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A loyal Amtrak rider says his best travel memories happened aboard trains

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Nat Read has visited all seven continents and both the North and South Poles, but some of his best travel memories happened aboard U.S. passenger trains. He's 84 now, and as of his trip last month to Brunswick, Maine, he says he's now ridden every mile of the Amtrak map.

Nat Read, congratulations on what I assume not many other people have done. And thank you for coming on our show to talk about it.

NAT READ: Well, thanks so much for having me.

PFEIFFER: I believe that Amtrak's network is more than 21,000 miles. Did riding the whole thing start out for you as a goal, or did you get to a point where you realized, I'm almost there, I might as well keep going?

READ: It was the latter, actually. I was looking at the map about three or four years ago. I realized how many of those spokes I had been on. And so with a colored marker, I started to color in the routes and realized that I wasn't very far away from doing all of them. So I took a week and did about, oh, maybe 4,000 or 5,000 miles to take in the longer stretches that I hadn't done. And then COVID hit. And I put this aside for a few years and very recently picked it up again. And on July the 21, I colored in the last of those spokes, and that was from Boston to Brunswick, Maine. Oh, I enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, after I finished it, I took trains all the way back to Los Angeles.

PFEIFFER: Now, obviously, if you wanted to see more of the country in detail, you could do that in a car by driving on your own. But is there something about the train experience that you think lets you see or experience the country in a different way than in a car?

READ: On a train, I sit on the top of a two-story magic carpet while watching a Technicolor diorama scrolling beside me as I progress from the mountains to the prairie, from sea to shining sea. And that's unique to railroads. I never tire of coasting to a stop in another small town and watching a cluster of pickup trucks at the station and people coming together, friends and kin, to express their love and their bonding. To me, this is America with a flag that is equal parts blue and red. And I see the railroad tracks across America as the lace that ties us together.

PFEIFFER: Oh, I love that answer. That is such a good philosophy for today and our country today. During your final trip last month from Boston to Brunswick, how did you feel when you were rolling into that last station?

READ: Oh, I felt euphoria. The conductors on the train made an announcement. We have on the train today a Mr. Nat Read, who has completed - you know, they made the whole announcement. It was actually a rather long announcement. So when we got to the station, people were lining up to have their picture taken with this (laughter) famous person.

PFEIFFER: That was you.

READ: Yeah. So it was kind of fun. There was a 13-year-old boy whose dream it had been to go to every part of the Amtrak train system. The fact that he had actually met a person who had done that, he, you know, stuttered and asked if he could have his picture taken with me. I said, of course. Come here.

PFEIFFER: (Laughter) That's great. Nat Read has now ridden every mile on the Amtrak rail network, one of many of the adventures and goals in his life he's completed. Nat, congratulations. Thanks for talking about this.

READ: Oh, thank you, Sacha, for asking me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON THE ROAD AGAIN")

WILLIE NELSON: (Singing) The life I love is making music with my friends, and I keep... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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