I was flying from Brooklyn to visit
my then-girlfriend in Tampa. The golden early morning light over Chesapeake
Bay. View from Seat 12A.
is safe. But I still don't like it. I much prefer slower modes closer
to the ground. I haven't flown within the USA in a long time, but I do grudgingly
fly overseas. But the next time I go to Europe, I hope to get there by cargo
When I moved to Seattle from NYC in
Fall 1998, I took Amtrak--in part because I could transport a lot of extra
baggage for just $5 per 3'x3'x3' box. I brought six! Back in the day, the
Empire Builder used to have a smoking car, but nowadays
most trains don't. Thus smokers like this woman need to get off at infrequent
station layovers where they huff and puff in haste regardless of weather
until "all aboard" is called. This is St. Paul.
Havre, Montana is one of the lengthier layovers on Amtrak's
Empire Builder. I usually take it as an opportunity to
buy a six-pack of beer for $6 at the Oxford Sports Bar, which you enter through
the back door which faces the train platform. Havre Nice Day!
Newark International Airport ticketing area on a slow
day. I think I was on my way to Prague in May 1998. I ate a special brownie
at the gate, where I struck up a conversation with
a lovely young
Czech woman who was taking a break from being an au pair in Kansas.
As luck would have it, our seat assignments were adjacent so we spent the
flight getting drunk on Czech "martinis" (vermouth on the rocks) and holding
hands. As we moved towards kissing, she suddenly remembered she was flying
home to spend a week with her boyfriend and went back to her own seat.
First glimpse of Pacific Northwest from
Empire Buildersleeper car, morning of October 28, 1998.
If you buy your ticket far enough in advance, it's actually pretty economical
to travel in the utmost luxury in a private compartment with 2 chairs, 2
bunks, and a little table. It's also quite romantic, if you know what I mean.
The Chicago-New York run's sleepers all have their own toilets, which I found
a bit unsavory. After all, hasn't Amtrak ever heard the adage, Don't shit
where you sleep?
I think I was diverted to an overnight
stay in Phoenix, Arizona on a flight from the east coast to Seattle. I remember
sitting in an outdoor hot tub in moonlight. It was all right. It's pretty
amazing how sometimes the cheapest flights include free overnight hotel stays.
Phoenix was no great shakes, but I did once get a full day and night in Helsinki
on my way back from Prague. I still have the sunglasses I bought at the huge
Stockman department store there in 1995.
Siloes, ranches, crops, big sky, other
trains, tiny towns. The
Empire Builder offers a visual feast, even when--and
maybe especially because of--it's just huge apparently repetitive