Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Zen and the Art of Amtrak: Part 2

When taking the rails, the first rule of Zen and the Art of Amtrak is foremost: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” If you’re brave enough to attempt the cross country rail trek, you must be willing to throw your schedule out the window. Do not schedule anything for 24 hours after your arrival in either direction. Trust me. If you give yourself that 24 hour buffer zone, your trip will be that much more relaxed, so that the odd derailment, mechanical failure, 2 hours waiting for goddamn freight trains to pass you in the middle of the night (more on those later) will seem like nothing but small trifle on the great adventure that is your Amtrak journey. Okay, so that’s overstating it just a tad. Even the Dalai Lama would probably be swearing like a longshoreman some of these bumps in the road. It’s just important to know that no one should ever take the train to rely on the schedule that Amtrak has set. They are so notorious off time that I can’t believe they haven’t built in at least one secret hour onto all scheduled routes. So far all of my trips this “adventure” have been at least a half hour late, and the lateness goes up exponentially, the longer the trip. Just for laughs, I thought I would play the home game with the handy time schedule provided in my Superliner Roomlette (quite nice for myself, I think that if I had to share this with another person, even one of my nearest and dearest, it might not be so Zen). The time schedule is nice because not only does it give you the time you’re supposed to arrive at the next station, but it gives you the miles between stations so when the train is moving at a speed that you could walk faster than, you can weep extra hard at thinking how much further you have to go.
Our kickass conductor Bree (I can call her that now, since boarding she’s already threatened to throw 2 people off the train, one for smoking the other for opening a door while we were stopped) is determined to get this bucket of bolts back on schedule which makes playing the home game that much more entertaining.Here's a view from the front, bug guts and all. And an early morning glimpse of La Junta, CO site of the train clearing detour from the west to east version of my trip back in September.

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