The Empire Builder: What I Discovered on a 50-Hour Train Ride Across America

  • A troop of rowdy boy scouts camped out with their bags by the back wall, intimidating in the way that only teen boys can be, until one of them stood up to give an unwrapped sandwich to:
  • A prophetic-looking homeless man with no shoes but a full white beard, talking animatedly to a group of travelers, who didn’t seem to mind his presence, and otherwise ignored by:
  • An androgynous teen on the bench facing me, staring glassily into space with perfectly matched bright blue hair and eyes.
  • A man who I thought might be a hipster — wearing a white shirt and black suspenders, interesting facial hair, maybe early 30s — until he put on a tall black hat and I noticed as my perception of him metamorphosed before my eyes that he was sitting with a white head covering.
  • Next to them, a family of twelve in matching turquoise blue — the boys all in light blue button-up shirts, the women in simple dresses cut of the same color, all with head coverings.
  • And then I saw them everywhere — little boys with bowl cuts and tiny suspenders, girls with long hair and simple dresses. A mother dozed — her simple dress flowing over the seat and to the floor, and her two tiny babies — like dolls in miniature outfits — dozing with their blonde hair spread over her chest and their rosy cheeks.
Wisconsin
Wisconsin and Minnesota
North Dakota
North Dakota and Montana
Montana
Glacier National Park
Washington-Oregon Border

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