I’d woke up to hard rain again, but for the final time on this trip. No chance to get out and explore DC further.
Adding to my day’s frustrations was it had been my final paid night in the hostel. Jeff was out-of-town for the weekend.
I had a vague idea of just heading south, staying in a major city each night. Like Atlanta, Birmingham, whatever was on the way.
Reality slapped me, I was no longer in Europe. 3 hours did not get me into a new country. Hell most of the time, 3 hours was the halfway point from city to city in the US.
No place to stay within a 2 hour radius, well not hostels anyway. I was out of options that didn’t include an expensive hotel.
I did find a 26 hour train to New Orleans.
I had the notion of buying a hop on hop off train pass. You know, train it to a city, get out, stay a night, hop on a train the next day or evening.
That was a staggering price for a ticket, as was snagging a bed on the train, a roomette. $400+ for both options vs a ticket just over 100$.
I had a moment, sucked it up and got a train ticket. It was well less than half the cost of airfare. Plus this trip was to see the countries as they really are after all and I was going to see quite a bit of America.
I fortified myself with coffee and beer before walking to the depot. It was an early evening departure, 5.
Once at the train station I figured I should check off Shake Shack on my best burger list. I do enjoy a tasty burger and these guys were highly ranked and not an option in Texas.
Good juicy burger, should hold me through the night. I wasn’t anticipating much sleep.
I walked and lapped the depot several times. I’ll always remember this LA candy store, where they were selling sugar, candies but for models. Why?
I suppose around the 2nd lap the thought occurred to me to buy some fruit and maybe a pastry roll for the trip. Wrapped them up in some napkins, I had a snack and small meal.
You just never know about train food options. The pickings were pretty bad on the St Louis to KC line, all pre-packaged options.
I still don’t get why they make those plain, disgusting plastic container sandwiches which pervade gas stations, trains and bus stop in the US.
Not that I didn’t see similar packaged sandwich options in Europe, I just don’t get how hard it is to have a few handmade options at a place. Have someone make them in the morning and again mid afternoon.
At last the call was made and we passed through the 1st ticket check. Before you got into the car, another conductor took you to your seat after checking your ticket.
I was lucky that my seat was on the 2 seat row of the train. I had a neighbor already.
He was a nice enough guy, heavy accent. Sounded like a rural Carolina drawl. It was during the 1st 2 hours of my train ride I learned this guy’s story.
He’d been in jail for a while, was returning from visiting his ill mom in NY and was well into a bottle of Jack.
This was not his 1st long train ride, he had small bottles of cola he had pre-mixed.
I’m not sure why I say bottle, they were plastic. Is there another name for a plastic vessel other than bottle? I just feel bottle means glass is all.
He went through 2 loaded colas on our journey and they looked tea colored, heavy on whiskey.
Every time a conductor passed he asked the same question, ‘smoke break boss?’ then cackle like it was the funniest thing he’d ever said.
The train stopped a lot in small towns, those weren’t smoke stops. Big cities we stopped 20 minutes so he had enough time to smoke.
We also stopped a few times in the middle of nowhere to let a freight train fly by too. That is truly infuriating.
In the US freight is given priority over commuter trains on rails. Humans, who can sense the passage of time, have to wait for stuff, for things to pass.
What I am saying is whatever you are shipping is not more valuable than another person’s time. You can wait for that cheap razor of the month.
Thankfully he was getting off in S Carolina, his bitch had best come to pick him up soon too per his flip phone conversation I overheard.
I waved at him as he left the car, it was about 9pm. I had just enough room to lay down on the 2 seats, provided I didn’t have legs.
All the ladies around me reclined their seats as far back as they could go, they all had neighbors.
You know planes, train, options society pays to travel, could be and used to be a lot better.
I sure wish any transportation executive and family has to take the cheapest option on a long journey at least once a year. If nothing, they’d experience it.
Take a look at any pics of plane or train travel from the 60’s or 70’s. Everyone has leg room, smiling, smoking, etc. The food looked edible even!
Instead seat and room are minimized and prices go up! Thing is we think competition levels the playing field but really if every option does the same thing, is that competition?
I took advantage of wi-fi, so at least that worked, that was a good thing. I watched several movies, eventually falling asleep around 3am but since I’m next to a window, as soon as the sun is up so is everyone else.
Pro tip, keep in your bag earplugs and eye shade. You never know the situations you may find yourself, someone snoring in your room. Maybe you find yourself at a rock show or perhaps you have to sleep in a room with no window shades.
I am pretty much a night person, which isn’t helping, so everyone around me is clearly morning people, all excited about breakfast, coffee and life.
It added an extra punch to the long train ride. Just knock the chipperness down a couple of notches, ya know?
One lady’s godson had just died, another was convinced his boss was after him, and another lady just kept on saying ‘uh huh or uh nuh,’ whichever was the most appropriate aside based on the conversation.
What can I say, it was a busy morning on the train. I can say I did feel a certain kinship with everyone. We were all, some literally grinning and bearing, on our hours long journey.
Without question, the people in coach smile a whole lot more than those in 1st class.
I took an occasion to procure a cup of coffee, incredibly cheap coffee beans as well as incredibly hot coffee to go with the pastries I’d picked up in DC.
The landscape wasn’t as green as I’d seen previously. The smaller towns here weren’t nearly as quaint and beautiful as some I’d seen.
In Europe the towns were pretty similar to the bigger cities just smaller. In the US, the towns just look poor, run down, like everyone moved away.
The scenery and car population changed even more once we passed Atlanta. It was like out of a dystopian film.
I started looking for Mad Max style cars or at least some Deliverance style bow hunters to reveal themselves between the trees.
Somewhere in Alabama sleep overtook me, I completely passed out for over an hour.
A much-needed nap. I had been watching videos most of the time. DRAM and Lil Yachty mostly. DRAM is so great.
Soon we were in the bleakest place I’d encountered thus far, Mississippi.
Dotting the countryside in Miss were shacks, not houses. Some constructed using a group of trees as a frame, with pallets and other pieces of wood or metal as a roof or wall.
The US is rich but you wouldn’t know that looking at the rural places. Europe looked like paradise by comparison.
No occupied shacks that I saw overseas. Sure there were many abandoned structures but they didn’t look lived in like the dilapidated shacks in the US.
Where’s the money going? Some politician or their friends’ pocket most likely. Or building a new plane.
All countries are corrupt its just the level of corruption was the difference. It was like ok, we get it, you will steal, just drive a Mercedes vs McLaren.
Don’t be blatant with your graft, you dig?
I wrote 5 of these posts on the Atlanta to Mississippi leg of my journey, in my seats, alternating based on the position of the sun.
Pro tip, buy prescription sunglasses. Big difference walking around on a sunny day and being able to see writing on signs.
Before too long we were in Slidell, next stop New Orleans.
I confess, a tear dropped from my eye as we crossed Lake Pontchartrain. The sun was setting and I couldn’t believe I was here.
“Welcome to New Orleans, whoot whoot!” came the call from the conductor. Everyone out, final stop.
I called a car and I was swooped to my friend’s house. You forget just how pretty the houses are until you return to the city.
My friend and I sat on his back porch, beers in our hand. I took a long pull and gazed at the stars above.
Beer NOLA Blonde
Song the Meters Talkin’ ‘Bout New Orleans