Friday, September 01, 2006

Come On Baby, Take The Locomotive

My wife wanted to visit her family in Seattle, and this time rather than driving I talked her into taking the train. I drove her up to Kelso and the train arrived on time. She had a relaxed trip that took fewer than three hours where she was able to read and get up and walk around.

The round trip ticket cost around $50, which is far less than it would cost in fuel.

Trains are so overlooked here in the US. The rest of the world utilizes their trains to a far greater extent. I always found it odd when driving on a highway that parallels a railroad why trucks drive cross country. Why do people drive cross country? We should all be utilizing the rails when ever possible. It is safer, it uses less fuel and it is less expensive.

Is it that we need everything sooner so we refuse to wait? Is it that we need to experience the road that badly? Is it our love affair with the automobile? It is sad. We have this amazing infrastructure of rails on this continent and they are totally unutilized.

With the millions of miles I’ve flown over my life time, I still to this day find it odd that we enclose ourselves in a tube and jet a quarter-way into space just to get somewhere quickly. I find it odd when I subject myself to a day on the road, and I arrive tired, more so than if I had walked.

However train travel has always not only fascinated me, but soothed me as well. Alan Watts once said that a trip well traveled is often better than arriving.


Blogger Syd said...

That's something I've always wanted to do. There is a certain romanticism to trains, don't you think?

8:42 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Amtrak runs to Oregon. Bring K and I'll host a party for the Syd West Coast Blog Signing Tour. I'm sure I could talk your Portland and Seattle fans into coming to the coast.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Lachlan said...

I love trains! I took one from Amsterdam to Paris (and back) and it was magic. I would love to do a long distance trek on one here in the US.

Oh, and we would SO be there for the blog-signing. ;-)

9:10 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

You could always do a weekend trip to Portland or up to Vancouver.

I would love to get away, but then there are the animals that need attention and I couldn't impose live stock on anyone. It's like asking someone to help you move.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Wow, I think I could write a book on this topic, but I'll try to keep it brief.

Is it love of the automobile? Partly. Once you pack the car you don't have to unpack or deal with baggage until you reach your destination. You can stop whenever and wherever you please, or take side trips. Once you reach your destination you have transportation and don't need to deal with rentals or additional costs.

You illustrated part of the problem with our rail and transportation system when you had to drive back and forth to Kelso. That's about 50 miles away, right? So, if you made two round trips to get your wife to and fro, that's 200 miles of driving. What if someone wanted to go from Astoria to Seattle but didn't have a car or someone like you to take them, is there a bus or other form of public transportation running to Kelso?

In Europe it's rare to find a place where there isn't easy access so some form of public transportation, whether it's bus, rail or streetcar. Public transportation is also usually heavily subsidized by the government so it's affordable and thereby gives incentive for people to use it. In most places in the U.S. public transportation is either non-existent, difficult to access or too expensive.

Then there's jet vs train travel. On a short hop like your wife's trip there's no contest between the two, but for longer distances the jet wins out. For me to visit the West Coast by train would take a couple days at best-one way. Even if the train were to average 100 mph from the Wash. DC area it would take over a day, but I doubt there's a direct, non-stop train. A direct flight to Portland takes about 6-6.5 hours. One thing that may make slightly longer train trips more popular is the current need for security at airports--needing to be at the airport 2 hours before a flight might make a train trip more tempting. The high cost of gas might help too.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

I adore train travel. When we were dating, we took the train from Chico to San Juan Capistrano. We loved it. I dream of taking a sleeper car with the family cross country to Washington DC. It would take forever, but think of everything you could see!

I HATE air travel. Not because I'm afraid of being blown up, but because of the cranky, rude TSA people and their random demands. They can have that.

12:38 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Rich, yes you can take a bus from Astoria, but sometimes that can be a logistical nightmare, especially if the train is delayed on the return and she misses the bus. I know there will be a delay on her return because they are working on a bridge in the Tacoma Narrows. Amtrak called us to tell us there could be a two hour delay on her return. Pretty cool that they called. When has an airline ever called to warn you of a delay in advance?

Mother of Three, going cross country with three kids might kill you. Find a sitter and take Slave Hubby for a vacation when he finishes the house.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

Just say no to rail travel!
Haven't you ever heard of global warming?
We all know that humans are the single cause of global warming; just ask Al Gore!
Why would we ever consider using the fuel to drag a couple of hundred tons of steel around where ever we go?
Maybe it's time we got off our fat asses and got back to the basics of bicycle travel.
How about just being content staying at home?

7:40 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

So Gearhead, are you planning to get rid of that 5 ton Killer Truck you have? How about the VW? I'll buy your pickup and your tractor. I can just see you haying on bicycle next year.

Actually the largest contribution to green house gases is the automobile, followed by power production, and then by livestock. I think when gas goes up to $6 per gallon you will see ridership increase to the ridership of the rest of the world.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

Well, wizeGuy,
Obviously you didn't listen to Micheal Sav

Comment Deleted
This post has been removed by the blog administrator.

9:42 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Just so you all know I did not remove Gearheads comment. He knows he is going to say something that offends me or some of the readers and he imposes censorship upon him self using the text that comes up when I deleted one of his earlier posts.

No I don't listen to that. He would make my blood boil. I'm actually trying not to listen to any radio commentary because it is all bullshit. If these guys had the answers they should run for office and make the changes they want. However they don't because they are all just a bunch of highly paid entertainers with no spine, and they don't really want things to change because they'd have nothing to bitch about if things did change.

8:08 AM  
Blogger pril said...

there's always something to bitch about. If things changed, they would find something about worth squawking about. It's their bread and butter. Some people it's impossible to make happy. Those people become radio talk show hosts.

For the first time in my life i live a reasonable distance from a train depot. Nice, now that Grayhound doesn't service most of the places that aren't on the 5 in Oregon.

4:34 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Well, you still get mail delivery, but that could be next.

5:13 PM  

I could a sworn that man was following me- futures so bright gotta where shades- dull laconic perverse stand up comedian. publish my clearing house

12:25 PM  

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