Saturday, February 6, 2010

Riding the Rails.

When we went to New Orleans, as stated in the previous post, we went on the historic City of New Orleans. We caught the train at Union Station in Chicago and arrived in New Orleans about 21 hours later. It's scheduled to be about 19-1/2 hours but Amtrak trains are at the mercy of the track owners and often have to wait for freight traffic before proceeding. We had coach seats which meant sleeping in our seats. I can usually fall asleep about anywhere but I had a little trouble on this trip. On the return route, the guy across the aisle from me snored louder than anyone I've ever heard, with maybe the exception of my Uncle Herb. That dude was hands-down the all time champ. On the other side of the timber cutter was a lady who would eat and then proceed to belch for about fifteen minutes. Not little burbs, mind you, but the kind little kids drag up when they're having a belching contest. Didn't really make for a comfortable napping experience.

The train had a really nice lounge car with big picture windows and seats that faced out, allowing you to relax and watch the scenery go by. There was a snack bar below where you could get a drink or something to eat. A little pricey but I guess that's to be expected. The train also had a full service dining car. Food was pretty tasty and the service was good.

My biggest complaint with the trip was the people with cell phones. I realize that I'm an old guy and my take on cell phones is probably not the mainstream view but if you're going to have a phone that rings every five minutes, don'tcha think you could put the damn thing on vibrate. Since I could hear at least half of the phone conversations, it was pretty obvious that nothing was being said that couldn't wait till they got off the train, anyway. In fact, if it was never said, the earth was still going to keep on spinning. Don't get me wrong, I called home to check in with the Missus, but I went downstairs where I wouldn't bother anyone. Besides the irritation of the constant ringtones, the whole dynamic of train travel is changing. One of the pleasures of train travel was always meeting and chatting with your fellow travelers. Now people are talking on the phone instead. What used to be a rather civilized mode of transport has become another venue for inconsiderate people to jabber on like some eighth grade girl. We've no self restraint or dignity left, I'm afraid. Coincidentally, the new AARP magazine has an article addressing the role electronics is playing in killing the art of conversation. So it's not just me.

Cell phones aside, the trip was fun and I'm already trying to figure out how to get the last four states on my quest to hit all fifty.