The day after the third harvest, I had to make travel arrangements to come to out to my sister’s for Labor Day lake weekend. Last year, I got made my arrangements too soon, not factoring in my other travel. This year, I waited until I knew work travel for sure. Unfortunately, my plans didn’t firm until a week before, so my cheapest option (by $100+) was to take Amtrak from Osceola.
After a fifteen-hour work day and five-and-a-half hours of sleep, I made a peaceable drive of an hour and a half from Ames to Osceola, with the light traffic of pre-rush hour. Parking at the station is (shocking) free. The crowd to get on was modest-a lot of Iowa fans heading to the Hawkeye’s game at Soldier Field against Northern Illinois. The train was only fifteen minutes late, and I got on eagerly.
This was my third trip to Chicago on Amtrak. Trains really only work well in more urban areas. If you want to go to Chicago on Amtrak from Lincoln or Omaha, you have to leave at 3:45 now, which is literally the most inconvenient time of night for a tree to leave as it is to late to stay up, or too early to get a respectable amount of sleep. If you can’t sleep on mass transit (I can’t, no matter how hard I try), you’re in for a very disrupted day. This time around, I thought hey, train leaves from Osceola at 7:40, it’s only seven hours to Chicago and six back. How bad could it be?
It took me about to three hours in to question whether or not the $100 I saved by not flying was worth it. The only way to withstand the tedium is to have enough reading, writing, or viewing material to get you through it (should have brought a TV show on DVD). The smell of the train is intoxicating, with heavy emphasis on the toxic. To top it off, you’re sitting by all these people who thinks trains are nostalgic and “so cool”. Please; how on earth did I not remember all this stuff?
I don’t even get the argument that taking the train allow a person “to see so much”. My life is sent driving around rural America, and I don’t know how people get a better view from the train. Try driving from Chicago to Lincoln on country roads, you’ll get a good view that way.
Never the mind. The trains I take out to my sister’s, the South Shoreline and the Amtrak train from New Buffalo, Michigan are much better in terms of cleanliness, although they cover much less ground. If I lived in the northeast, I’d probably like taking trains much more, and they are more convenient than driving in most situations.
My train back to Osceola was about half-an-hour late, and we had to do that ridiculously thing where they make us wait on the wrong side of the tracks until after the train passes. But I didn’t mind the half-an-hour drive back to Ames: it was free cookie day at Subway, and, when I stopped at Starbucks in Des Moines, I observed the return of pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. So all wasn’t lost.