July 3: Travel Day #2. Amtrak Rocks

Big Cranky and Dragonfly's Long Trail hike, Thursday, July 3, 2014.
New York City through the window of the Amtrak train.

DF: Long day today, mostly spent on a train. Ken was up before the alarm went off at five AM. We showered, got dressed, threw the packs in Mom’s van, and headed to the Vienna Metro station. It was really quick to buy fare cards, and there was a train waiting on the platform. A commuter saw us looking at the map on the train, and helped us confirm details for our transfer at Metro Center to another line. We navigated that successfully, and a train pulled up just as we stepped onto the platform. Smooth sailing to Union Station. We arrived with plenty of time for breakfast before boarding our train.

Once we were on board, Ken found seats together and we settled in. We found Amtrak much quicker and easier than driving–we got to Trenton very quickly, and Megan got off to meet her granddad. By the time she texted that she’d met him, we were past Princeton Junction and well on our way to New York City. Amtrak for the win!

It was a pretty boring ride. We both read for a long time, and frequently checked GPS to figure out where we were. Even better–Amtrak has wifi, which really helped, since I had no cell service. T-Mobile has the worst coverage EVER. We will be switching carriers as soon as possible when we get home.

Our train was running a bit late to Amherst, so Ken tried to text our shuttle driver. He kept getting the error message that the number was not in service. Minor worries, but all was well when they were there to meet us and drive us to North Adams.

Wow. We took the scenic route…every dirt road between Amherst and North Adams, plus a detour where the road had washed out. By the time we got to the hotel, I was completely ready for dinner (and maybe a beer).

The fun was just beginning, however, as it took another half hour to sort out the credit card and check in. We headed out for dinner just as the rains began–I forgot to mention that there’s a hurricane off Cape Hatteras and it’s heading up the coast.

We enjoyed a light dinner and some lovely beers at Public. We sat at the bar and so talked with the bartender and at least two turns of people on each side of us.

Now we’re in for the night, keeping an eye on the weather, and looking at maps to see how things might shake out for the first section, depending on when we get started in the morning. Forecast is for clearing late morning, so we may just take a slow morning and wait out the weather.

BC: I liked the train – it was faster than driving, lower stress, cost about the same for two people, and we didn’t have to leave our car parked in some random place for a month.

North Adams is an old mill town trying to reinvent itself. They have what is by all accounts a terrific art museum, which we didn’t have time to visit, and there are some nice little restaurants and other spots downtown, but it’s not all that lively. I think most of the hikers on the nearby AT head into Williamstown for resupply and a night off.