West Coast to East Coast and Back – by Amtrak

It’s time to begin thinking about attending the Spring meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers held every year in Washington. In addition to the usual amount of business, these meetings include a Day on the Hill, when we knock on Congressional doors seeking support for rail in general and Amtrak in particular.

Those of us who serve NARP as officers or directors or elected members of the Council of Representatives pay our own expenses when attending these meetings. Happily, because of NARP’s non-profit (501C-3) status, those expenses are tax deductible. I am unashamed to admit that I will use that fact to rationalize yet another cross-country train ride.

My current itinerary, subject to further tinkering, includes flying to Los Angeles and connecting with Amtrak’s Sunset Limited for the two-night trip to New Orleans, where I will make another memorable visit to the D-Day museum, enjoy a couple of superb meals at Irene’s, and spend an evening listening to one of the city’s great jazz bands.

From there I’ll take the City of New Orleans overnight to Chicago, connecting with the Lake Shore Limited to Boston, yet another overnight ride. Of course that will mean attending a couple of Red Sox games at Fenway Park. By happy coincidence, April 20, 2012, will mark the 100th anniversary of the first major league game played in this venerable old ballpark and there will be an appropriate celebration to mark the occasion. I will probably have to pay a scalper three or four times face value to get a ticket to the celebration and game, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

From Boston, I’ll take one of Amtrak’s high-speed Acela’s to Washington for the NARP meetings. Then return to Chicago on the Capital Limited, where – Is there no end to these happy coincidences? – the Red Sox will be in town to play the White Sox. After two ballgames there, I’ll be aboard the California Zephyr en route to the Bay area and my flight back home.

All of this serves to illustrate, I hope, my contention that a long-distance train ride is not just another mode of transportation. Far from it! An overnight train journey is part of your vacation experience, except there is no hotel bill to pay and, assuming you’re riding in an Amtrak sleeping car, no meals to pay for either.

I’m already looking forward to the April trip. And don’t worry: I’ll tell you all how it goes.