I'm back in Chicago! And it's freezing here, with snow patches sitting in every shadow and cold wind nipping on your ears and your hands getting numb if you don't wear gloves or mittens. This, this weather after the hot sand and the succulent palms and the tanned people of California? The contrast is palpable. If I was flying on a plane, I wouldn't have been so surprised by it. I'd feel the striking difference, yes, but I wouldn't have witnessed the gradual change that was happening behind the window. It made me think of travel centuries ago, when it took weeks and months to cover distances we now speed through in hours.
Trains have a special place in my heart because they seem so out of time, preserved in the way we used to travel. Yes, they are faster than they used to be, but they are slow enough to let you soak in the scenery (I'm not talking about super fast trains in Europe) and they cut though wilderness that we don't see on the roads anymore. Roads are populated with people; it's hard to find such remote roads where there is no presence of human life. Trains go through places that look untouched, virgin, and at times it did feel eerie to look out the window. It seemed like time was irrelevant.
Today was a short day and I mostly hid in my roomette to write. I pondered about what would happen if the train got stuck in one of those remote places with no cell phone reception and no houses or habitation of any kind within miles. The idea was so frightening that I wrote it into my book. I didn't sleep well this night because one scary scenario after another would present itself to me, and I would think it over and tremble and think again and tremble some more and...well, eventually I did fall asleep somehow and woke up to the sun mercilessly shining in my face. It was a sunrise over Mississippi River, and it was gorgeous, and I will miss views like that when I'm back home.
My host Jacquelyn met me at the Union Station and wined me and dined me at Max's where her girlfriend Kristina works, and then we had ice cream, and now I'm sitting here in their home, typing in silence, imagining tomorrow, the plains and snowy fields of North Dakota and Montana, the location of my book.
This trip became my dream come true. I always want to research locations as if I'm shooting a movie and not writing a book. I was able to do so with Siren Suicides as it happens in Seatte. I used my memory of Berlin and its outskirts for Rosehead. I grew up in Moscow so it was easy to describe the settings in Irkadura, but the duck pond in The Badlings was imagined. So I'm thrilled that for TUBE I got to experience almost exactly the same journey that my characters experience. And you know what was the most memorable image for me out of this whole trip? This one. The white snowy nothing. I will remember it for a long time.