Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Union Station HDR2a
Union Station main hall, Washington, D.C., as seen in a High Dynamic Range image.

My last Northeastern peregrination was a little different from the usual, mainly owing to my reliance on mass transit for so much of the heavy lifting.

Instead of simply flying from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. and thence onward to Points North, I elected to change things up: I flew to Washington, sure - but from there, it was trains all the way.

Perhaps I was emboldened by my positive experiences with train travel in Japan two years ago... or by the warm nostalgia summoned up by my memories of traveling on the Florida Special from New York to Miami and back, forty-eight years ago. Or maybe I didn’t want the expense and hassle of driving a rental car in New York, or the aggravation attendant upon flying into any of the New York airports, where unpredictable delays are the order of the day. No matter. I decided to fly round trip from Atlanta to Washington, and use Amtrak to get to and from New York. And I’m glad I did.

The only automobile travel I did between last Thursday morning and yesterday afternoon, when I drove myself to and from my usual offsite airport parking lot in Atlanta, was courtesy of The Other Elisson and Eli (hizzownself). Everything else - between Washington National Airport and my various landing spots in D.C. and New York, that is - was via Washington’s Metro, Amtrak, the Long Island Railroad, the New York subway system, or good old-fashioned shank’s mare. Taxis? Pfaugh.

There’s a lot to be said for a conveyance that allows you to sit comfortably sans seat belt, wander up and down at will, stop in the dining car for a cup of coffee or a snack, and even plug in to a 100 volt AC outlet to run a laptop or recharge a smartphone. And there is a grandeur in some of the classic train stations that is lacking in modern airports.

Take Grand Central Station in New York, for example... or Union Station in Washington. The latter has a gorgeous domed ceiling and plenty of marble statuary, just the kind of public space you’d expect to see serving as a Best Foot Forward for a nation’s capital city, back in the day when everybody who was anybody would arrive by train. Now it’s packed with restaurants and shops, making it a perfectly comfortable place to while away an hour or two of waiting time. (Any place with a good bookstore, or with a shop that sells Neuhaus chocolates, is OK by me.)

Union Station HDR1a

The best thing about Union Station, though, was meeting Elder Daughter there Monday between trains. We had missed each other on the front end of my trip - since she had been away attending the international AIDS Conference in Vienna, I had gone on to New York rather than staying in D.C. Thursday evening - but now she was back, and was able to pry a few minutes loose from her ridiculously hectic schedule to take lunch with her Old Man. Afterwards, we hoofed it down to the Metro (escalators never work when you have a heavy valise in hand) and each of us caught Red Line trains - she to Silver Spring, I in the opposite direction towards the airport. And strangely, I felt like I had just spent a few moments back in the 1940’s... had I been wearing my Panama hat and a tropical-weight linen suit, the illusion would’ve been complete.

1 comment:

K-nine said...

Ah, trains. Almost every little boy has a love affair with trains... And some of us never grew up. I'm sitting on my front porch now listening to the rumble of an east bound freight now.
A few weeks back we hit the nc transportation museum over in Spencer and rode a couple of old train cars up and down the tracks.
Saturday I'll be jaunting the Amtrak way down to Charlotte for under 9 dollars.
I used to live in silver spring md, two blocks from the metro station... Afternoons spent on the mall at the smith, dinner at the dubliner by union station.
My brother lives in NoVa, and I was just thinking about amtraking up to dc, taking the red line to it's far end point in Vienna and having him meet me there.
Wow... Great memories, and inspiration to boot.
Thanks E.