I’ve been hoping that my ‘positive’ list about train travel is as long as, or longer than the other list I previously posted. I don’t know, so I’m giving it a go.
1. If you don’t like the hassles of airline travel, or if you just don’t like to fly, traveling by train is a good alternative, and I think, better than traveling by bus.
2. In ‘coach’ class it’s more economical than driving your own vehicle. You can plan your trip to stop at places you want to see, and then ride the train to your next destination. Four years ago, when I took my first train trip, I bought a ‘multi-destination’ ticket and was gone five weeks, visiting family in Boston, Maine, New York, and Virginia. And, as there was a ‘forced overnight’ in New Orleans, I reserved a room near the depot there, and walked to the French Quarter in the morning for breakfast at Cafe du Monde, before boarding the train. I’d never been to New Orleans, and was sorry I hadn’t seen it before hurricane Katrina. Still, it was a good experience.
3. When you travel by train you see parts of the country you can’t see otherwise. Yes, a lot of train yards that aren’t particularly interesting, but also views of cities that most folks don’t get to see. I took most of my photos from the window of my coach seat, or from the observation car. I like the ‘uncommon’ sites. Some of the fun collages I’ve done have been made by assembling the cropped-out parts, to see what ‘story’ those pieces tell. Also, photographing Seattle from the back seat of a car gave me a different perspective of that city.
4. While some of the folks in the train cars can be obnoxious, there are others who are downright interesting, or humorous. It’s a great way to watch people if that is what you like. One can find a lot of ‘characters’ for stories by watching.
5. In my opinion the food is pretty good on the train. Yes, it costs a little more than from the grocery store, but heck, you’re hungry, and it’s the only game in town while you’re on the train. I bought some snacks that I thought would hold me for both legs of the trip; however, I ate two-thirds of my stash on the first leg. I promised myself at least one good meal a day in the dining car. Because of the requirements of my eating plan, breakfast was not one of those meals. So most often I opted for lunch – a huge hamburger with the trimmings and chips, including a drink, for $9.50 Now, I don’t find that outrageous; the other day I was at a local Tucson restaurant where there was a club sandwich on the menu for $9.50. The other meal I enjoyed was dinner – half a baked chicken with combination white and wild rice, and veggies, and drink for $14.75. I ate half the chicken and got a ‘to go’ box – the other half of the chicken made a good later snack, or breakfast. I also find that traveling in this way uses a lot more calories, so frequent snacks and drinks are helpful.
6. Even though you can’t usually get off to walk around at most of the stops, traveling by train allows you to move through the train cars to get some exercise and get the circulation going. Most of the time on this trip I was in the very last car and the observation and dining cars were at least three or four cars away. To go for a snack or meal, or to watch the scenery was a little bit of a walk. One must be careful also stepping from car to car as they each have their own way to move.
7. One of the railroad policies is to enforce quiet time after 10:00 p.m. That means no announcements over the P.A. system. If your stop comes in the middle of the night, the conductor will come to you to tell you it’s your stop, so you won’t miss it.
8. Between my first trip and this one I noticed a beefing-up of security. There are Amtrak police and police dogs in the stations, and on the trains. As I mentioned earlier, the Border Patrol also works at stops. In Washington, D.C. I noticed an ongoing video program regarding Amtrak’s work to provide a secure environment. There are also recorded announcements in all the stations about not leaving your bags unprotected.
9. Most of the staff on the train are very helpful and friendly. I was helped with my one carry-on, even by a young man who was a passenger, without my asking. Many of the staff had a great sense of humor, which is a great skill in dealing with so many people at one time. It’s always more pleasant to be with people who aren’t cranky.
10. If you take a cell phone or computer, or a DVD player, there are plugs for this equipment at every coach seat. With earphones one can listen to music, watch movies, play games, etc.
11. In addition, each coach seat has a pull-down tray to hold drinks, snacks, to write on, or support a laptop, etc. In the lounge and observation car there are also tables where groups of people can play games, one can color in their coloring book, sketch, etc. (I did the coloring thing on my first trip. People were fascinated!)
12. Amtrak tracks go through many small towns in America. I noticed that one of the train stops was a town in Indiana where I have family ancestors. I’m thinking it’s possible for me to travel by train to many of the places where I can do research on my family. Now, that would be quite a trip!
Okay, I don’t have quite as many ‘positives’ as I had “advice’. I will say, however, that if I take my own advice I will definitely travel by train again. I find it enjoyable. Whatever stresses it brings, it’s just not the same as the stress of driving my own vehicle, and hauling my house behind me, if I’m RVing. Oh, yes, I will do it again…maybe to Seattle, Vancouver, and across Canada next…