Beliefnet
Rod Dreher

Sorry for the ultralight posting, folks. I’ve been traveling since early this morning, having been in Philadelphia this week to start my new job, and am completely wiped out. More substantive and frequent posting tomorrow, promise.

I did want to put a question to the room about cross-country train travel in America. I’ve taken long(ish) train journeys in western Europe, which I find very pleasant. I’ve only taken the train in the US between Washington and New York, which I find … not so pleasant. The Acela, okay, fine. But very costly, and still slow. Oh, once in the summer of 2000, Julie, toddler Matthew and I took Amtrak from Grand Central Station all the way to northern Vermont, to escape the heat. It’s no fun traveling with little children on the train, at least not for the nine hours it took us to get to Vermont (we could have driven in the same amount of time). But had it been just the two of us, I would have enjoyed the scenery, being able to read while in transit, and being able to walk around and stretch my legs.

Now, the reason I’m thinking about this tonight is I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth it to convince my parents to come see us in Philadelphia on Amtrak. I looked into it, and they can catch the Crescent in either New Orleans or Hammond, La., and ride it straight through to Philadelphia. It takes a bit more than 28 hours, which is quite a haul. But the coach seats look very comfy, and you can rent a two-person sleeper for $168 extra. The fare is comparable to an airplane far, though the trip takes about six times longer (though you do spare yourself having to change planes in Atlanta).

My dad’s doctor won’t let him fly anymore because of his health (heart condition). A train trip would be ideal, because it would allow him to get up and walk around in transit. But a 28 hour train ride is pretty brutal, no matter how comfortable. I think I might enjoy it — again, traveling without kids — but I’m not sure how two older folks like my parents would take it, especially given that my dad has a bad back. 

It’s a pity that America doesn’t have better train service, and a more robust culture of train travel. Problem is, once you get to your destination, it may be difficult to get far without a car anyway. In Texas, people keep talking about how nice it would be to have high-speed train service between cities in the Houston-Dallas-Austin triangle. True — but once you got off the train in any one of those cities, you’d be stranded unless you had a car. Might as well just drive.

Tell me about your train journeys across America, both good and bad. Or good/bad train journeys anywhere.

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