Harris: Seeing America by Amtrak

If you can only afford a coach ticket
but want a bed for the night, make a noise

Unable to book a sleeper on the train from Los Angeles to Chicago, I spent two days traveling in coach (no bed for two nights) crossing California and Arizona. It took a whole day to cross New Mexico, and a whole night to cross Kansas and on to Chicago.

The desert landscapes and prairie-lands of the western United States are outstanding, but for all I might have known about this beautiful country, nothing really prepared me for its vast size.

Photo by Robert Harris Sunrise on the third day of the trip, over the Kansas landscape.

Photo by Robert Harris
Sunrise on the third day of the trip, over the Kansas landscape.

The other important thing about taking these trains from Los Angeles to Washington and on to Hamlet is that you are forced to slow down. Flying from LA to Charlotte-Douglas takes four hours or so, whereas the train journey takes four days.

There was time to meet and talk to two elderly Amish ladies; their insight and wisdom was refreshing — interestingly, they had cellphones, what next, automobiles? — and a young former Marine leaving his home in New Mexico to seek work in Idaho, and sharing a movie with a lady on her cellphone; she returning home after driving an RV west across this immense land. There’s something of the pioneering spirit about that. So on arrival into Chicago I re-attempted and succeeded to upgrade to sleeper.

After two nights of little sleep I was looking forward to my bed, but in the early hours of the morning I was disturbed by what sounded like someone being attacked. I got up to investigate. What I discovered was a large tattooed man yelling obscenities to himself — he was very loud, and very big!

Photo by Robert Harris A brick building in Illinois takes advantage of a local artist.

Photo by Robert Harris
A brick building in Illinois takes advantage of a local artist.

Rather than confront the man alone, I found the conductor in charge of the train. The conductor said the aforementioned individual was causing havoc in the coach he was booked in and that he had placed this man in the sleeping car. The conductor went on to say that he believed that this individual had a medical condition; there was no evidence of this, and I certainly do not believe this to be the case.

The lesson here is if you can only afford a coach ticket but want a bed for the night, make a noise.

Seriously, though, I had paid nearly $300 to upgrade for a good night sleep; I did not get that. Once awake I was on my guard until the morning; I did not feel safe. Importantly, I do not think the conductor was taking care of my interests and safety at all; he was more concerned with his own agenda of damage limitation. I was offered $200 worth of travel vouchers in compensation, but, in my opinion, it misses the point somewhat.

By Robert Harris  On Life and Faith

By Robert Harris
On Life and Faith

I have since discovered that particular Coach No. 3009 is effectively a staff coach and only used for passenger overspill. There was an Amtrak white-collar manager in a space next to me who was noticeable by his absence. There was a female member of staff, in another space who could have been at risk. There were two Amtrak attendants who could only advise me to speak to the conductor.

Photo by Robert Harris A riverboat on the Mississippi River.

Photo by Robert Harris
A riverboat on the Mississippi River.

At the time, I was extremely dissatisfied on several levels, but thinking on it, I wouldn’t change a thing. It is a brilliant way to see your wonderful country and meet some interesting people, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. Because rail freight has been diverted away from the line, the Southwest Chief service from LA to Chicago is at risk of being axed, which would be a crying shame, because it is a hell of a way to see your heritage, as well as meet new friends.

Talking about new friends, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rowena Thibodeaux and Darrel Mosely at Griffin Nissan in Rockingham for their outstanding support, and Boss Griffin for his generosity; without which I would have been in trouble.

Robert Harris is one of Rockingham’s newer residents. He relocated from Steeton, West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. Send him an email. This column is republished here with the author’s permission.

Photo by Robert Harris "It's just so remote," Harris said of portions of America.

Photo by Robert Harris
“It’s just so remote,” Harris said of portions of America.

Photo by Robert Harris Passing along the New Mexico and Colorado border.

Photo by Robert Harris
Passing along the New Mexico and Colorado border.

Photo by Robert Harris The city of Raton, New Mexico stakes its claim as an American city.

Photo by Robert Harris
The city of Raton, New Mexico stakes its claim as an American city.

Photo by Robert Harris Union Station in Washington D.C.

Photo by Robert Harris
Union Station in Washington D.C.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, Opinion, Outdoors

You might like:

GAP program fills a hole for ‘hands-on’ experience GAP program fills a hole for ‘hands-on’ experience
Sit back for an ‘interesting story’ Sit back for an ‘interesting story’
Cash available for crime-solving tips Cash available for crime-solving tips
Rotruck sues Town of Summerfield Rotruck sues Town of Summerfield
© 2018 The Piedmont Post. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.