Coping: With Train Travel

After 2001 – Twin Towers – and the somewhat suspicious (too fast) roll-out of the so-called “Patriot Act” a number of people I know quit flying.

Oh, not that they were on the no-fly list. But since they don’t take crap and understand people’s right to quietly “be” anywhere in the country, they didn’t want to take a chance on decking some too snoopy micro bureaucrat.

So they gave up flying and opted for cars and trains.

I happened (consulting hat on) to talk with one such person (a colleague) about how his recent travels on the train have been around the country.  When we weren’t bemoaning terrible data rates on mesh networks, that is.

Most recently, he and his wife got on a train in the east of S.F. area and rode the California Zephyr all the way to Chicago, and from there on to Pittsburgh.

“We had a great time,” he told me. “Took about 56-hours, but it was glorious. Since we got the sleeping compartment with its own toilet and sink, and the food is included, we had wine and food and the best seat in the house crossing the country.”

It sounded almost too good to be true. “Tell me about the Internet connectivity,” I urged. Elaine and I like trains a whole bunch, too.

“Not so good. What you would have to do is bring a wireless hotspot and fire it up when you get into cities along the route.”

That didn’t sound like a lot of fun. “But I talked to one of the engineers and he figured within three years and that was a year ago…” So maybe there is hope.

The idea of having the country roll past while I don’t have to drive is incredibly appealing. “The coach folks up front can get a little rowdy, but the sleeper car people are very nice. I think it was about $15-hundred each, but remember, that was with travel and what would be hotel plus the food. And it was pretty neat.”

My traveling friend admitted that it’s not as up-to-date as the trains in the Northeast corridor. Still, I keep eyeing a train trip for Elaine and I to New York City and that would be all kinds of fun. Assuming, that is, I can get her into traveling ultra-light…like a backpack since luggage always makes me uncomfortable on foot. I feel too much like carrion before the wolves in a big city. ‘Especially since he mentioned a train change in Chicago. Armor plate, anyone?

There are some interesting hacks he’s picked up – invented, actually – along the way. One of them involved pizza.

Seems on one of his trips, he was able to get a cell connection outside of Denver and he knew (being the meticulous researcher he is) who had the best pizza near the train station.

Would you know? Some of the people riding overheard him ordering pizza which was all to be delivered to the station during the 20-minute stopover in Denver.

As the trainload of hungry people arrived, the eyes started looking for the Pizza. Five minutes went by. Then 10. Then…wait! That was the Pizza delivery! Five minutes to go, but the pizza came through. Money changed hands, the pizza went aboard the train, and the journey continued…with a great pie to go with the great views.

I have always preferred trains to cars. They give a much more “honest” view of a country. See, on the Interstates, you see a very “managed” scene. Everything is kept looking just so, trimmed-up and strack, in order to entice the passersby to drop in and spend some money.

But with the train view, it’s different. You can’t stop the train (OK, maybe once, but home is a long walk, lol) and that means restaurants don’t pay much attention to what things look like “out back.”

This was especially useful to observe when we’d flown the Beechcrate up to Connecticut a couple of years back and had taking the #172 into NYC. Yup, things out by the tracks are a much more revealing portrait of income differentials, among other things.

One of these first days – when we get past the parade of visitors coming down to the ranch over the holidays, we will see about a train trip. But maybe it will be one of those “we’ll get to it” deals. There’s a lot of time left in Life, and we don’t want to run out of exciting things to do. Like pizza at the station in Denver or some other whistle-stop. Could be fun.

I mean if trains had whistles, anymore.

A New Vitamin Department!

Well, two actually.

Astaxanthin is the first one.

This is the reddish carotenoid that occurs in some algae and is responsible for the pink in salmon and other fish.

Main uses are for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, high cholesterol and age-related macular degeneration.

Good scoop on it over here on the WebMD site.

The second one we’re tinkering with is Saffron.

