Twice in my life I’ve ridden Amtrak. It’s an experience I hope to never repeat now that I’ve actually repeated it.
The first train I rode was the train they call the City of New Orleans on a trip to New Orleans. New Orleans was great and very much worth the trip. The train they call the City of New Orleans was not. It was slow and at some point stopped completely after it hit a truck or a truck hit it or the driver went on strike or something. The only good thing was that I was traveling with my then girlfriend (a relationship that would not end so well) and I got to read a lot.
I tried to enjoy the scenery at times, but since the train moved slowly before it stopped, I got tired of staring at the same tree.
The next time I rode Amtrak I got suckered by low prices. I decided to go visit some Peace Corps friends of mine in Vermont and New York City. After careful research, I discovered that, because of a price special, a train ticket to New York was cheaper than a plane ticket to New York.
Forgetting my past experience, I bought the ticket and hopped the train to Chicago, at 2 a.m. or something like that, from an ill-kempt station in Memphis that reminded me of my one train trip in Albania. Several hours after I started I finally arrived in Chicago. Along the way I made friends/temporary travel companions with a Swedish lass (Svensk tjej?) named Marie who remained a long time pen pal, even after I moved to Japan.
I then took the next leg from Chicago to New York which involved a brief stay in either Purgatory or Buffalo, I’m still not sure which. At some point I arrived in New York, saw my friend there and then took a bus to Vermont to see my other friend. Eventually I ended up back on the train and ended up back in Memphis.
It’s no exaggeration to say I could have got to Tokyo and back in the time it took me to get to New York and back on the train. And I’d at least have been able to watch a movie.
The lesson learned from all this was that when the song says “I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done” it actually means “I’ll have abandoned the 19th century toy and hopped on an airplane”.
Enjoy the ride.