Some times a variety of events make trains the best choice for long distance cyclists. We no longer have anything to prove by riding every inch of the way across the U.S., or around and across other countries, continents. Been there, done that. We are now travelers, who happen to believe bicycle is the best way to see the world. However, there are other transportation methods that have a place in our hearts. Some of best experiences have been traveling by train.
We have used trains for short to medium hops during our tandem tours. The chance to relax and be with our fellow travelers, rather than just passing them by at bicycle speed, is a nice change, and allows for more cultural exchange. The woman knitting spoke excellent English, she was a school teacher on holiday, and we learned quite a bit about Chinese culture we would have missed otherwise.
A Uighur man on this train, who spoke no English, insisted he give us his telephone number in case we got into trouble in far western China. How he expected us to communicate over the telephone, without the pantomime we used, remains beyond me. But the thought was genuine and is an abiding memory of the sweetness of the Chinese people.
When we pedaled into Almaty, Kazakhstan we met, through the cyclists grapevine, several other long distance cyclists from several countries, all stuck waiting for visas due to violence and political unrest in the region. We would meet each evening in the public square, a background of the Tien Shans glowing sunset colors, to share beer, snacks and stories. It was here we learned that all veteran touring cyclists used public transport of one type or another sometimes. They too, were travelers, not just bicyclists.
I celebrated my 62nd birthday in Almaty with a few of these folks, and probably gave them (mostly under 30) hope for many years of adventuring to come.