Monday, October 26, 2009

A Trip On Amtrak

Well, I am back from my timeout. We cruised up the Hudson river for six days, saw a lot of beautiful foliage and met some really nice people. I will write more about that later, and perhaps put some of my 212 pictures on line.
We sailed from New York City to Troy and back. Naturally we had to get to New York, so we took the train. (Why do we say, “We took the train?” The train actually took us, but if I say, “The train took us,” it doesn’t sound right. I guess it’s one of those idiosyncrasies of the English language.)
Anyway, from 1948 to 2006 I rode the train only one time; since then I have had three train rides. Since then we have taken cruises out of Boston, Baltimore and New York, and if you are taking trip of up to say, eight hours, I highly recommend the train, especially if you do not have to change trains along the way. There is no traffic and no frustration. And it’s relatively inexpensive – the round trip tickets for two from Lancaster to New York cost just $153 (senior rate).
Amtrak has a highly efficient system for issuing tickets: you pick your dates of travel and the origin and destination of your trip, and a huge list of available schedule times and rates pops up. If there is a change of trains involved, make sure you schedule enough time between them to transfer your luggage without rushing. Then you print out a bar code, take it to the station whenever you are ready, stick it in a kiosk, and your tickets print out.
And unlike the airlines, Amtrak people are easy to deal with. When we got to New York, we found the cruise was returning on Friday instead of Saturday as we had expected. The hotel manager aboard the ship called Amtrak, and in ten minutes our tickets were changed to Friday.
And on Friday, when we got to Penn Station, the ticket clerk said, “Hey, we have an earlier through train if you would like to take that one.” We jumped at the chance to get home two hours earlier. (No extra fees.)
When I was young, I traveled on overnight trips several times, and I do not think I would want to do that again. But for one day trips, it’s Amtrak for me.
In the interest of full disclosure, there is one drawback: I am talking about east coast lines. I am not sure there are as many options available in the heartland.

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