Tuesday, April 28, 2009

High Speed Trains

Our record high temperature for today is 81 degrees. The forecast high is 86 and could hit 90. Not much more to say about that, except we’ll drop into low 40s tonight.

The lass my senior fitness group depends on was early today so we were able to beat the heat in the gym at the physical therapy center. Most of my routines went fairly or rather well, but a new one, sitting and standing without using my hands/arms, was very tiring today. But one of the therapists said he thought I was losing weight. That made my day.

One place where President Obama wants to spend money is the country’s railroad system. He would like high speed rail travel developed. It will be costly, and that is a good example of an understatement. Currently there’s only one close to high speed route and it runs between Boston and Washington. Called the Acela, it does reach the required 110 miles per hour speed in some places that qualifies it for the designation.

All but two of the proposed routes are in the east. Two, both out on the West Coast, are in the west. Unfortunately, none of the proposed route maps I’ve seen have connected the east and west coast.

I find myself in a predicament on this particular proposal. That part of me that hates government spending says this is just another government boondoggle. If there were a call for high speed rail travel, there are many companies that would have already constructed routes. Amtrak runs on squeaky wheels and is in no position to build such routes.

The other part of me, the part that likes to ride the rails, says, “Sign me up for tickets.” Of course by the time such routes could be in operation, I’ll be watching the speed across the country from above. Way above. There are some who would say that’s not true. Rather, they might say, I’ll be feeling the rumble of the wheels above me.

I’ve told you about Gator Wife’s and my trip to Alaska three years ago. Part of that trip was on Amtrak. Only two legs of the trip were unpleasant. We could have walked from Boston to Albany faster than that train made the trip. Hard to believe that we left Boston at 1 PM and arrived at the New York stop about 11 PM.

Another train had left New York City at the same time and we were to continue on to Chicago as one. When we arrived in Rensselaer (just outside Albany where the RR station is), the passengers on the NYC train were standing on the platform applauding and cheering our arrival.

We had last eaten at noon, but Amtrak had kept the kitchen open on our new train and we were fed. GW and I had first class tickets so the meal had been included along with a dinky little sleeping closet on the Lake Shore Limited. I don’t think either of us had anticipated rail travel to be quite like this. We weren’t looking forward to another three days of this and began to worry us that our arrival in Seattle might be too late for the ride to the cruise liner.

We also needed to be in Chicago for a 2 PM departure on the next day on the famous Empire Builder. We had a few hours to make up if that were to happen. We didn’t sleep too well in those very cramped quarters, GW in the upper bunk, me in the lower. But that train raced from Albany to Chicago. Since it was late at night, I guess the crew had confidence it could go a wee bit faster than usual. To use a colloquial expression, we “flew” from Albany to Chicago.

We arrived on the north side of the Chicago station at 1:50 and were transported to the south side on a golf cart. As we were settling into our cabin, the train began to move. It was scheduled to depart at 2, and at 2 we were moving. The trip to Seattle was far better than I had envisioned. Our quarters were roomy. We had beds, a couch (bed at night), a chair, our own private personal room, a shower, a sink and running water. At mealtime we went to the dining car where we were served scrumptious food.

The Empire Builder was never behind schedule and the ride from Chicago to Seattle was wonderful and restful. The scenery, especially through the Rockies, was fantastic. As quickly as that first train ruined our picture of train travel, the Empire Builder returned the wonderful adventure.

The trip back to Boston was identical in reverse. Another nightmare from Albany to Beantown.

For medical reasons I won’t go into here, I can no longer fly. I suspect there are many people like me that doctors have said flying is out and possibly some that simply don’t want to go up in a plane. A good rail service would be wonderful to have. High speed rail service just might get more people to travel by rail thus lowering the cost.

One of the proposed routes is that one between Boston and Albany. It’s too bad the plan doesn’t call for one all the way to the West Coast. That first trip GW and I took could have made us never to ride a train again. I would never hesitate as long as I didn’t have to go to Albany. I think if we could get high speed service through to the west, we’d be on it in a heartbeat.

Selfishly, very selfishly, I may consider the President’s proposal for high speed rail travel to be the only good spending plan on his ‘stimulus’ package.


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