Around the World in 30 Days VIA/Amtrak
Homepage of Rail articles for improving public long-distance travel.
Where can you for $21 a day buy transportation and housing while seeing the following: Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Miami Beach, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Ground Zero, Polar Bear Capital, Washington Monument, White House, Lincoln Memorial, Golden Gate Bridge, River Walk, Montreal, American and Canadian Rocky Mountains, Halifax, Hollywood, etc? For as little as $638, a 30-day North American Rail from VIA/Amtrak can make your world both larger and smaller. [Note: This pricing and dual-nation railpass is no longer available, ending
For more than a decade, 30-day Rails have been purchased as an alternative to airline tickets for business trips. By leaving the previous evening and sleeping overnight on the train, I arrived half-a-continent away more relaxed and refreshed than if I woke up 3 or 4 hours early, fought the crowds at the airport, paid exorbinant parking fees, breathed unhealthy air and tolerated lottery passengers.
While one has to take many airline flights to accumulate enough credits for one plane ride, it is the opposite with Amtrak Rail. Take one business trip on the train and then have the number of days left on the pass for vacations and weekenders. The same way with attending a funeral--have more than a moist eye by which to remember the deceased.
On a train, you have not only bigger seats but you can more easily move to another seat, to a lounge or a cafe if the passenger lottery gives you a loser. Try that on a plane. On a plane, how often do you look out the window because there is something interesting and new? On a train, if you want to work, you have to discipline yourself to abstain from both scenic and passengers views.
In recent years, 30-day Railes took on new meaning to this writer as the trains were found to be a catalyst to completing work project that required only a laptop. A new trend in internet activity is the virtual work and play world one. Better yet a real world of work variety with a Rail.
Where can you work for several hours and get off in a new city with a few hours of tourism relief? Where? On a train. As an ants-in-your-pants tourist who burns out on total touristing 24-7, the measured bites of a little now, a little later makes visiting cities more fun as with each visit I go down my checklist of things to see. It is like the difference between a happy year-round marriage and a week in a bordello. I prefer ten half-day visits to LA instead af a single weeklong stay in gagaland.
Where can you work and have lunch in a cafe overlooking the North Atlantic while you have conversation on trains, economics, politics and humanity with the train conductor and engineer? At work? With WIFI and satellite internet hookups, one can track stories when notified by cellphone even when the story is unwanted news. I was rocking and rolling in the Canadian Rockies when my wife called about the student killings at Virginia Tech which I then followed on-line.
In Fall 2006, a project was combined with the goal of going a distance equal to the length of the equator around the earth, 24,901 miles. Every trans-continental train was used: Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and the Canadian as well as north-south trains (Texas Eagle, City of New Orleans, Silver Star, Silver Meteor and Crescent) and the trains connecting Chicago to the East (Capital Limited, Lakeshore Limited and the Cardinal). While this rider has taken it to the extreme in service of promoting a less global warming mode of long-distance travel, there are many ways that the average traveler can benefit from rail passage. In many ways, the shift from planes to trains in a world concerned with global warming and energy costs will mirror the increase use of bicycles instead of automobiles for travel to work and pleasure.
Unfortunately, the final week was cut short at 22,000 miles when it was realized that utilizing the pass was going to deny a seat to a person wanting to go home for Thanksgiving. I may be a turkey in a lot of ways but not when it comes to denying another the holiday turkey. Besides, it added weight to getting another pass sooner than I might otherwise have. Altogether, three 30-day passes were enjoyed in a twelve-month period. I spent 1 in 4 days on a train. Yes, I must confess, I am an addict whose tracks are not on his arm but on the railbeds. Do I look forward to my next rail pass? Yes, but not tomorrow. I think my next one will be the Australian $680 six-month pass. I think I'll call that article, "Down under to the moon and back."
In Spring, 2007, a non-holiday compromised trip was begun and finished after traveling 25,058 miles--see map, itinerary, ticket stubs, and postcards. During the trip a major project received most of the keystrokes. The idea of an article titled "Around the World in 30 Days VIA Amtrak" was not new. Ah, a few days would give wings to a train story. Ah, the story became more than a travelog. It became a guide to how others could have more fun and funds by combining work travel with free vacation and weekend travel.
While train travel offers closer views of one's land than flying at 35,000 feet it does not mean better views. Since tracks were laid from city center to city center with manufacturing lining the rails, one sees the detritus of decay and decline. More ominously, one sees changes in the biomass including forest and swap fires that may or may not be due to human activity. Given the stakes, maybe we should treat global warming as an every busier intersection needing a stop sign rather than wait for a fatal accident when it may be too late.
While the economics will change, the chicken nature of a 30-day Rail cannot be denied: cheap, cheap, cheap. With gasoline costing $3 a gallon, the simple costs per mile of a 20mpg car is fifteen cents. The around-the-world journey cost less than three cents per mile. Add in the cost of wear and tear on both body of self and car, the bargain becomes a barnyard of poor trips to crow about.
In the coming articles, benefits of train travel are presented with a special focus on the different ways to benefit from buying a Rail instead of a plane ticket. Vacation and weekender options are presented. In addition, several 28-day tours are descibed with itinerary and maps, Students and Writers, which can be used by others as individuals, couples or groups. Complimenting the encouragement to use the more green, enviromentally friendly trains instead of planes is how rail service can be improved by passengers and politician--Bad, Bad Amtrak.
Like all paths in life with their different thumps and bumps, the Serenity Prayer is a good item to pack when you ride a train. If you dwell on the minor inconveniences of rail travel, you won't enjoy the pluses. On the hand, if you laugh at the inconveniences, you will enjoy the train, yourself and life more.
|Life on the rails
|Bad, Bad Amtrak||Rail Usage:
30-day passes by RSB:
Around The World
Rail Cars Wanted