Train travel: I think I can …

28 Jun

I think I can get to like train travel again. Hadn’t chugged along on Amtrak since I was a kid. I settled into eight hours each way from Boston to D.C. and back and actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. With plenty of time on my hands, I jotted down a list of the pros and cons.

First con: My handwriting was messy with the somewhat jerky motion of the train. Big deal. Other cons: the cafe car had limited hours; there were delays on the trip to D.C. because it was the start of a three-day holiday; butt paralysis; and too much graffiti and poverty on view from train windows.

But, really, that was it. Pros: I saved myself from horrible traffic through New York and New Jersey, part of which I could see from the train. The legroom and seat width are better than on a plane. The lavatories are bigger too. There’s wireless if you’re set up for it with Amtrak. Electrical outlets at every seat. The cafe car is decent. There’s a “quiet room,” but I found the car I was in was quiet enough already. It’s possible to strike up an interesting conversation, as I did for two hours with someone who was, ironically, from the same Western city as me. It’s fun to walk from car to car — woo-hoo! Whooshing train, swaying platforms, (pretend) danger! The conductors seem to have personality. People-watching takes on new proportions. The motion of a train is conducive to catching up on sleep. And, of course, there’s the scenery from a train window — for me, best showcased in Connecticut and Philadelphia. Small-town harbors and urban skyline — impressive contrast.

It was kind of a geography lesson too, to recall how the states line up along the Eastern seaboard. It was a semi-thrill to think I blasted through several Connecticut towns, Providence, Newark, New York’s Penn Station, Trenton, Wilmington, Philly, Baltimore … the last city is one I hadn’t been to since I was 16 and visiting my best friend. She and I spent what seemed like all summer listening to Carole King’s Tapestry on vinyl. So I enjoyed the serendipity when my iPod shuffle landed on “It’s Too Late” just outside of Baltimore.

The best part, though: beautiful Union Station in D.C. and the ability to step outside it and view the Capitol. Quite stunning during the thunderstorm when I arrived.

My route from Boston to D.C. and back

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