The Cardinal Makes a Convert.
Some years back, I met a woman over lunch on Amtrak’s train #51, the westbound Cardinal. I was heading for Chicago following a NARP meeting in Washington. She had some high-stress job in Philadelphia and was treating herself to several relaxing days at the famous Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
I was shown to a seat across from her at lunch and almost from the moment I sat down, she started raving about her experience on the Cardinal. When she first got the idea for the luxurious getaway, her first thought was to fly. That is, until she discovered that it would involve two stops, almost five hours en route, and close to $800 for the round-trip air fare.
But someone had suggested she look into taking the train. She did and was delighted with the results. She had boarded the Cardinal in Philadelphia just after 8:00 that morning and would be at the Greenbrier in plenty of time for dinner. In the meantime, she was positively crowing about having her own private accommodations and the lovely scenery—we had just crossed the Blue Ridge mountains. She was marveling at having her own private accommodations, about being able to get up and walk around, and about having a decent meal in the dining car. And all for a couple of hundred dollars less that it would have cost her to fly.
The big laugh came at the end of the meal when, not yet realizing that her meal was included in her fare, she tried to pay for her lunch. You can imagine how delighted she was.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through a version of that experience. You can almost see the light bulb go off when someone suddenly understands the difference between flying and taking an overnight train: your vacation begins when you get off the plane; but it starts when you get on the train.