Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"All the Hot Water You Can Dream Of": Top Ten Tips for Riding Amtrak

I've been trying to fly less lately in an effort to be less of a greenhouse gas emitter, but I still want to go home to Wisconsin for the holidays. After a failed attempt to find a shared ride on Craigslist, my girlfriend and I booked tickets on the train. The last time I was on Amtrak, I was a little kid, so I asked my friend Brady for some advice. Although he's taking "the 'hound" this year, he's a fairly regular train traveler. (I'm not sure if, in item 8, he really meant "brush your teeth" instead of "brush your teets," but I guess I'll just do both to play it safe.)

Here's the poop:

10. there are only one or two outlets on the train
for charging your phones- they're in the
sightseeing car, and you may have to fight for

9. bring a cooler packed with fresh food and two

8. make sure to wash your face / brush your teets on
long trips- it'll make you feel a lot fresher

7. get there early for good seats. if there is a
long line for getting upstairs to your car, enter
the train from another car and run between cars to
get yourselves the best seats. frequently it's
people stowing luggage on the first floor that
muck things up- don't store your luggage down

6. forget all that you remember about trains in
europe, especially that cool one in france with
the blue ceiling, the overpriced cokes and the
seats that folded to accomodate groups. especialy
forget about getting any fresh air while the train
is in motion. bring some of that with you in a
can if you think you'll miss it.

5. make friends with the snack bar lady- she's
probably grouchy on the outside, but a real dame
on the inside. she'll give you all the hot water
you can dream of, so bring some tea bags.

4. think creature comforts- maybe an eye mask? ear
plugs? some real utensils to eat with? a real
glass to drink from? it's surprising how those
things can make you feel like you're 1st class
(which, by the way doesn't exist on Amtrak).

3. if you really need a good night's sleep, show up
in the dining car for dinner and they'll seat you
with strangers- most likely from the sleeper cars.
only strangers, and people who get sleeper cars
can afford the dining room food (though it's not
bad, if i remember right). there in the dining
car, sitting across from strangers, you can
befriend them and convince them to let you sleep
on their floor. i've never successfully done this,
but thought about it often.

2. don't think they won't leave you
somewhere (get back on when they say) and know
that there are unofficial Amtrak stations (like
Olympia) that can't modify your tickets.

1. one could bring a marker along and play a funny prank on
their cardboard makeshift garbage cans (see the
attached photo).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not sure about the outlet point. I've taken Amtrak back and forth b/t NYC and Phila, DC and Boston, and have always had plenty of outlets on both the regional and the Acela. But then, I always sit in the quiet car, so maybe that's the thing.