This is used for asthma, cancer, atherosclerosis, depression, Alzheimer’s, heartburn and dry skin. It is also possibly related to retarding age-related macular degeneration. Also an aphrodisiac, too, says over here.

We laughed about it, though. At our age, if our vision REALLY cleared up, would that kind of tone down the desire department?

Field trials to follow. Results will not be made public. Run your own.  Gentlemen and ladies are discrete.

If I don’t remember writing this column in the future, the first one didn’t work, lol.

Airplane Sale Adventures Cont’d.

Good grief. Of COURSE I check out the bona fides of people calling in response to our ad in Trade-a-Plane for the Beechcrate which we’re selling.

No, we don’t “need” to sell the airplane. If we do so, it will be to someone who has appropriate ratings and is in the FAA database.

Just like selling a car, there’s an amazing number of people out there – like sharks – circling to see if they can sniff blood in the water to work a scam.

Not here.

Pilots are stand-up people. And no, if someone is not in the database, they don’t get the time of day from us.

And when people say it’s a “computer error” let’s see what happens when I offer to call the FAA on conference to see if they can’t get things straightened out.


Turnip trucks don’t fly and pilots don’t fall off them. We use aircraft escrow services, like grownups.

Next scammer that calls, should I call Homeland and have them ask the questions?

Write when you get rich,

16 thoughts on “Coping: With Train Travel”

  1. Just after college i boarded the california zephyr in the cheap section and stopped in colorado and salt lake for skiing. No way i could do that now without the sleeper compartment. East of the mississippi the train was loud, crowded and rough so they must have updated things since then. In Chicago it changed for the better. Different kind of train and the commuter crowd vanished. It was amazing seeing the country not from the vantage point of the freeway, like being behind the scenes. As a side trip i rode the coast starlight up the west coast and that blew me away. The route through the cascades in winter was like being in the middle of a national park without having to hike for days to get there. Nice trip but the smell got to be a bit much without having a shower regularly.

  2. republicans have blocked fixing the rails and expanding high speed rail every chance they got. We’ll see if Trump stands by his word to fix and expand.

    It reflects the unspoken recognition that no matter how much Republicans say they care about infrastructure, they’re not going to accept any infrastructure proposals that come from President Barack Obama. They opposed his $50 billion “roads, rails and runways” proposal in 2010, and then again when it was expanded and incorporated into his American Jobs Act in 2011. They’ve blocked Obama’s plans for an infrastructure bank and a national high-speed rail network.

  3. I had taken the Zephyr for many years, but only between Princeton IL and Chicago. I dont remember it being any louder than Germany’s or Scotland’s trains. In the last few years, they’ve acquired newer,plusher cars.The price of the ticket is way cheaper than paying for parking.
    Also, after 9/11 things have changed a bit in Chicago’s rail terminal. The Grand Promenade (I dont know what Chicagoans call it) is still there, but you have to try to find it. Just like a hospital, there are now a lot of blockable doorways and the place seems more compartmentalized than it used to be. Or, I’m just noticing it more.
    No need for armor for a train change, unless you’re leaving the complex, which I did to catch local public transportation to O’Hare for my “year” abroad. Suitcase and all. No problems. IMHO, if they havent already, Chicago should have a train which goes directly from the airport into the station, like other countries do. They may claim to, but you have to way a block and a half through city streets into a bunkerish, WW2 style concrete underground stairway. But I suppose 9/11 maybe the reason why not; like maybe better to risk encountering local thugs than international terrorists.
    Happy Travels!

  4. We took the train up to Chicago for the son’s graduation from Navy Great Lakes. 12 hour trip both ways. We met fascinating people. The food was excellent. The service was outstanding. The train rocked us to sleep. Came into Chicago, collected our baggage on the lower level of the car as we passed, walked around the corner to the rental car counter, and drove out. Took less than 30 minutes to be on the road. We have never arrived anywhere more rested and relaxed. The train is the only way to go!

