It’s 9 a.m. on March 27 and there’s a train full of people heading to the halfway point between Durango and Silverton, Cascade Canyon. They may be lovers, friends, family or strangers who each have their own lives in different places, and yet for the next five hours, passengers find themselves at an intersection heading down the same train track.
What connects humans? More specifically, what connects a group of strangers on a random train ride?
As the train passed buildings and trees, it slowly made its way out of Durango and moved into the San Juan National Forest.
The passengers were mostly sitting two per seat, some talking, while others looked out the window at the snow-capped mountains, the thawing lakes, and the budding flowers as they poked their heads out of the ground for spring.
When the train reached Cascade Canyon, a mass of people stepped out into the fresh air for a 30-minute break. While the flowers that had begun to bloom brought new beginnings, a woman named Frieda and her husband Edgar from Albuquerque, New Mexico portrayed something more permanent.
Edgar explained that the pair had been married for 14 years but had known each other for 45.
“We met in college and were very close friends but life got in the way,” Frieda said. “We both left college and went our separate ways, but somehow 29 years later we reunited and shortly after that, we got married.”
Edgar was living in the United States and Frieda in Guatemala, but a science conference brought Edgar to Guatemala where he looked up and found Frieda, and they have been together since, Freida expressed.
Another couple on board, Paul and Gina Wiseman, found each other on Match.com and said they had been together for 16 years.
“I lived in England, and she lived in Florida,” Paul Wiseman said. “I don’t think we would’ve met if it weren’t for the internet.”
Gina Wiseman moved out to England shortly after meeting Paul Wiseman, and after years of living in a house, they now live in close quarters together as they move across the U.S. in a van, full time on the road, she explained.
“If an opportunity presents itself, we just grab it and go,” Paul Wiseman said. “It’s the story of our life.”
After a quick lunch everyone reboarded the train and settled back into their seats.
Two women, Norma Crocker and Tracee Herring, from Texas, sat in an otherwise empty car, talking and laughing amongst themselves.
“We’ve been friends for 30 years and this is the first girls trip we’ve ever taken together,” Crocker said.
Crocker and Herring met through work, Herring stated. They started in the same department and something just clicked, and they have been friends ever since.
“We’ve gone our own separate ways, taken different career paths,” Crocker said. “And yet, we always come back to one another.”
The women told stories from their past, revealing their relationship through memories.
“We’ve been through life together, that’s what makes us good friends,” Herring said. “She’s the type of friend I could call to come pick me up from jail.”
Another pair of women, Taylor Bowman and Emily Randolph, shared a seat, Randolph leaning her head on Bowman’s shoulder.
“We met in college in San Antonio, Texas, both studying art,” Randolph said.
The pair had known each other for years and were both still living in the same part of Texas, Bowman stated.
“I am a barber and she works for Amazon,” Randolph said. “We live different lives, but we still find time to be together and take trips like this.”
TRAVEL & PLACE
As the passengers reached hour three on the train, each cabin was loud with conversation.
Paul and Gina Wiseman were buzzing about how they've been living full time on the road for the past six months, starting in Florida and making their way through Texas, Arizona, Utah and now into Colorado.
“The thing about the journey we’ve been on is that it’s not just about the places we’ve been, it’s about all the people we meet on the way,” Gina Wiseman said. “I remember a place because of the people, not the scenery.”
Paul Wiseman agreed, saying that meeting people and hearing their interesting stories for how they ended up on the road was better than simply visiting a place.
“At some point we will try to find somewhere to settle down, a real home, but for right now we are going where the wind blows us,” Paul Wiseman said, looking out the window.
Paul and Gina Wiseman had raised children, cared for their elderly parents, and were now set out on a journey of their own, he expressed.
A woman from Wichita, Kansas, named Ashley Marquez, stated that she was on a sightseeing vacation in Colorado with her family. She sat by herself taking pictures of the mountains on her phone.
“It’s a different scenic view from Kansas which is completely flat,” Marquez said. “I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of heights but even from here those mountains scare me.”
Edgar and Frieda, one of the married couples, have family members spread across the globe, Edgar explained.
“It’s exciting but it’s always a heartbreak,” Frieda said. “We are there and then we have to leave them. It’s never enough time together.”
Taylor Bowman said she loves to travel. Her mom traveled for work and would always bring Bowman with, and because of this, travel has always felt natural for her.
“If you live with someone who sees travel as accessible and do-able, then you think that way too,” Emily Randolph, Bowmans’s friend who had an opposite experience said. “My parents never did, and only when I saw my friends traveling freely did I realize how easy it was to just get on a plane and go somewhere.”
Nicholas Hunt, a man living in Durango, Colorado, stood in the open train car admiring not only the view but the train itself.
“I am a Durango train fanatic. Trains are phenomenal,” he said. “ I love the sounds they make and the way they work.”
Hunt has always been interested in trains, and has a season pass so that he can ride the local Durango train at least twice a month, he explained.
“It’s intriguing every time and makes me grin ear to ear,” Hunt said. “I’m like a little kid.”
Hunt pointed out the best places to take pictures on the train and made conversation with many of the strangers in the car he occupied.
“I meet a lot of people from all over and they talk about their favorite things and what they enjoy,”
Hunt said. “I learn to find other nerds like myself.”
Tashica Drew, the bartender in the food and drink car, said that she also loves the train.
“My favorite part is hearing all the older guys' stories who work on the train,” Drew said. “There are always some crazy things that conductors or people who have worked on the train for a long time have to say.”
Drew, who lives in Durango, has been with the train for over a year now, and loves to meet new people on each ride she takes, she explained.
As the train chugged back into Durango, the passengers reclaimed their seats and peered through the windows for their final moments on the ride.
People walking down the bike path or on the streets waved at the train as it went by.
The train returned to its station at 2:30 p.m. and everyone stepped off. For those five hours, passengers were bound by shared space, by the feelings of love and friendship and by an interest in travel and trains.
Now, they went their separate ways moving on with their own stories and lives, no longer held together by a train ride.