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Travel Tidbits Part II

June 16, 2009 - Bill Speer
A railroad car is a fascinating way to meet someone.

While on our recent trip through the Appalachians we spent half a day riding through the mountains on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Rail travel affords the passenger interesting glimpses of the scenery, but also because of the way seats are arranged, forces you into conversations with the person sitting opposite you whether you really want to or not.

As journalists my wife and I can easily talk with most anyone, but on this trip it was especially interesting as the person across from us from a man from England who was taking a break as a conference speaker on technology to tour the mountains. While it was business that brought him to the country, he wanted to take advantage while here to visit places he had read about in books and newspapers.

We chuckled at his sense of accomplishment for having rented a vehicle and driven several hundred miles on the "wrong" side the road to get to his cabin on top the mountain. Before he arrived, however, he stopped and purchased a guitar to keep him company while on his "adventure."

Chris was a great conversationalist and we spent the hours talking about the global economy, the impact of the financial markets and how they had impacted citizens everywhere, emerging new technologies, the importance of an informed public and the popularity of Barack Obama in Europe and how much to read into his election victory.

While I thought the highlight of the railroad trip would be the scenery and the opportunity to do something I hadn't done before, I was wrong. The highlight of this leg of our journey was the conversation with the person across the seat from me.

Who knew two people from different parts of the globe could meet on a train in North Carolina and share such fascinating ideas and conversation?


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