Monday, June 04, 2007

Riding the Rails on Amtrak


I've been home just a couple weeks after taking a one-way Amtrak trip from Atlanta to Boston. Here are observations from my adventure:


I found the coach seats on Amtrak trains to be waaaay more comfortable than Greyhound or coach class on many airlines. The Greyhound bus I rode from Chattanooga to Atlanta felt like it had tires out of balance, which made for three hours of constant shaking. The Amtrak trains just sway gently from side to side.

Amtrak seats also have much, much more leg room than planes or busses--I could extend my legs completely. The seats recline more than a plane seat and they also have rests that can be raised for the lower legs much like a recliner. The seats are wider, too, so I was able to kind of curl up on my side a bit without (I hope!) intruding on my seat partner's space.

The seats on the Crescent train that originated in New Orleans were probably a foot farther apart than those in this photo from the commuter-like Regional east coast line.

The overhead storage space, particularly on the long distance train, was quite roomy. I was glad for that because, in addition to my carry-on sized duffle with clothes and pillow, I took along a small padded cooler for boiled eggs, yogurt, carrot sticks, etc. I also had a backpack with room temperature foods such as cereal bars, apples and packages of peanut butter as well as a small DVD player and a collection of DVDs and CDs to play on it (don't forget the headphones!).

I'd thought I might eat in the dining car or snack bar but mostly ate only the food I'd brought along--I ended up eating much less than I'd anticipated...and saved a lot of money that way, too, as dining car and snack bar prices seemed rather high. I'd carried along several bottles of filtered water but they do provide a tap of drinkable water along with those cone shaped cups for each car.

At night, small pillows were handed out but I was very glad to have a full-sized pillow along as well. I took along a sheet to pull over me while I slept while my seatmate had brought a small blanket. Due to space considerations I'd decided to depend on my fleece jacket in case it got chilly at night though I didn't need it.

In the morning, I took a change of clothes into the fairly spacious handicapped restroom and washed up the important bits, dried 'em with paper towels, put on my clean clothes and was ready for another day.

It was nice getting to chat with my overnight seatmate and those around me in our assigned seats (cars are filled based on final destinations and they didn't allow us to sit in empty seats as those did fill at stops made throughout the night). Speaking of night, I was very glad I'd packed my silicone earplugs and black eyeshades as the lights were left on all night.

I think I got some of my best sleep during the hour or more we sat on a siding when the track ahead was closed apparently due to an accident involving a freight train. Why do people keep trying to beat trains through crossings... We arrived in DC an hour and a half late but I was still able to make my connection for the DC to Boston train.

The east coast train north from DC had much more of a feel of a commuter train than of the more leasurely approach of the long-distance Amtrak--passengers seemed more rushed and less talkative and there seemed a bigger push to stay on time (even though we still arrived late thanks to getting stuck behind a commuter train). Those coach seats were closer together and clearly not designed with sleeping in mind.

Deb dropped me off at the Chattanooga bus station shortly after lunch and the OC picked me up at the Portland bus station about 37 hours later so it was a pretty long journey.

But I'm so glad I got to go on this adventure--it made a nice change from plane travel and I've got some great memories of my journey through America's back yards!

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