Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hittin' the Rails

When given the choice between planes, trains, and automobiles, I am usually either forced to fly due to time constraints or to drive due to financial limitations. Every once in a while I am in the lucky position to be able to make a journey via train, and I have yet to be disappointed when I do. It takes a few more hours than flying and it costs a bit more than driving, but it is a relaxing and entertaining part of the adventure.

Right now I’m sitting in the “sight seer lounge” (sp?) which is an open car with lots of windows and lots of AC outlets to power my phone, laptop, and ipod, which means I can drink fresh coffee, look out on the Arkansas countryside, listen to my favorite music while I blog about it all. I won’t even give Greyhound (grrrrrr) the compliment of a comparison with Amtrak’s level of service – friendly staff, clean facilities, hot meals, and a relaxing atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep and undying love for roadtrips, but when I want a stress-free way to pass through 1000 miles, the train is the only way to go, especially for a short trip because 16 hours of solo driving has a way of draining all mental and physical energy, not to mention the inherent danger involved in cross-country interstate driving.

I’m tempted at this point to begin a diatribe about how the most well developed country in the world has one of the pitiful rail systems in the country and that came to be (we had a widespread rail system that fell into disrepair in favor of the interstate highway system), but I won’t. I’m not going to describe how India and China, two of the poorest countries in the world have a extremely efficient, well-utilized, and compressive train systems. I’m also not going to get started on how the government-owned Amtrak system is forced to pay to use private rail lines that were built with extensive government subsidies. Not only do taxpayers have to pay to use rail lines that were put in place thanks to government assistance, but Amtrak trains are directed as the lowest priority with all private freight trains receiving preference. What does this mean? I am now an hour and a half late because we have been forced three times to stop and let freight trains pass, something that Amtrak has no control over because rail lines are privately owned and controlled. I’m also not going to begin a tirade about how the government acts as a buttress for big business rather than a regulator safeguarding the peoples’ rights from the greed of massive corporate automatons. No really, I don’t have time for that tirade. Well, actually I do have time since I have nine more hours of train left, but I’d rather spend that thinking about my stupid-cute niece and nephew in Missouri rather than the pseudo-fascist state of our nation.

So far my loose and ever-evolving use of this blog has been to describe my experiences in the variety places that I have visited, but as a proud new uncle I can’t help but to post pictures of my little sister’s twin babies, Mason and Madelyn, who happen to be the cutest babies in the world (to me anyway).