An enjoyable reason to work

Published 10:37 pm Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Believe it or not, I’m not comfortable around suits.

So, naturally when I pulled up to Harbor Park last Thursday and there was a sea of people in suits, I was a little unnerved.

That knot in my stomach soon untied itself when I laid eyes on the reason I was there.

Email newsletter signup

He was beautiful, resting in the shadows under the I-264 overpass.

I could not resist getting close to take a photo. I got my wrist slapped for walking in heels in the rocks surrounding the tracks.

But I wasn’t paying any attention to my heels.

His strong, steel frame glimmered with every reflection that light shone on him, and when it came time, he slowly sauntered forward to welcome the group of more than 200 passengers whom he would take on an autumn stroll out of the city and through the Virginia countryside.

Seeing that train was like a reunion with a childhood sweetheart.

Passenger rail may not have been running between Richmond and Petersburg for more than 30 years, but there’s a station just 10 minutes away from my California hometown.

We could board the train to go down to Los Angeles to visit my grandparents or go all the way up to Washington state to visit my aunt.

I can still remember the first time I went on a long ride in a passenger train. I was about 7 years old. It took us days to get to my aunt’s house, but I spent the whole time running between cars and staring out the window from the top of a two-deck car.

I imagined I was Violet from the “Boxcar Children” series, and that train was my boxcar.

Even as I grew, my preferred method of travel was by train simply because I enjoyed sitting back and watching one beautiful scene after another race by my window.

To date, one of my favorite train rides was through the Rioja valley in Spain. It reminded me of the Santa Ynez Valley, which is the area where I was raised. There is no other form of travel you can take that allows you to sit back and enjoy the scenery without worrying about hitting the car in front of you.

Years later, as a college student in northern Virginia in a long-distance engagement with a man (who I’ve subsequently married) living in Virginia Beach, I found a whole new reason to enjoy the train. I could do my homework and save myself a miserable five hours behind the wheel on the I-95 parking lot.

Who wouldn’t say “amen” to that?

Sitting on the train from Norfolk to Petersburg, I couldn’t imagine who wouldn’t.

Soon, business people, students and train enthusiasts will be able to enjoy the benefits of passenger rail from Norfolk to Petersburg and up the East Coast.

The exhibition ride I was on was a chance to enjoy the activity of busy naval shipyards, see the trees in the Great Dismal Swamp getting ready for fall, take in a new view of Lake Cohoon and watch the brown cotton and yellow soybean fields begin to be harvested by their farmers.

But, while enjoying the view, I managed to engage in enjoyable conversation with people around me and work. I got all the interviews and all the photos I needed to come back and write a story.

Not that I don’t love the Suffolk News-Herald newsroom, but work has never been so enjoyable.

The Norfolk Southern passenger rail between Petersburg and Norfolk will have a loyal passenger once it opens, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one.