Sunday, March 8, 2009

The NY Times Rides the Rails

Recently Andy Isaacson had a piece in the NY Times about taking Amtrak cross-country. I've been a faithful Amtrak rider for a few years. I've trained across the country twice, and last summer I was riding between Seattle and Portland up to four times a week. He really captured my experience on the train- from the fast friendships in the observation car to the miles of farm land to the predictable delays in the middle of nowhere.

I also learned a few interesting things about train service in America. In 2008, Amtrak set all-time highs for ridership, and President Obama's stimulus package includes eight billion for rail projects, so Amtrak will probably keep breaking those records. Andy also writes that, "According to federal law, but not always in practice, passenger trains have priority." Nearly every time I've taken the train up to Seattle we have to "pull over," (okay, I'm not sure what the train terminology is here), to let a freight train get by. Maybe I can remind the conductor that we have right of way.

To be honest, I'm a little miffed with Amtrak right now. I was planning on including a fair amount of train transport as part of the Un-Road Trip, and I was hoping that Amtrak might support the trip by giving me a few free rides. After taking many weeks to get back to me and sending many follow-up emails, they said they couldn't help. They wouldn't even give me a discount. Train trips add up fast, which means that I'll have to alter my route and spend less time on the rails. Anyone have a camel they want to offer up for a few weeks?

Also, I'm still looking for a way to get to Norrdigewock. Anyone have any breakthroughs there?

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