The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

It's like a slow but very roomy airplane with good service

It's 2:00 pm and I'm here in the Hart Memorial Central Library in Kissimmee, Florida with some time to kill. Why I'm in the Hart Memorial Central Library is a story unto itself.

A week and a half ago, my friend Tom Lanahan, a train aficionado, invited me to ride along with him on the Georgia 300, a private rail car that is currently attached to end of the Silver Meteor and heading south. The only catch was that I needed to be in Kissimmee at 1:26 pm today in order to catch the train as it headed south.

I didn't miss the train—it's currently running two hours late, where as the north bound Silver Meteor, the train I took to Kissimmee, was on time, arriving in Kissimmee at 1:06 pm on the nose.

Thus, I have some time to kill.

This is the first time I've taken Amtrak and it wasn't a bad experience. The seats are wide, there's plenty of leg room (oh my God the leg room!) and the one-way ticket wasn't expensive at all (one way, since I'll be taking a private rail car back to Chez Boca). Lunch, while a bit on the expensive side (of course—they have a captive audience) was surprisingly good.

And I can't complain about the service. It's been excellent all along.

But there is one thing I can complain about

The Write Train

Last year, Amtrak offered a residency program for writers, where Amtrak would provide a free round-trip ticket to qualifying writers. A type of “working vacation” if you will, where there is no distraction except for the clack-clack-clack of train wheels on rail as the train criss-crosses the continent. It sounds wonderful in theory.

In theory.

I gave some thought to signing up, but I'm not a writer, nor an aspiring writer (even if I play one on the Intarwebs). I figured I would forgo the chance for a free train ride and let someone more deserving have a shot.

Yeah, like with 16,000 applicants I ever stood a chance of going.

Now we get to practice.

Calling the train ride “bumpy” is incorrect. It's not bumpy. It's not a constant “up-and-down” motion but more a “left-right” motion. I would call it “swishy.” It's a very swishy ride.

It's so swishy that it's damn near impossible to write! My typing rate was about a quarter normal and the use of the backspace key was at an all time high.

How in the world is anyone expected to write?

That is my biggest complaint about the trip so far. I had this intention of writing during the trip to Kissimmee but it proved a fruitless endeavour. It was just too damn swishy to write.

The other issue was the cell phone coverage. The Silver Meteor doesn't have wi-fi, but that's okay because I can use my cell phone as a hot spot. Or I would had the cell coverage been decent, and it wasn't.

What the XXXX, Verizon‽ I thought you were supposed to have like the best coverage of all celular carriers. Hello? Hello?

Hmm … I guess they can't hear me.

Anyway …

Three swishy hours later and all I have to show for it are nearly incoherent notes filled with typos. There is no way you can expect to actually write on a train trip.

Notes from a library in downtown Kissimmee

The guy sitting across the table from me at the library is falling asleep. His nose is about to hit the table, and he's snoring loudly.

The Georgia 300

Ah, the Georgia 300.

[This is my picture of the Georgia 300.  There are many like it, but this one is mine.]

This is how you travel. From the Georgia 300 platform at the rear of the car:

[So this is what the view from a whistle stop campaign looks like.]

to the dining room near the front:

[Don't let the multiple dining utensils frighten you—just remember the order of use is always start with the outside and work your way in.]

and everything in between the two:

[The best seat in the house—I mean car.] [There's nothing quite like lounging in a well appointed den moving at 60 mph.] [Three staterooms to the right, and the dining room at the far end.  There's quite a bit packed into a 74′ train car.]

A person could certainly get spoiled traveling this way. How can you not like the custom China plates?

[Don't worry—George has you covered.] [Original dinner ware from the Georgia Railroad.]

Or even the China cabinet?

[I would expect to see something like this at Biltmore, not on a train.]

On the down side, it's not cheap.

And four hours is not nearly enough time to enjoy the ride. Four days is more like it (and yes, I'm totally jealous of Tom).

Really Amtrak? Really? You using that slogan?

One thing I didn't mention on my train ride to Kissimmee was this:

[Loose lips sink trains or something like that]

This is apparently a thing.

Did no one at Amtrak know this is a famous line from a satirical movie about a distopic, totalitarian bureaucratic government attempting to fight terrorists and freelance heating engineers?


Still … it beats flying.

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