by Jennifer Beaumont
In late June and early July, my friend Valarie and I traveled from Philadelpia by train to New Orleans with a stop in Birmingham, Alabama. In stops along the way, we spent time exploring several places associated with African American history.
We were on and off the trains for 11 days. It was our first vacation by train, and neither Valarie nor I knew what to expect. I started out from Philadelphia and she began her excursion in Virginia Beach (Newport News station). Meeting in Washington, DC, we started out for Chicago, Memphis, Jackson and New Orleans in a skyliner car of the City of New Orleans train. We would return via Birmingham on the Crescent.
Planning the trip was made extremely easy by the super helpful agents who were knowledgeable about the routes, as well as about some of the cities. Staff on the trains kept us all laughing most of the time, but always well informed about the reasons for delays, upcoming stops, as well as times and options for dining.
A special feature we enjoyed, while sitting in the Lounge Car, was the information shared by volunteers participating in the National Park Service's Trails and Rails program. We took tours, enjoyed regional fare and wandered the streets of each city.