ONBOARD the “Northeast Regional” – Train #86 from Richmond arrived at 9:47am. It was twenty-three minutes behind schedule, but still too quick for me to get a decent arrival photo with my shitty “tourist camera” (because it’s just a cheap digital camera I bought from a gift shop at Disney’s MGM Studios).
This was my first time riding anything beyond a simple “foliage tour” so I was a tad nervous – especially because I tend to get nauseous just riding the Light Rail. If I can’t handle MTA, how was I supposed to handle REAL “High Speed Rail?”
I boarded the smaller than expected car and began my search for an open seat. Finally, after traversing three cars I find a pair of open seats – right at the bulkhead too leaving enough space to put my bags on the floor in front of me. Naturally, a full minute after I sit down, a friendly old couple appears.
“Oh, that was our seat,” she said disappointedly.
I got up, grabbed my bags and traversed another full car before finding a pair of open seats near the back of 2nd car. I asked the young women across from the seat if anyone was sitting there. They said “no” so I threw my duffle bag in the overhead compartment and took my laptop out of its bag, and hunkered down in my seat. This was going to be a long trip.
Amtrak likes to brag about having “free on-board wifi,” but they don’t tell you it that it is slow and barely works for most of the trip. I also come to the conclusion that Amtrak is the perfect way to see America… without actually seeing anything. The whole way from Baltimore to NYC was nothing but an ugly blur of crumbling factories, back of strip malls and plenty of empty parking lots.
11:16am – make way 6 cars back to snack car, I can tell which car is mine on way back since lavatory is flooded. Sandwich is just okay, but cheaper than I expected. Shortly after returning to my seat, there was an announcement that they were closing the café car in preparation for their arrival at Penn Station.
12:17pm – we arrive at NYC’s Penn Station, and the new crew FINALLY lays down newspapers on floor to clean up water. I tried to access the station’s wifi during the 15 minute layover, but it told me there was “no signal.” Interestingly enough, one of the options available to me when I booked my train was a 90 minute layover in NYC, but it was $100 more each way.
2:47pm – 5 hour mark, I am starting to regret not taking that layover in NYC. Fortunately, the scenery drastically improved once we got out of the New York metropolitan area with oceans of asphalt giving way to endless forests and the occasional postcard perfect New England town…but mostly just forest, lots and lots of forest.
4:49pm – Train #86 from Richmond, Virginia FINALLY pulls into Boston’s South Station – 7 hours and 2 minutes after I boarded it at Baltimore’s “Classic” Penn Station…and I’m going to have to repeat it on my way back.