When I was a kid, my stepfather volunteered at the local heritage museum in the tiny town of Brunswick, Maryland. He helped up on the very top floor of an old brick corner building, which housed an enormous model train exhibit that spanned the length of the railroad, starting at Union Station and ending at...somewhere I can't remember anymore. There were tiny homes dotting sloping hills and little trains passing by even tinier plastic people. I could press my hands against the glass and walk by every town in Maryland I had lived in, in miniature. It was absolutely fascinating.
Now 20 years later it was time for my daughter and I to experience our own real train adventure. Twenty hours north to Maryland and 18 hours back for a wedding and a graduation. Six hours late to our destination for the journey home. Stomach issues. No sleep. Using 75% of our data plan in a single weekend on Chip and Dale YouTube videos to keep tantrums at bay (though considering our close quarters, my daughter is an amazing long-distance traveler). But then there was watching the world go by through our two private windows. Seeing a life lived close to the tracks, places abandoned, forgotten and hidden away. Peeking into backyards, behind businesses long since closed down, under bridges covered by graffiti, over rivers and swamps.