Train Travel Tips; Plus, Overheard on the Amtrak

Image: This is how you hydrate. (I don’t think you’re *supposed* to bring booze on board. Mea culpa.)

Hear ye, hear ye, jetsetter pals of mine. I know flights are right quick and cheap and all…

// LONG ASIDE: seriously, the SEA-ORD flight was cheaper than this train ride… but I still bought it because rail-rollin’ is a little more carbon-neutral than flying, and even though I know my teensy individual actions are just that, I just witnessed and choked on the whole f*cking West Coast burning in fire or heat waves, so…. I bought this stupid litttle ticket. CLOSE LONG ASIDE, and APOLOGIES. //

…but rail ridin’ is pretty jammin’, and I think you should give the Amtrak a second (or first… let’s be real about this, probs your first) thought, becerrrrrrzzzzz:

  1. The Amtrak is like old-timey air flight: nearly unlimited baggage, humongous cushy seats, smoke breaks (which can include duck walks, should you possess that fickle animal as a pet, as one of my co-passengers definitely did), and amicable—but not too—fellow travelers.
  2. Why, are you sleepy, little coach passenger? Merely SPRAWL across your seat, its footrest, its generously reclining seats (that includes the seat next to you, which, if you are traveling solo, appears to be occupied precisely very rarely). Just don’t forget some insulation if you’re prone to feeling chilly, as the conductor keeps the cabin at a blissfully cool sleeping temp come nighttime. None of that airline claustrophobia slash passing out sweaty/overheated on a stranger’s shoulder for you!
  3. Eat like a boss. And by that, I mean, pack the swankiest of swank picnics for yourself. Pack like you’ll never picnic again. No offense, but train food is only a step above plane food, and you’ll do yourself ten favors by stopping by your favorite grocer or co-op or farm stand or farmers’ market or all of the bourgeois above to carry on some tasty treats. What you overpay in co-op prices you’ll more than save in train prices. Unless you gotta go for that extra half-bottle (they only sell half-bottles?) of wine. Which you sometimes do.
  4. Pack like it’s a weekend away: as in, changes of clothes, pajamas, face wash, and (most importantly) dental implements. These things will make you feel more human and dignified as you roll effortlessly across this beautiful country,
  5. Everything is slow. And beautiful. And slowly beautiful. Folks, folks: not to be a luddite and all—as I’ve plainly stated, I love me some modern life—but things look pretty spectacular from the slower-moving (but still pretty freaking fast!, says the girl from the bike) ground. Yes, flight is a miracle, yadda yadda, but so is ground-level-groovin’! Especially if you’re kinda tired of powering it yourself after a bike-camping month-plus’s worth of it, mkayyyy? It’s actually super-fast, and you’ll be filled with wonder at all the little specks of town you rumble through that your idiot phone network (eff you, Sprint), can’t manage to identify with its piss-poor reception.
  6. Wake up for sunrise. It’s the most beautiful thing, especially if you happen to catch it at the entrance to Glacier National Park. Nope, there isn’t a photo here, because I couldn’t capture it well enough. Just go see that sherbet-streaked stunner for yourself.

Wow… I was gonna have that “Overheard” part in here, too, but I guess I had more tips than I anticipated. Okay… OH to come in a separate post.

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