Well, after two and half days of Amtrak train travel I can say that I have experienced some existential disappointment. I feel like a lifetime of watching movies has been totally wasted.
Not once did a porter offer me a pitcher of martinis as a nightcap, as I was led to understand was the norm, while watching the Thin Man movies.
The cabin we occupied could not have held any more than two Marx Brothers at a time, and you can just forget Zeppo, steamer trunks, suitcases and the camel. Well, if it was a Marx Brothers movie, there was probably a camel or two in there somewhere.
And most importantly, and sadly, not once was anyone thrown from the train, mothers and strangers, included. Nor did anyone pull the emergency cord, causing everyone to collapse into a heap at the front of the train car, and Mary wouldn’t let me do it, even for research.
One thing that came as a bit of a surprise is how rough the ride actually is on a train. And since there are a serious number of old folks aboard, and pretty feeble olds at that, this is an issue since they’re pinballing back and forth between the walls of the corridors. Watching them try and make their way to their seats in the dining car I was always trying to reach out to catch them as they careened down one side and up the other.
Overall, though train travel is kind of cool. It suffers from being a great deal slower, true, but as opposed to air travel you do get to see a lot more of the scenery, up close like. And no one is fondling your intimate parts in the name of national security, unless you want them to, in which case, I really don’t want to hear about it, you pervert. The sleepers are more comfortable insofar as the beds are concerned than we assumed they would be. Indeed, we both slept a great deal more than we planned, and in Mary’s case the rocking of the carriage seemed to be at just the right frequency to cause her to drop into a light nap, approximately every fifteen minutes or so. I, at one point, considered having a doctor look at her after we got to New York to see if she had contracted narcolepsy. On the other hand our room, even with the beds up, could barely hold the two of us and we frequently had to resort to one person curling up on the bench seats or standing outside in the corridor while the other one dressed, or scratched, or basically did anything that was not sitting quietly.
I’d recommend train travel across country only under the following circumstances: If you aren’t constrained for time.
If you are the type that the journey is the destination, instead of the destination being the destination.
If you have a decent amount of cash.
If you like scenery.
If you like to read.
If you’re not particularly picky about your food.
We would not recommend long distance train travel for people that need a TV pretty much all the time. Or for people that don’t like to read and/or watch the scenery, or talk to other passengers. If you don’t want to share a table in the diner with strangers, either bring along another couple, or eat snacks in your cabin. And if you have to be continually connected to the Intratubes, you might want to stick to the planes, since there they only make you turn the devices off for 10 minutes at the beginning and end, whereas, on the long distance Amtrak trains there is no wifi, so you’re thrown back into your own personal Dark Ages.
Would we do it again? As a means of getting to a destination, probably not. As a trip all by itself, possibly, though that would increase to almost a certainty if they re-institute martinis served in your cabin.