I love trains. Not in a fanatical kind of way, but in a warm and fuzzy, aren’t I glad they exist and I get to ride on them way. This fondness dates back to my childhood summers in Buffalo, NY. Yes, I know, you’re thinking to yourself “Well that explains a lot.” I’m sure you’re right, a lot of my contrarian nature may come from the fact that I was a country kid who spent summer vacations in the city and not vice versa. But they were great trips, for the most part. I would lie awake at night in the sweltering attic of my Grandfather’s Medford Place house and listen to the distant (and not so distant) train whistles. They are an important part of my childhood soundtrack. In college when I was over-stressed and under-loved I would threaten to hop a freight and get the heck out-of-town, out-of-state, out of the country. It seemed like the perfect escape plan. When I bought my first house it was right next to the RR tracks. Everyone said I’d live to regret it, I never did.
For,all of those reasons I was happy, a few years ago, to discover the joys of riding Amtrak to DC. As I entered “the train bubble” today, I began enumerating a few of those joys, as follows:
*Somewhere in my really-not-that-radical-political career I got my name on a watch list. This means that every time I fly I get the full business. Sometimes a strip-search sometimes just a pat down to check for explosive residue. Yes, I am that harmless little old gray-haired woman you see pulled out of line at the TSA checkpoint. Every wondered why? Now you know. I take it all good-naturedly and then just get on with my trip. On trains and buses it’s different. Sure they sometimes want to see your ID (especially if you look vaguely ethnic like the poor guy in seat across the aisle from me today) but basically they are much more likely to just leave you alone……and let you get on with your trip.
*When you ride the rails you have access to the outdoors. You can stand out on the platform. The stations are roomy, clean and bright. The air doesn’t feel recirculated.
*People are more friendly and less in a hurry. Even the ticket agents are nicer. And I think conductor hats are sexy.
*But if you do happen to have an annoying fellow passenger; one who is kicking your seat, talking too loudly on their cell phone or hogging the armrest; you can move. There are plenty of seats. The air-conditioning feels great in the summer and in the winter the train is even less crowded.
*When you fly you do get the great aerial view of the country. Large farm fields. Vast areas of darkness with only the rare light to be seen. But on the train you get to see the farms and the farmers. They may fly by awful fast but you do get to see them. And the NYC skyline. And all the great under bridge graffiti.
*And, of course, most importantly, it is eco-friendly. The Amtrak website even tells you all about “Traveling Green” on Amtrak. It’s clean, efficient and they even recycle. Definitely the way to travel to the Green Party Convention.
I do wish I could have afforded the Acela. My son(whose lullaby as a tiny child was “City of New Orleans“) suggested it and reminded me that this train stops at a lot of podunk, boondock stations on its way down the east coast. The leisureliness of the journey is part of its charm, however, time to write long blog posts like this and take lots of pictures. The rest of the week is going to be crazy-busy so this is a nice respite before the whirlwind.