  5. GU, recently listed my bass boat for sale online. I live in the boondocks of NE OK, close to 2 lakes. Got scam calls: 5 from Las Vegas, 1 from Phoenix, and 1 from Chicago! Invited them all to stop by OK for a test drive.

  6. If you start in Houston, you can get to Penn Station and include an Acela leg (Washington DC to NYC) in your itinerary. If you start in Longview, Texas, you must change trains in Chicago and have no high-speed experience.

  7. We take the Acela Express often between NY and DC.

    Yes , there are SOME parts of the route worth looking at , but , for the most part , we try to keep our eyes inside the car.

    We are continually amazed at just how filthy and horrendous looking the cities are along that route.

    Youve been warned !!!

    ( apologies to all for no snide political comments )

  8. Only twice in past months have I used Craigslist to sell something major. Within hours the scammers are texting me from disposable internet IP lines, trying to arrange elaborate payment and delivery terms.

    I’ve learned. Now I just tell them I’ll only deal locally. Are you in town??

  9. 1999 took Amtrack from Kingman AZ to Kansas City. Had to wait 90 mins for the eastbound train to arrive. West bound train had to clear station first and they were held out after rolling over some homeless guy who lay on the tracks. I know, worse night for him than us. Next day, traveling through New Mexico the train stops in the middle of no where. Looking out the windows we see train personnel out in the desert about 15 yards from the train bending down as if looking at the undercarriage area. Next there is a message broadcast by conductor asking if any of the passengers have duct tape so they can fix the train. After more than an hour delay we were on our way. Due to the problem, the food car was shut down,(there went 2 of our prepaid meals) as was the smoking area, and the bathrooms. To top it off the guy running the little store in the smoking area also closed down shop. Got into Santa Fe late. Everything closed except the vending machines. Candy and Chips for dinner. 10 hrs no bathrooms. Rest of the trip was nice though.

  10. Twice now my girlfriend and I have taken Amtrak Roomette from Palm Springs to Dallas to visit my daughter. Cost about $1500 for two. Takes 2 days. Great food. Have to talk to whoever you get seated with when eating. Only downside is having to fling oneself into the upper bunk at night. Bathrooms and showers down the hall. Tip the porters! They are wonderful.

  11. Love the train, the most civilized and relaxing way to travel, provided you are not on a tight schedule.
    I call the views “backyard America”, for better or worse but mostly better, no billboards and gas stations, more real life.

    Also one of the rare opportunities you get to talk to random people, everyone is in the same boat (train) and there is time without pressure. Have had many great conversations that would not have happened anywhere else.

    The 2 level Superliner equipment used in the West is now a little aged but still a masterpiece of design and they keep renovating the cars. Walk around, have dinner, splurge on a sleeper – it’s all great.

    The run thru the Columbia Gorge on the Empire Builder is magnificent, daylight both directions in the summer.
    We are lucky to have what we still have, I encourage everyone to take advantage of it.

  12. No need to pack light if you don’t wish, as most stations offer Red Cap service for luggage handling and a ride to and from the first class sleeping cars to first class lounges. Sitting up overnight in coach class, one time, is something you might want to experience, as it will add to your deep appreciation of the sleeper cars… There is no TSA yet, but the eye of Sauron is turning toward us train hobbits (- I think that’s what they mean when they talk about “infrastructure improvements”) and the open freedom of train travel could be coming to an end, so try your trip soon!

  13. > I keep eyeing a train trip for Elaine and I to New York City
    If you go through Chicago & Buffalo, after you leave Buffalo, be sure you sit in the right side of the train heading down to NYC… the sweeping Hudson River views are awesome, while on the other side you just have trees, rocks & brush whizzing past. And the occasional train headed the other way. No fun.

    Naturally, sit on the left side on the return trip.

    I’ve made that trip many times (out of Rochester), and it’s a great trip, but I don’t recommend it with broken ribs, even with good drugs. Long story.

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