It’s T-minus six. The countdown has begun. In only six days, I’ll board a train in Schenectady, New York, bound for Tucson, Arizona. Who will I meet along the way? What exciting adventures will I encounter? How many times will I beat my head against the window wishing I’d opted for a sleeping car?
I’m calling this trip a train-umentary, and I’ve given it a summer blockbuster name: “TRAIN TRACKER.” Maybe Netflix will be interested, especially if true crime is involved! I’ll be blogging, taking photos, and maybe even interviewing people while sitting upright in a train seat for 62 hours, without access to a shower or bed. That’s a true crime already!
TRAIN TRACKER, SEASON ONE
Episode 1: Why A Train?
I live in Tucson and my family lives in New York. Out of necessity, I’ve flown cross-country annually (sometimes more than once a year) for the past sixteen years. I’ve enjoyed flying, but lately, due to plane crashes and what not, I wanted a lower-to-the-ground option.
Also, I’d wanted to bring my guitar with me this time. That’s actually what had gotten me started thinking about the train in the first place. Most airlines won’t let you carry a guitar on board unless you buy it a seat. Trains, on the other hand, treat guitars like carry-on luggage.
Episode 2: Why Coach?
Articles I’ve read, and sane people in general, strongly recommend the sleeper car, but I chose coach. Why? Price. By the time I decided to book my trip (two weeks ahead of time), the cost of one sleeper car ticket from New York to Arizona was $800 to $2000 depending on the date and route, while my coach ticket was only $219. I guess you could say I was willing to put up with the high probability of loud rumbling, screeching, swaying, shaking, a stiff back, swollen ankles, screaming babies, and odd smells for three days because I was too cheap to spring for a higher-priced seat. But I’d say I did it out of a sense of adventure. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Episode 3: Shopping
I went online two days ago, Googled “train travel tips,” and realized I’d need some extra items I hadn’t thought of before, like a blanket, a pillow, and maybe lots and lots of deodorant (for myself, and as free gifts to my fellow passengers). Did you know that Amtrak does not provide blankets and pillows? Well, I’m pretty sure they don’t, but I’ll check it out on the train and let you know for sure. (This is just an example of the fascinating, not -to-be-missed information I’ll be reporting on in Season Two!)
Here’s what I bought yesterday:
The blanket should come in handy if I sit next to a baseball player, or to avoid eye contact with the conductor while I sneak into a sleeper car. I could also use it to throw over my head to hide from a train robber.
The red neck pillow scrunches up and fits in a round carrying bag, which I could always use as a stress ball if needed:
Today I thought about train food and realized I’d probably be stuck with a diet of steamed hot dogs, Doritos, and canned soda for three days unless I packed my own refreshments, so I bought a few healthy snacks (and toiletries). I know my $219 ticket makes me seem cheap, but, after all, I did splurge on Fiji water. The granola bars and cashews should give me energy for writing. More importantly, they’ll go well with any adult beverages that I might be forced to buy if my stress ball isn’t working.
Episode 4: Packing
Tonight, I made a pile of everything I’m going to need easy access to on the train, such as: camera, camera case, pillow, blanket, changes of clothing, water, snacks, sweater, toiletries, laptop, phone, and chargers. The pile was almost as big (and probably heavier) than my large suitcase. I guess tomorrow I’ll go shopping for a backpack for my carry-on items.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of TRAIN TRACKER!