I spent the end of April on a train

In April, a good friend of mine from High-school got married, thus knocking off one more obstacle in my brilliant master plan to become a withered old spinster. If I can get two or three more old friends married off, I’ll be all set; a lone unmarried bachelor amidst an army of newlyweds. That’s step one (Step three is always profit).

To celebrate my ascendancy (or her marriage, whatever) I needed to take a trip to Vermont. I decided (at the suggestion of my brilliant sister) to take Amtrak instead of flying. While on the trip, I took the time to log my observations. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Embarking was scary mundane. There was only one bit of freaky security; a TSA cop with a sub-machine gun and a board looking big-black-dog, a Labrador? Looked kinda Labradorean.
  • No scanners, no metal detectors, no bag searches. I almost thought I was in the wrong place.
  • The ride out of Union Station in DC was a bit rougher than I expected, like riding near the couplers on a Metro car (I favor the mid-car wheel wells for a smoother commute). Makes things slightly shaky, motion-sickness could be a problem. I haven’t been motion sick in years. I wonder if I could sleep on a train. It doesn’t seem likely with this much rattling.
  • Seats, even in coach, are decently roomy. I would’ve had plenty of legroom save for my bag shoved against my shins. Better than an airplane, though not as nice as a car, or first class.
  • I am such a sodding pack-rat, incidentally. I wish I could pack lighter, at least half the crap I brought got used or dropped off during the trip, but I still wish I could manage a smaller travel profile. I need to learn to let some of this crap go. I’m learning, but it’s slow progress.
  • Mild headache from a combination of sun, hauling bags, lack of sleep, dehydration, and lack of caffeine. I brought portable tea-making supplies with me, but I suspect I’ll not be using them until the longer branch of the trip. For those who’ve wondered why I ever buy mana potions, this right here, this is why.
  • I should’ve brought a bottle of water with me. Dunno why I didn’t. Not only am I a pack-rat, but I’m an ineffective pack-rat.
  • I brought two books, one I’m reading, one I’ve read, but if I get board, I have the whole internet waiting for me.
  • Trains are like planes I can stand up in. That makes me happier than it should.
  • No weird continuous thrumming in my bones from the vibration of a jet engine… I’ve traded it for constant mild turbulence! Whee!
  • I’ve heard that watching the world outside a train window is beautiful. Thus far, I’ve seen some beautiful ditches, graffiti, trash piles, and shelled out neighborhoods (Actually, the graffiti really was beautiful).
  • How many Penn stations are there? This is getting a little silly. Penn station, Baltimore, Delaware, New Jersey… It’s like the train’s not really moving, just going in a big loop. They change around the platform while we’re out so we don’t notice when we get back.
  • Just passed a wifi node labeled “Funkadelic” in nyc, available for all of 5 seconds, locked with wep. It leaves me oddly curious about its owner.
  • I picked business class for part of my trip. Business class is train-talk for first class, which is odd because it didn’t cost all that much. I thought I might want the sleeper configuration (the chairs turn into beds). I think this is the most room I’ve ever had while in motion from one place to another.
  • Business class passengers all get free copies of the New York Times. Judging by my fellow passengers, this is very important to them.
  • The train emptied out at Albany. There’s four other passengers, and the crew. It’s odd. Even late night flights usually have a decent number of people aboard. I feel like I slept through closing, and I’m in an empty business. The noncommittal lit-but-dark lighting helps the effect. I feel like one of Eric Burns’ characters, newly transferred out of psychopomp station.
  • 9:18, it’s now too dark to see outside. Nearing the end of my trip. Internet? I no can has. At least Clockwork Cabaret is cached and transmitting.
  • I foolishly assumed I could rent a car when I got to Vermont. Fat chance. The businesses were all shuttered. I wound up hauling my pack-ratted bags to the motel on foot. The trip looked shorter on google maps, but I was clearly fooling myself. Uncertainty didn’t help either, so it was quite a relief to haul myself in front of the night desk at the incredibly ratty hotel where we were all staying. Nice enough employees, but it needed new carpet more than I need social skills.
  • I collapsed into the dubiously clean bed, uncertain of my choice of sleeping space, but quite certain of something else: I’ve got to take the train more.

One Comment

  • Trains are lovely things. I wish this country could put the resources into rebuilding a real rail infrastructure – it’s by far my favourite way to get places.


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