and showed me articles on speaker enclosures made entirely of aluminum which cost 20,000$ each and have an at-your-door shipping weight of over two tons. He certainly values high-fidelity, and he had a pretty good attitude towards it, he knows that while the technical jargon is interesting, the real purpose of it all is the magic, the being-there listening to music. This made me question my own valuing of hifi; I haven’t had a decent stereo for years – I’m even impressed with my new macbook pro’s onboard speakers. But, I suppose I value playing music more than listening, and this devalues fidelity – perhaps I’m more concerned with the quality of music than the quality of a recording. Boy, does that make me sound holier-than-thou, though I surely don’t mean it.
The train has now come to a complete stop, bringing the Empire-Builder’s route to an end. I now have 3 and half hours in Chicago and i’m back on the train for Buffalo, and then again to Toronto tomorrow evening.