Amtrak and Virginia Nowhereness
It’s been almost eight days since I’ve written anything, checked my email, responded to facebook stuff… This kind of internet deprivation is odd for me, even with travelling for the past two weeks or so, I’ve always been able to get near to an internet connection, even if it involved Touro subterfuge. Well since the last post from Chicago I’ve been in the middle of nowhere. Last civilized thing I did was have a very enjoyable lunch with Mr Modern Uberdox before taking the subway to downtown for my Amtrak to Washington DC.
I checked my suitcase and had a two hour wait to kill. Not too bad as downtown Chicago is pretty cool, apart from the black guys trying to hustle me for change by giving me directions. I gave the first one 65c for telling me to go where I already knew to go. When he asked for at least a few dollars “to get home” I told him point blank that I’m not going to apologize for not giving someone money for free. To my surprise, that got a laugh out of him. I guess most people aren’t too direct like that. With 45 minutes to go until my train in hits me that all I’ve got clothes-wise is what I’m wearing and that’s pretty sweated up from walking around the city. I start to look for a clothes shop and the girl in Walgreens tells me there’s an Old Navy six blocks away. I walk for more than that but don’t see it, but a block over by then I see a Filanes Basement. 20 minutes of browsing and I pick out some sleepwear that’s both cheap and comfortable for a 22 hour journey. After I pay, I check my watch and realize I’ve got 20 minutes to get back to the station. I ask the clerk for directions, but she doesn’t know. I dash out and ask a passerby, he tells me I’m about twenty blocks and a bridge away. I hoist my messenger bag under my arm and take off like a madman. I make the train, soaked with sweat.
I’ve travelled by air, train and bus and the most important thing is whether you can sleep during the journey. Amtrak scores a miserable four out of ten. I had two seats to myself, and the seats were reasonably big, but they don’t recline far enough to sleep comfortably on, and lying across both seats hurt my back because there’s this big metal bar between the seats just below cushion level that I could feel. Plus I was right across from the stairs, so while the rest of the cabin was in darkness I had sign lights shining on me. When you’re travelling for almost two days you need some sleep and I didn’t get much. Interestingly, there were a bunch of Amish people on board. I didn’t even know they used modern transportation like that, but I did get a kick out of watching them.
Amtrak has a slogan “The Best Scenery You’ll Ever Sleep Through”. It’s true, the train goes very slowly and travelling through the countryside is beautiful. I saw everything from cities, to rural villages to towns where I could see the whole thing from the top carriage. I think we went through five states, but I’m not totally sure. Either way I saw more of the country than I’ve been able to ever see by any other mode of transportation. By car all you see is the highway and by air you just fly over it all. The train goes through the countryside and the heartland. I recommend it if you can stand to travel for so long. A really cool thing to do is stand at the last carriage and stare out of the rear window just watching it all pass by. I loved seeing how everytime we went through a tunnel I could see after we passed it how they’d hollowed out a mountain and the size of what we’d just gone under.
I spent five days on a farm in the Blue Ridge mountains that my friends family inherited. They sold their house in Miami and moved up, now they live on a massive farm in a really cool farmhouse. His dads and electrician, so he rewired it all and modernized the central air and heating, though he says they still use the fireplace in the winter for the great room. They’ve adapted to farm life really well, with a collection of cats, dogs and some sort of mutated chickens that his mother says are “guinea hens”. All I know is they’re ugly and don’t even lay eggs. I kept dropping hints that we should have one for shabbos.
It’s really cool how well they’ve adapted. They grow a lot of vegetables and they have fruit trees. The only caveat is they have to drive over an hour to get kosher meat and cheese, so they stock up when they do. We did a lot of hiking and stuff. You have to like nature to live there because the closest town is half an hour drive away, so even things like renting a movie have to be planned ahead. Also, there’s no internet. The best they have is connecting through a cell phone, and that was very flaky. Best you get is two bars and it kept disconnecting randomly.
Well now I’m back in Brooklyn for a few more days. Looks like I have to go anyways, because the library computer popup just informed me I have two minutes left.