Amtrak overnight experience

Trip Start Sep 25, 2011
Trip End May 08, 2012

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Amtrak train

Flag of United States  , West Virginia
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Well the train left  Union station on time but it was a zoo - No reserved seats until you board, then a conductor hands you a handwritten slip of paper.   Everyone is guaranteed a seat, but don't know which car or which seat in the car until the last minute. Hence everyone lines up like cattle, afraid they won't get a seat, much like people do at airports only worse as at airports people HAVE a seat assigned!  Anyway I sat beside a women from about an hour out of Chicago who had just been to see her mom in Chicago, which she hadn't done for a couple of years 'due to the expense' of getting there!  It cost her $17.   But she did say she always drove before, had never taken the train, and since gas prices were so high, the train was more affordable.  She worked as a manager in a bar in a small town.   I wanted to experience a meal in the dining car, so booked 7:30 p/m/ and got seated with two young drunks who  had spent the whole time since we left in the bar car, one buying the other drinks. They were seatmates and had never met before.  The skinny one with all the nose rings was from Florida and the other from New York, but I never found out what he did, although, as I said, he did all the buying for the new friend..  The former was trying to get a job in Chicago as a roofer but times were tough....  Anyway it was quite hilarious and a little frustrating at the same time, as they kept swearing and apologizing, and one kept asking me the same questions as he forgot he asked already.   Once morning came (I left at 6 p.m. Chicago time), scenery was absolutely beautiful especially through Pennsylvania, all the colours of the leaves and the rolling hills as one would expect.   I arrived at Harper's Ferry, 1 hour late, thinking that I could get a taxi but they don't have such a thing..... so I had booked at Quality Inn for the night as I needed to sleep...(another person got on to sit with me at about 2 a.m. )and I called them and they picked me up although said it was not their usual practice.  I understand taxis need to come from another town and they charge mileage from the time they leave..  It poured rain most of the time I was in HR, which was famous for its role in War of 1812 and John Brown releasing slaves.  The old town is completely historic with almost every building a museum of some sort (all free, plus the shuttle from the National Park (to which I walked from the hotel, through a KOA campground) into the town.   I was planning to stay the next night at the Harper's Ferry Hostel across the river but found out that I would have to order a taxi, again, and got a quote for $22!  Not only that, but to get back to the train station for train to Washington, my next stop, I would have to take a taxi again, except the Manager said he would take me at 7:40 a.m. to the commuter train station.  So that meant a $22 taxi, but hostel dorm charge (and no restaurants walking distance so need to eat dinner first) so I would practically arrive in the dark and leave in the dark.   The next morning I went out for walk and came across the Harpers Ferry visitor center and they advised me that a new hostel within town had started up.  I phoned them and asked if I could stop by for a look and the owner said sure, she was at work but her mother was there.  So I went by, it is a nice new hostel in their home, and I had a 12 bed dorm all to my self for $25 plus she cooked pancake breakfast for me the next morning, which is included AND she drove me to the Amtrak station!  she also shuttles hikers back and forth to trailhead while she is a substitute teacher. Her mother as a lovely person who lives with another daughter in Alabama and she was just up for a visit, and had done 'loads of laundry'.   I didn't get any hiking in as it was pouring rain most of the time but I did have a great visit to the Applalachain Trail visitors Centre in Harpers Ferry a and I joined the App Trail Club for $30 for a year membership which includes a movie about the train that will be offered at AMC theatres in the East.  But you have to book a ticket with membership so I am committed to seeing the movie on Nov. 12 in New York City at an AMC theatre near Central Park.  So I stayed 2 nights at HR, then headed to Washington DC, about 1.5 hours away by Amtrak.   More about DC in the next entry!
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