I boarded the train in Boston I was excited to spend the majority of the ride reading, writing and listening to music. Well, it started out fantastic; I cued up a good playlist on my iPod, took my seat, started to look out the window, and then quickly fell asleep. Granted it was only for a short period of time, but it sort of set the tone for my first trip.
Boston to DC
It was great; I did enjoy looking out the window at the towns and landscapes brushing by. I took the time to really enjoy my first leg of this long adventure instead of trying to get it all down on paper. The eight hours in my seat really weren't that bad. Really- that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Determined not to complain about the time spent onboard (considering it is one of my shortest trips) I got my mind right for enduring the frequent stops of the Northeast Corridor line.
Getting ready to board the train in Boston.
The Northeast Corridor is a busy one. From Boston to Washington, DC, it is the mode of transportation for countless commuters undertaking their daily migration from the suburbs to one of the main cities along the route. These major cities along the line, although some might not be considered "major" but generate a lot of traffic for Amtrak along the way regardless, are Boston, Providence, New Haven, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Since its origin (Amtrak's inaugural trip was from New York to Philadelphia) the Northeast Corridor has been the prodigal son of the Amtrak family. The Amtrak staff itself is friendly but know that most people are in a rush so adopt an air of efficiency, calling out stops methodically but adding a "yours is next hon" for the younger travelers. It made my arrival at DC's historic Union Station that much more enjoyable. But the young travelers were not common, and even less so were the start-to-finishers like myself who rode the trip in its entirety.
By and large it was a great first stop of my trip. But I know I have a lot left; this was a second of an hour, a step of a marathon, the first tear on a season of Teen Mom. There is much left ahead of me.
DC to New Orleans
Stepping on to the Amtrak Crescent in Washington, DC, was a strange but unique experience. The Coach class car was already filled with people that had gotten on in New York and were well settled in to their movies, books, or mid-trip naps. As we boarded in DC, I felt as though the newcomers were stepping in to a club we did not belong to. Soon the marathon trip would bring us all a little closer though. My backpack just barely fit through the narrow doorways between cars and as I looked for my assigned seat (the steward assigned seats at the entrance to avoid confusion) I became nervous about my spot for the arduous amount of time ahead of me. Washington, DC, to New Orleans is a lengthy 26-hour trip and one of the longest on my route. I planned on spreading out my things, reading a lot, and really stretching out in the limited space I was sure to have.
Reality hit me like a freight train (pun intended) and with immense speed. Before I knew it, my large backpack was up on the luggage rack and I was between the window and my neighbor with my small bag wedged between my feet in no time. Apparently I was very polite in plopping down my stuff because the guy next to me barely glanced away from his movie – Karate Kid (with Jaden Smith) and when I whispered, "Do you mind if I pull the shade back a bit?"
He replied with an easygoing, “Do your thing man”. Alright, I thought, I'll do my thing and you do yours. This won't be too bad squeezed in next to someone for 26 hours. It really wasn't for a while, but the thing with the window seat is you always feel bad about climbing over someone to get out or even asking them to move. I was no exception. For the first three hours I think I stared out the window and listened to my iPod, studying every lyric like they would be on the SATs.
We exchanged the usual pleasantries, and I learned that he was from Virginia but was checking out New York because he was considering moving there with a friend. When I told him I lived in Boston he perked up since he knew Berklee School of Music was up there. Unable to find any more commonalities, we stayed to ourselves until when he was getting off in Charlotte at around midnight (I though he had said he lived in Virginia?), he offered me a half squished Snicker’s bar as a parting gift. I accepted with a slight bit of false excitement and he was up and out before I could even say "take it easy." Overall I think it was an interesting first experience on an overnight train and a good starting point for more to come.
The rest of the ride was actually very relaxing. The Lounge Car is a great place to bring a book, get a drink at the bar and enjoy the time out of your main seat. The Amtrak staff also chat with the passengers or show them where the train is along the route. It’s a meeting place for the stiff, the restless or even the tired to enjoy a little snack and make small talk. I enjoyed the escape to make some phone calls and catch up on my writing.
When I woke up Thursday morning we were passing through Alabama; specifically Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa as the two main stops.
Swampy. Alabama is wet, with short trees and very few branches. I'm sure the time of year has a lot to do with this, but besides the mobile homes and lumber yards, swamps were a reliable scene outside the window. It certainly was an interesting trip, and although I am thankful it's over, I do have a certain pride now that I was able to complete it without going completely insane. New Orleans should be a fantastic second stop and I can't wait to see what it has to offer.