I love trains, love to ride them and love to hear them go clickety-clack on railroad tracks.
That said, it took me a long time before I climbed aboard a SMART Train, or just “Smart,” as it’s called. I objected to the name itself. What’s so smart about a train, I asked myself? Then I sold my beat-up Jetta, took the 101 bus and found I didn’t like it one bit because it made too many stops.
Still, I admit that I had one glorious bus ride. A woman my age who was on her way to Petaluma to visit her family invited me to sit next to her and talk. That’s what we did for an hour. She was the hippest bus rider I ever met: a fearless flamenco dancer.
Before she got off the bus, she gave me her name and phone number and asked me to call. I did. I left a message. She never called back, and I didn’t try to reach her again. F the bus.
The next time I had to travel up and down the 101 corridor, I took Smart and enjoyed the ride greatly, though no one hit on me. The Smart seats are more comfortable than the seats on the bus, and the train bounced around much less.
I have a Clipper card, which I used when I arrived on the platform in Cotati and used again when I exited the platform in San Rafael so I’d be charged the correct amount. It wasn’t just smart to take the train. It was fast and it was scenic.
I looked out the picture window and watched Sonoma County and then Marin County pass in front of my eyes. I saw green fields, backyards, familiar hillsides and waterways, including the Petaluma Slough and the wetlands around Novato.
I even read some of the paperback I picked out especially to take with me: Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Her Belgian-born inspector, Hercule Poirot, appears in 33 novels and is smarter by far than anyone else on the train where a muder is committed and everyone is a suspect.
Poirot was a pleasant traveling companion. “Au revoir,” I said aloud when I descended the train. He or someone else, perhaps the conductor, murmured, “Safe travels.”—J.R.