Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day, the Perfect Time to Arrive in Washington D.C.

In reflection on the past four days on the T.R., I would like to discuss a few of the finer details of train travel that I have experienced thus far.

  • One very important thing that I have found* is that the employees on the train make a huge difference as to how your overall travel experience goes, especially on lengthy journeys. Since one of the most important positives aspects differentiating the train from other modes of transit is the humane, friendly experience, the difference between vivacious and helpful attendants and evil hags that strike fear in your heart and would happily break your traveling spirit and see you locked away for eternity, is marked.**
  • While the food has its high and low points, it is consistently better and more diverse than the comestibles on any other mode of transit, including transatlantic steamer ship.
  • You may think you are going to be bored relaxing and looking out windows for days on end, but you are wrong. My father and I were shocked at how few activities we actually managed to partake in, how few "tasks" we accomplished. You will become an expert at merely watching and enjoying.
  • With train travel, you will arrive refreshed. When I got to D.C., my dear friend Megan asked, "So are you jet lagged, or train lagged, or something?" and I could honestly respond, "No, I feel great, though I may need someone to subtly rock my bed in a train-like manner to fall asleep tonight." Which came across much creepier than I meant.

Anyway, so after a breakfast fraught with fear of the dining car staff, and a morning of gorgeous scenery-watching with Steven and his lovely grandmother***, we arrived in Washington D.C.'s Union Station just before 2pm.

Washington D.C. is so imposing and grand! One can tell by its scale that it was designed as a capital, not just as some colonial settlement. We walked from the station to HI Washington D.C. and got a warm welcome from the accommodating gentlemen working there. The place is quite large, but not impersonal, and they had loads of recommendations for us. It being election day, my father was determined to find us something democratic to do, so he somehow procured an invite to a reception at the Swedish embassy. There, we wined and dined, schmoozed with the Swedish Ambassador and his family, and an international delegation of election officials here to witness and discuss how we do democracy here in the U.S.

Upon our return to the hostel, he left me downstairs with a group of various foreigners, where I promptly started a debate with a young Brazilian man, to the amusement**** of the front desk staff in front of whom the exchange took place. Once all bystanders were convinced that I was indeed the victor, I retired to my room, leaving a trail of amazed international guests in my wake, each more impressed by my rhetorical prowess than the last. I needed to get a good night's sleep before our early morning monument tour, to be led by the "serious and thorough" Vietnam veteran and hostel volunteer, Larry.*****


*Hark, Amtrak!
**I experienced the former on the Zephyr and the latter, unfortunately, on the Limited. And I am not exaggerating- I talked to many other passengers, including Steven, and they all agreed. Horrifying.
***Our favorite stop was Harpers Ferry, where in 1859 John Brown led an infamous slave uprising and took over the US Armory and Arsenal there. The town later changed hands over 10 times during the Civil War, and is now approximately 99% owned by the National Park Service and Historic Register designated. I liked the pretty old houses.
****I use this term hopefully...
*****God help me.

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