Friday, August 23, 2013

Best of AM - The Auto Train as Spiritual Journey Part 1

This series was one of the first things I posted on my blog back in 2009.  In honor of the Labor Day travel season, I post it again.  I took a fourth ride on the Auto Train this winter and - well, one of these days I'll post about that, too.  Enjoy!

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.

14 comments:

  1. We took a sleeper car (which accommodated me and my two daughters). And, used my laptop to watch a movie (a DVD I had made)...And, we slept...
    But, those "freebies"- they were pretty expensive when you considered the overall cost...
    But, I was transporting a car from a deceased person to another and did not desire to add 1000 miles to the odometer.

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    1. I agree the "freebies" are expensive - but it's still a nice touch. When I traveled on the Auto Train in March, thanks to being on Weight Watchers, I skipped the chex mix but appreciated the free fruit. And, I was amazed at how quiet the family cars were -because all the kids were buried in tablets or something else electronic.

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  2. This sounds like so much fun!! I'd like to see a picture of it, Alana!

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  3. This sounds good. Yes. I'd always prefer to watch the goings on of people close by. Much better than staring at a screen. You can do that any time.

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    1. I agree with you. In March of this year, compared to my 2006 trip, so many more people were buried in tablets or other devices Not too much people watching, not at least in real time.

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  4. I took Amtrak down to Charleston, SC last October and it was a glorious experience ~ so relaxing!

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    1. The Auto Train goes through Charleston, but, sadly, it does not stop. And, it gets there around 3am, so you can't even see anything. (I've been to Charleston twice and love it.)

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  5. I haven't ridden a train since childhood so I enjoyed reading this article It was a reminder of something I need to put on my list of things to enjoy and expose my son to. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. You are welcome, and please come back next week for more.

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  6. That sounds great, except for the not sleeping part. I love trains. I actually had a similar trip but from Los Angeles to Seattle. It was 36 hours and amazing. They even have 1st class so I had a bed to sleep on. I was a happy girl!

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    1. I would have, perhaps, paid extra for a bed for a 36 hour trip. I'd love to take a train on the West Coast one day.

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  7. We catch a normal train very occasionally ( about a 2 hour trip - the kids tend to get restless though) but this sounds like an adventure, I would love to go on a big long train trip one day, always wanted to after reading Murder on the orient express by Agatha Christie (except without the murder mystery of course haha)

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  8. I have never slept in a sleeper car, I don't think I have ever been on a train journey longer than 5 hours before! I can't imagine the likes of a 36 hour trip! *Shudders*

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