Monday, December 11, 2006

Traveling by Train to Florida

Airplane travel has become inexpensive and, once one becomes skilled in transiting security, a bearable chore. On the other hand, I have always found long-distance train travel to be an adventure. When I made plans to visit my daughter in Florida, this weekend, I decided to look into traveling by train as an option, and it proved feasible. I was surprised how the prospect of 24 hours on the train, tracing a route last taken as a young man, excited me.

Washington DC Union Station has been transformed from a dreary relic into a commercial wonderland, filled with stores, displays and moderately upscale restaurants. There was time for a relaxing lunch, sitting on a balcony under the vaulted roof of the main waiting before boarding the sleeping car section of “The Silver Crescent” bound for Tampa St. Petersburg and Miami. My ‘roomette” was more spacious than on the older Pullman cars – and more expensive – but I didn’t mind. The space was billed as accommodating two, but I think this only applies to a young couple in the romantic phase of dating or early marriage. After many intense end-of-semester days at AU, I relished the solitude. A tapestry of familiar terrain, unfolding outside my window, brought back memories. Occasionally, I would read email on my Blackberry, make phone calls or complete a deferred task stored on my computer. But mostly, I just sat back, in my room or taking three quite acceptable dining-car meals, absorbing the sights and sounds.

Sleeping car travel is a somewhat costly anachronism. It is for those who relish a unique travel experience, perhaps steeped in memories, not for ‘busy people’ who want to get somewhere fast. But I am glad I took the time, shall do so again, and perhaps share the experience with one of my grandchildren.

Today, it is back to reality. I am writing this seated in the aisle seat of a Southwest Airlines flight from Tampa to Washington Dulles. Travel time in the air, about two hours, plus four hours of security and travel to and from airports.

But the train trip to Tampa will not be my last train trip, God willing.


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