Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Auto Train as Spiritual Journey Part 1

Now that spring has come, I can admit that this is actually my second spring of the year.

My first spring was in early March, when spouse and I took the Auto Train to Florida. And, unexpectedly, back again.

For those of you who live on the East Coast and do not enjoy flying, the Auto Train is an alternative. It is an Amtrak train that runs non stop (well, one stop, but not to take on passengers) between Lorton, VA (just south of DC) and Sanford, FL (just north of Orlando). If you are lucky you leave around 4pm (either way) and arrive the next day around 10. In another hour or so, you have your car and you are on your way.

Catches? A couple....
1. You must have a vehicle (doesn't have to be a car-can be a motorcycle, SUV or something large) to ride the Auto Train
2. Planning to sleep? Don't. Expect to be sleep-deprived the next day. Sleep is a bonus. But more on that later.

We have taken 3 trips on the Auto Train. There are some very nice features to it.

1. The sardine-can mentality of the airlines has not hit the Auto Train. You sit two across, and there is a ton of legroom. And, of course, you can move around.
2. Lots more ability to carry luggage on board. There is security, but it is very unobtrusive. To date, we haven't been picked for random searches. On the Lorton end, our car was "sniffed" without us having to get out, my guess was for explosives.
3. Lots of "included in the fare". Free coffee, free water, free fruit (apples, bananas) to munch on, free snacks (a mixture of pretzels, corn chips, cheeze doodles-if you want nutrition there is the fruit) free dinner, free continental breakfast. Free wine with dinner.
4. The crews are very customer service conscious. At least the ones we have traveled with. A lot of snowbirds travel this train and Amtrak is very service conscious on this train.
5. A big plus for us, with apologies to those traveling as families with children - separate cars for family and adults traveling without children. On our first trip, with a 16 year old, we were able to sit in the adult car.
6. There are electric outlets, so you can bring a laptop. A lot of people do that to amuse themselves. There isn't much entertainment, unless you count your fellow passengers as entertainment. Don't depend on the "movie" they advertise-it is in a lounge car, on a small TV screen.

In my next post, more on our travel experiences with the Auto Train, and how I renewed a love relationship with trains that started when I was a young teenager.

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