Live blogging the journey from New York to North Carolina.
12:47AM: Home! Train finally pulled in around 11:45PM. Lots of people got on the train, presumably to head down to Florida. They've got a long night ahead of them.
10:47: Somewhere in mid-North Carolina. Train's been blowing its whistle pretty much non-stop the last hour or so. My speculation is that it's to scare animals off the tracks, but since the only things moving slower than the train are the African tree sloth, I think we should be okay.
10:30: We got stuck behind a very slow-moving freight train for awhile, so it pushed us another hour and a half back. Looks like we're now scheduled to arrive about three hours after initially scheduled. What's crazy, though, is that they don't make any announcements about expected arrivals - I have to find everything out myself via internet. Good thing I have a data plan. The lack of customer service is somewhat mind-boggling.
7:52: Traveling is always fun for people-watching and eavesdropping. On my last train, the guy behind me was talking to the dude next to him about a trip to China he made awhile ago. He made the quite ridiculous claim that "Chinese food sucks in China", and backed it up with his experience of "ordering all the normal stuff, like orange chicken, but there were bones and shit sticking out of it". Holy shit. Bones! In chicken! I thought they were invertebrates, to be honest. Like a good American, he finished the conversation by stating how he "probably gained 20 pounds while I was there since all I ate was McDonald's". Nice.
7:30: Approaching Richmond in 5 minutes. EDGE connection barely strong enough, but coming through in patches. One of the nice things about train travel is that you can actually go for a decent walk. I walked eight or so cars to the cafe car, only to find a line at least an hour long, so I walked back, but only made it about five cars until I came to a door that wouldn't open. A moment of temporary panic, since I imagined the cars splitting apart to go to different destinations with me stuck in the wrong section. A few minutes later, a guy from the other side tried to come through, and found it stuck from his side too. Eventually we were able to pull it open - turns out it was just stuck since it's a crappy old train.
5:19: Took two hours to transfer trains and get moving again. What a paragon of inefficiency. Who knows how long the whole journey will take now. At least the second train has a bit more space than the first one.
3:03: About to transfer trains at DC. I'm hoping for a wild west transfer where we jump from the top of one train to another.
2:57: Fuck you, Amtrak. Just found out that these tickets are usually $83. I hope you go bankrupt and a real train company replaces you.
2:52: I'm no locomotive engineer, but here's a tip for future railroad builders of America. If the tracks aren't straight, you can't go fast. It's simple. Build them in a straight line. And ... go.
2:45: Baltimore. Woo. No snow on the ground anymore. Also, no people in this station. Strangely eerie.
2:32: Just got a cold Sam Adams from the "dining car". Zipping through Delaware. Traveling by train has its benefits: More room for coach seats. No security lines. Nice views. We just passed some icy lakes that were reasonably pretty. I'd voluntarily do this trip if it was 3-5 hrs and cost $50. 10 hours and $185 just doesn't cut it.
1:52: (somewhere near Wilmington, Delaware) During the time we waited at Philadelphia, two or three Shinkansen would have left the station for their destination. Whereas the bullet train comes every 10-15 minutes, the Silver Star runs once a day (or possibly twice on some days). America, fuck yeah!
12:57PM: Approaching Philadelphia. Sounds like the train is sold out from Philly onward. Turns out we have to change trains in DC, because we're technically not on the Silver Star yet, we're just on a train that's taking us to the Silver Star.
11:59AM: Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We've reached cruising altitude of 10ft above sea level, and are currently speeding along at a ground speed of approximately 45mph. You may think that we're experiencing some light turbulence, but that's just the old rail lines. Don't worry about keeping your seat belts fastened, because there are no seat belts on trains. If you missed your holiday groping from the TSA, please ask the train attendants for an ex post facto security check. Enjoy your flight!
11:52AM: We're moving! Should be in Raleigh in no time. ;)
11:41AM: Sitting on the train in Penn Station, 39 minutes after scheduled departure time. Already spent two and a quarter hours on a 1:20 LIRR into Penn Station. Apparently a tractor trailer got stuck on the tracks, leading to the delays. Someone rhetorically asked how a truck could get stuck on the train tracks. I suggested that the driver had lowered it for looks and performance. He laughed. New Yorkers appreciate humor even in bad situations.
I've been up for six hours already, and am still just in NYC. On the bright side, I was able to find a nice egg and cheese on sesame bagel sandwich for breakfast at Penn Station. Nowhere has better bagels than New York. Nowhere. Be especially wary of places that have "New York" in the name, but are not geographically located in New York. Those tricksters don't know how to make a good bagel.
There's something calming about old train stations. But I can't get over the fact that the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) was built in 1964. That's nearing fifty years, and we're still stuck with century-old train technology that moves at a snail's pace. How does Sarah Palin reconcile this with "American exceptionalism"?
Also, my feet are finally warm and dry again from pushing my friend's car out of the driveway this morning. Tennis shoes and snow drifts don't go well together.