Saturday, May 03, 2008

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

My wife and I recently vacationed in the great Northwest. We flew to and out of Seattle, but took Amtrak to and from our Oregon destination. The whole vacation was fantastic, but its subtlest highpoints were provided by the train time we spent.

The seating was spacious. The windows were huge, providing unimpeded views of mountains and water. And when I wanted to get up and walk, I got up and walked. The $10 sandwich/chips/drink from the dining car was even quite a tasty meal.

That 6 hour trip to and from Eugene allowed for plenty of time to watch the free(!) movie, have liesurely conversations, or just look out the window and think. One of the things I ended up thinking about was--no surprise--planes, tranes and automobiles. Here in Texas, I bought the car/truck that I could afford, I like using it whenever I want to, drive wherever I want, and if I can afford a gas hog damnit, I'll buy a gashog. In short, I realized that as an owner of two cars, my view is exceptionally self-centered.

Riding the train was that view's polar opposite. I adhered to Amtrak's schedule. I rode it with people I didn't know. And I made allowances for their comfort (not torturing them with my music). Our journey revealed 6 or 8 stops along the way, including Portland, where hundreds of people used the train with regularity. What's commonplace in their world is nearly unheard of here in South Texas.

Mass transit necessarily says we're in this all together. It's the great equalizer. And it's only there because our government doesn't let corporate America run it into the ground. If mass transit were left to private business, they'd charge every last penny they could, and poor people would lose their way to work.
Of course, I'm not advocating that private cars be banished. I'm just pointing out that there are places where the wise minds who have come before understand the value of mass transit. And this traveler is glad they did.
Pictured at top is Mt. Hood as seen from over the Willamette River at Portland. I encourage you to consider the train as an option on your next vacation. I can't say enough good about our time on Amtrak.


Blogger Jackie said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I LOVE traveling on the train and hope that the next time a local 'metro rail system' is on the ballot, people will realize how beneficial it would be for this area and vote yes.

11:40 AM  

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