If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster, you know that it’s the drops we remember the most.
The Beauty of Amtrak
Yesterday I took a train from Milwaukee to Chicago with my girlfriend Cristi. We had planned a short vacation that combined both my 49th state (Wisconsin) and a trip to Chicago, a city on my list and one Cristi was excited about as well.
To get from one to the other we took Amtrak. I’m moderately new to Amtrak, but I love it.
About a decade ago I moved to upstate New York. That’s when I found out about Amtrak. For just a couple Jacksons you can get to The City blissfully and without a care. Trains have so much to offer over planes: way more legroom, bigger seats, less crowding, outlets at every seat, and the freedom to get up and move around.
What’s more the view is breathtaking. You get to enjoy the journey whether traveling along the Hudson or through the areas surrounding Lake Michigan. There is so much beauty to enjoy and so much to discover.
But there’s a fatal flaw in it, something that Six Flags has remedied.
The Accountants of Rails
Trains allow you to enjoy the splendor of nature and the beauty that’s all around you, but have a glaring problem: trains are the accountants of rail-based travel*. They are steady and consistent and monotonous.
But a roller coaster… when it chicka, chicka, chicka’s up the steep incline as the gigantic chain latches on and inches us toward a free fall that would be harmful or fatal if swallowed, our heart catches in our throats. Our eyes are wide and our minds are open to experience every last bit of adrenaline coursing through our veins.
And then we crest the hill.
Voom! The rush of the ride, the woosh of the wind, the roar of the passengers. It all feeds our brains with the onslaught of chemicals that make this a memorable occasion. It’s the drops we remember the most.
A train in all it’s glory, still just goes straight. If there’s a mountain, it won’t go up and down it. It will go through it. It cuts right through the fun.
It doesn’t compare with a roller coaster.
A roller coaster goes up and down. It requires a lot of energy and a lot of patience to get up, but it’s the drops that make it a ride worth taking.
It’s not the flat areas that we talk about for months afterward. It’s not the climbs that we go on about. It’s the drops we remember the most.
Embrace the Ride
We are drawn to stories of adversity. We are captivated with how Oprah overcame a painful childhood to become one of the 500 richest people in the world. We are drawn in when we hear how Steven Spielberg thought he would never work in Hollywood again after his first big movie went way over budget and over schedule only to have Jaws become one of the biggest blockbusters of all time.
We can have a train-based life. It can be utilitarian and get us where we need to go and we can have a pleasant journey. In fact, reliability and consistency will go a long way toward taking us where we need to go.
But sometimes life will throw us curveballs. Sometimes it will bring us up only to drop us down like it did to Ellen when she came out as gay. We may not always like the drops, but it’s the drops we remember the most. They can make us stronger, better, and more resilient.
I think one of the most brilliant explanations of how to enjoy the drops is in the movie Parenthood:
Embrace the ride. Raise your hands. Scream at the top of your lungs. It may be scary, but it’s the drops we remember the most.
* If you are an accountant, my apologies. You probably love your job. I get it. I’m in IT. I love building 3D nodes in SceneKit or creating a streamlined recursive function or… sorry, you dozed off there. See… we all have something we love that others don’t get. No harm, no foul.