There’s More Than Just the Scenery.
Strike up a conversation with first-time travelers on one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and they will invariably tell you they’re “seeing the country”. They’re right, of course, because for rookie Amtrak travelers, that alone will make it a memorable experience.
But most of those people will have another, very different, new experience . . . one that’s hard to get almost anywhere else.
Amtrak dining cars follow the railroad tradition of what they call “community dining”, which means you will be seated at a table with other passengers. I must tell you it’s become my favorite part of every Amtrak trip. Yesterday I came across a Facebook post on that very subject from Ed Weber, a veteran Amtrak traveler, and with his permission, I’m sharing it here.
“I often think about them . . . the people I’ve shared meals and cocktails with on my Amtrak journeys. Are they well? Are they still… well, are they still with us? Did their daughter get that job she was going for? Did the little boy get the pony he was hoping to get for his birthday? Did the grandmother seeing her granddaughter for the very first time have the best visit ever? Did she see her husband’s eyes looking back at her? And did the man retracing the path he rode with his bride 50 years earlier, now in her memory, experience the clarity he sought?
“Many people have sat across the table from me. Many men, women and children have gazed upon my face and listened to my story. Some were great… memorable for the best reasons. Some, not so much. Some impressed me deeply and others I couldn’t wait to be done with. Once I dined with a couple who happened, by coincidence, to be from the next town over from where I live… and we were both 3000 miles from home!
“But the most amazing thing is that without Amtrak, I would never have met ANY of them . . . and how empty my memories would be without having shared their lives, even if it was only for half an hour.
“So many people talk about the scenery. It IS beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but for my money, it’s just as beautiful INSIDE the train, where people from diverse walks of life share a meal or a drink and experience together the joy of seeing America at eye-level . . . face to face . . . the way it should be seen.
“If you have never ridden, DO IT! If you have ridden, share your experiences. And if you happen see me sitting alone at a table, stop and say “Hello!” I’ll be pleased to add you to my memories!
“Happy rails, America!”