Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 11)

Summer means the train as I travel to and from California.

It’s summertime, and that means Train Time! Here I’m waiting to board at Portland’s Union Station.

Robin's daughter Mandy is also a writer

Proof that writerliness runs in families. (My sons roll their eyes at me, but it does!)


Dang, June brings a whirlwind of activities! The frenzied end of the school year, an anniversary trip, and a journey south to visit my parents for a week. You haven’t seen me around the Internet lately. This is why.

I ride the rails for 1000 scenic miles on a train called the Coast Starlight. Okay, so I can drive it in half the time, but alone? (I’m fine until I think about what could go wrong!) Besides, what’s not to love about 30 hours to read?

You’ve seen Robin Helm’s daughter, Mandy, with sweet Charlie. Did you know that in addition to being a new mother and saving lives as an ER nurse, Mandy also writes? Her first novel, The Gifted, is a blend of sci fi, fantasy, and romance. Just the thing for summer reading, I say.

Being cheap, I travel coach in a seat that reclines. Tylenol PM is my friend.

Being cheap thrifty, I travel coach in a seat that reclines. Tylenol PM is my friend!

All Aboard for a long ride!

A long train, a long ride, and a fresh-air stop in beautiful Santa Barbara. “All Aboard!”

13 thoughts on “Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 11)

  1. Robin Helm

    I used to love to take Amtrak from Florida to South Carolina. I did that a couple of times a year when my husband couldn’t be away from work.

    Thanks for featuring Mandy’s book. It’s very good, if I do say so myself. She’s working on another one now featuring Anne de Bourgh’s daughter. My husband has also written a book. As soon as I finish editing, he’s going to self-publish. Even my younger daughter is writing a book now. Your son will just have to admit that the writing bug is contagious among family members.

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  2. Candy @ So little time...

    I love taking the train too! I’ve gone from AZ to New Jersey, another time from AZ to N. Carolina, and last summer from California to New Jersey. Each time round trip and all three days one way. Super fun! Although, only one of my kids really enjoys it with me, but I will, hopefully, take a trip again! Another route I want to take (just for fun) is the route from LA to Seattle to Chicago and back to LA. Last summer I met an older gentleman who has taken that trip 10 times. When I met him, on the train from Chicago to LA, he had his teenage grandsons with him.

    I didn’t know Mandy had a book out! Robin, that’s awesome that the whole family is writing! Laura, I wish you luck! Lol! I know how hard it is to get my kids excited about doing anything that I like!😉

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  3. Laura Hile Post author

    The train is wonderful for kids. Bravo to you, Candy, for your adventuresome spirit. Kids are (somewhat) free to roam about, play games, and see expanses of our nation that most fly over. I’ve taken the train from Grand Rapids to Chicago to Portland, and it’s quite the journey. You’ll cover some of the Oregon Trail territory, and I would gladly do it again.

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  4. Susan Kaye

    I was reading a post on Facebook by Mike “Dirty Jobs” Rowe this morning. He was traveling and there were very human sorts of emotional and aroma-based things taking place. He was on an airplane. He called it the Skinny Tube of Despair. That’s how I imagine train travel. Only slower.

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  5. Robin Helm

    There is much more freedom of movement on a train. You haven’t faced despair until you’ve made an 11 hour flight over the Pacific with a kid who screamed for 5 of those hours.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      The “Skinny Tube of Despair” about sums it up. What a wonderful description.

      Although on a train, there is the lounge car—the place for chatty passengers, loud children, cell phone talkers, and stay-up-all-night card players. I don’t know what escape there is for human aromas.

      But emotional outbursts are dealt with handily on the train. Like the time someone told me about when two women—strangers but for the train ride—got into a cat fight and wouldn’t let it go. The fighting escalated. So the train was stopped, the police showed up, and the screaming ladies were arrested and taken from the train. Needless to say, that train was a little late.

      Public drunkenness, same thing. Don’t ride in coach and expect to drink yourself senseless, don’t bring your own liquor aboard, and don’t ask other passengers to buy beers after you are refused service. When you don’t pay attention to friendly warnings, out you go. I’ve always wondered what happened to the heedless young woman who was put off at Klamath Falls. At 10 pm it was very dark, and the station master was locking the station. There she sat as the train pulled out, What a shame.

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  6. Susan Kaye

    Your favorite form of transport, THE BUS, does the same thing. Eons ago I was riding from Coeur d’Alene, ID to Kansas City, MO and a guy got rowdy somewhere in a Dakota. He was put off the bus at a … not sure what sort of place it was. But when I looked back as we pulled out, there was a lone street light over a tiny beige building and nothing else in view. Don’t mess with passage carrying vehicles, they mean business.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Pulling to the side of the road, ordering a mouthy passenger to “Get out. You can walk the rest of the way!” is a time-proven tactic. Happened to me when I was twelve. It was summertime and those were four long blocks, all uphill. I was shocked, and I couldn’t believe Mom meant it. She did. Never again did I mouth off to my mom in the car.

      I seem to recall the same thing happening to my Nathan when we were on the way to your house. An uphill stretch, a country road, summertime. A bit past the Woodstock Nursery I had had enough of Nathan’s lip. Remembering how well it worked for me, out he went. Like me, he was stunned. Never had to do that again with any of the boys. They learned, oh yes.

      We’ll never know how well your rowdy bus passenger or my drinking train rider learned. She kept talking, to anyone who would listen, about the five times she’d been to prison, so perhaps not. She was so convinced that her ride from Portland to Los Angeles was going to be a Party Train. Amtrak only goes for that behavior if you purchase a private sleeping compartment.

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      1. Susan Kaye

        We never got to the “get out” point. Just pulling the car over brought silence from the backseat. Our kids knew that if they’d pushed to the point their dad noticed, silence was the only correct response.

        Disciple is simple if you’re willing to do it.

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        1. Laura Hile Post author

          Michael, Nathan’s older brother, experienced the leave-the-grocery-cart-in-the-store-and-go-home-for-discipline treatment. He was dumbfounded that I would calmly abandon the cart to attend to business. Then, back we went to the market to pay for our groceries. It happened once and never again.

          Discipline is simple, and no yelling from Mom is necessary. Step over the known line and face the known consequence. It’s like a dare from the kid that Mom won’t follow through. Oh yes?

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          1. Susan Kaye

            Yes, granddaughter Selah experienced G’ma’s anger just this past Sunday. We left a grocery with me in full flame and her in tears. By the time we got 20 miles down the road we tried it again. She was pretty good the second time around.

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            1. Laura Hile Post author

              She’s a smart one, that girl. And she’s willing to take the chance—perhaps for entertainment purposes, who knows? —that you won’t follow through. Major miscalculation.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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