Monday, February 25, 2013

Automobiles, Planes, or Trains?

Each mode of transportation has its merits, however, I vote for trains, 100 percent.

Cars are very convenient, personalized, and comfortable, but on a long trip, someone has to drive and pay attention to the road. If the driver lacks skill, the passenger(s) may need to pay attention as well : )  Either way, someone has to always be paying attention and watching the road, which detracts from the mutual enjoyment of the roadside scenery. In a car, you also have to stop at a roadside rest stop for bio breaks, and depending on whether or not it's a toll road, selection of eating establishments may be limited. Some states still have full service stations, so if a person is not accustomed to pumping their own gas, there is also the trauma of self serve stations!! Cars conveniently go where you drive them, so you have the flexibility of pulling off and digressing from your route whenever you wish, that is their primary advantage.

Planes are fast, once you're in the air. The problem is, getting in to the air! I have never encountered so many scheduling delays as when I'm at an airport. Plane routine: check in and go on a long trek to the gate, go through security, if there's a connecting flight, go on a long trek to the connecting gate, land and go on a long trek to the baggage claim area. While on the plane you have a little seat and are usually squished between two other people who also have little seats. The bathrooms aren't bad, but people have to constantly get up and down to accommodate the bio needs of other passengers. I haven't had a meal on an airplane in quite some time since budgets are constantly being cut, but when I did, they were merely passable, nothing to shout about. In the airport food is expensive, there are times when it's impossible to find a place to sit, and if you're stuck for hours due to delays, there is nowhere to go. Planes are fast, that is their primary advantage.

Trains.....aaaahhhhh trains! Local travel on trains is fun, fast, and convenient. Long distance travel on trains is even more fun, just as fast as a car or faster, depending on stops, and allows for mutual enjoyment of the trip. Our train ride from Washington, DC to Chicago on the Capitol Express started our vacation the second we stepped onto the train. Since we booked overnight train accommodations, we had use of the Station Lounge and all the comforts therein (refreshments, plenty of seating, luggage stowage, and wireless computer service). It's a short walk from the station to the train car entrance, with porters waiting to help with luggage. Once in our cabin, there was a long sofa type seat on one side and a chair facing the sofa seat, with a fold up table in between. There was coat storage and a booth that housed the toilet and shower. We stored our larger suitcase on the lower deck, and took the smaller suitcase to our room upstairs; the suitcase stowed well under the single seat. We plugged in our cell phones to recharge them, removed our shoes, sat back in our chairs, and enjoyed regular conversation without worrying about infringing on the space or boundaries of others. The porter came to take our dinner reservation (all meals included in the overnight fare), and the food at mealtimes was diverse as well as delicious. We ate meals in the dining car at tables covered with table cloths and on dishes that were real. We enjoyed time in the lounge car when we felt like taking a little walk. We arrived at our destination earlier than scheduled and we already had our luggage in our hands to walk to the car rental booth just inside the station. Layover to await a connecting train? Simply walk out of any train station and there is something to do because you're in the middle of the city. There are so many advantages to taking the train, their primary disadvantage is they are not as fast as planes, and extra travel time needs to be accounted for when taking long trips. More detailed accounts of this trip to follow.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


So....due to a grand delay at the airport during a trip last fall, we decided to take the train this time. We rode the Capitol Limited from Washington, D.C. to Chicago and loved it, more details on that later, as I want to write down some observations from the start of our adventure. While riding through DC and Baltimore, I noticed millions of sparkling pieces of glass along the banks of the train tracks, thoroughly disgusted by the thoughtless discarding of trash by my fellow humans. I also, however, caught myself appreciating the sparkles and beautiful rainbow colors emanating from those hills of dirt. Why not, I asked myself, think of them as they really are? They are beautiful. It's just because they are not rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds that I am disgusted. If they were nature's minerals sparkling there, I'd pull the train stop and go gather them. So I allowed myself the luxury of discarding my own judgmental trash and enjoyed those gems for what they were. Change of perspective so often allows us to be a little bit more happy, so why not?!

Here are a few more gems we encountered during the ride:

Beautiful bridges along...
...Beautiful waterways
Kids playing basketball on inner city courts
River otter
Lounging deer
Galloping horses
Lovely barns
My seatmate : )
Small, medium, and large houses and buildings housing lives being lived
People of all ages sitting on benches and playing in city parks
Manufacturing - and the smell of diesel and coal
No delays
Great train food
Leon, AJ, Mike, Suzanne, Jamille, Helen, Ben, Lou - porters and meal partners
A pair of Canadian geese and a pair of swans
Graffiti of great artistic talent
Crescent moon smiling down through the window during an evening in the lounge car
Headlight of the train as we traveled round a curve at night
Waking at night to hear the train whistle, only to be rocked back to sleep by the movement of our car on the tracks
City skylines
Orthodox priest
Mance, PA
The minimalism of our shower and lav
Discovering overnight train travel!
Those dear to us who were waiting at the other end, and those dear to us to whom we would be returning

Let us gather our gems each day and appreciate their value.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Breaking Ground

I have been reading my daughters' blogs for quite some time now and truly appreciate the artistry of their photos and the creativity of their writing, impeccably paired to give their audience maximum benefit of their posts. I've never really been interested in creating a blog of my own until......The Great Train Trip West! I have so many items of interest to share, it is just too much for my usual social media outlets. This particular post is my entry into blogging, so sit back, kick off your shoes, grabba cuppa somethin', and stay tuned to read some perspectives on train travel et alia.