Doctor Science Knows

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Train Travel

I returned on Sunday from the longest train trip I've taken in quite some time, maybe ever (I'm not sure if I remember taking a train from Chicago to NYC in the early 60s). My aunt passed away on Oct 28th, just before her 80th birthday. Yesterday was the memorial service and wake in North Carolina. We decided to go by train from Trenton NJ to Cary NC, about 9 hours and 540 miles (775km) each way.

We found the train trip to be both cost-effective and sane. It's cheaper than going by plane, and it takes longer it's not "that" much longer given the time it would take to get to the airport and go through Security Theater.

Even more important, my 6ft-tall husband can sit *comfortably*, without tormenting his bad back or worse knee. There are power strips down the sides of the cars, so he could plug in a laptop and even get work done (yes, I use a desktop. I read a book and snooooozed). Not a full, but something -- and you get off feeling exhausted and in need of a chiropractor. Especially if you were snooooooozing.

I've never taken a train south of Washington DC before. I don't think I've ever been down to Atlanta, etc., except by superhighway or air. Because there are no local trains in VA (south of the DC Metro area) or NC, there are only 2 train track "lanes" instead of the 4-5 or more you get in BosWash. So the trains are closer to the landscape and the area about the tracks is less grubby, making for a prettier ride than I'm used to in the NorthEast.

The Distant Future of Fandom and I were very interested to see how different the land use patterns are in in VA and NC compared to NJ & New England. I hadn't realized how *flat* the region is, and how much larger the fields are than the standard for farms further north. I was surprised not to see any tobacco fields (or at least none I recognized -- there's some tobacco farming in the Connecticut River Valley, believe it or not, and the barns for drying the tobacco are quite distinctive).

The house styles, the way the streets are laid out -- broader and straighter than north of the Mason-Dixon line -- reminded D very much of Georgia where he grew up, though the VA/NC area we went through is much flatter and not quite as piney. But to my surprise we went through areas in NC still being cultivated for lumber.

The landscape is beautiful right now -- north of DC the leaves are mostly fallen or past peak, but in VA/NC they're lovely and golden. I was suprised at how low the rivers in VA are -- crossing the James at Richmond, wide stone shoals are visible all across the river. The land doesn't look particularly drought-stricken -- weeds and vines are still green -- but they clearly didn't get as much of a hurricane season as usual.

Do you non-USans take long (more than 300mi/500km) train trips any more? What's train travel like for you?

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