All aboard for the train to nowhere for awhile

Riding Amtrak is an experience. It is, however, one should experience if he or she has time and patience to spare.

Yesterday was one of those times for people in which both time and patience was needed after the West Coast bound Sunset Limited sat for hours surrounded by flood waters in southwestern Texas.

It probably sounds like something is always happening to Amtrak trains. Being stalled here, derailing there, leaving stranded passengers everywhere. But that’s probably no more the case than, or quite less the case, of air passengers getting stuck on their planes or in the airport for one reason or the other.

Personally I like traveling on Amtrak and that’s saying a lot being the impatient person that I am. Both times I traveled on Amtrak included some significant chucks of time which were way out of the boundaries of the trains’ schedule.

My first train trip was on the occasion of my 40th birthday. I took the Texas Eagle from Longview, Texas, to Chicago. From the Windy City I rode the Lake Shore Limited traveling the edge of some of the Great Lakes through places such as Cleveland, Buffalo and Albany before arriving in Pittsfield, Mass., where I spent the week with my friend Sally.

The train was about six hour late in arriving in Longview and I had zero time for a layover in Chicago, just catching the other train in time. On my return trip, I got to spend enough hours in Chicago just to get a bite and take the elevator up to the top of the Sears Building.

My next trip was for a newspaper assignment and I was unable to leave the night I planned so I took the bus to Austin a day later and rode back on the train.

But it’s a wonderful way to travel. You see sights you wouldn’t notice if you were driving or couldn’t see from the air if you were flying. It’s mostly a laid-back way to go and especially on longer trips you have the opportunity to make friends with various misfits.

Before taking my first train trip, I was a little nervous about Amtrak because I too heard nothing but bad things happening to Amtrak. But as misfortune would have it. A train wrecked out in the desert between the time I bought my ticket and departed for the east. I figured the possibility that I was on a doomed train had somehow lessened. Maybe that’s absurd, maybe not.

Still I imagine being cooped up on the train all day like the people yesterday were was no fun. But it’s like Mrs. O’Leary once said: S**t happens.

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