I wouldn’t recommend a cross country trip by rail either. If you have ever traveled in Europe you soon come to realize what a third class country the US has become. For the majority of our institutions from infrastructure to education to health care our nation is embodying poverty like no time in its history. Amtrak is no exception. Passenger transport is supposed to take priority over the movement of commodities in rail. This edict is routinely ignored by the carriers, who endlessly sidetrack passenger trains to allow freight to pass undelayed. I was surprised on my last rail trip from Missouri to New Mexico, to find every seat filled. Shouldn’t this popularity count for something in upgrading the service and facilities provided?
Given the existing situation, here are a few tips. Forget about reading or writing. Tracks are maintained only for the safety and comfort of coal and product shipment, not passengers. If you have a laptop (highly recommended for any traveler these days) load up on plenty of movies. Documentaries are my favorite. The hours can pass pretty rapidly with a half-dozen pre-loaded engaging films. Wear comfortable clothes that can be washed and burned upon arrival at your destination. And don’t forget some sort of travel pillow. I forgot mine on one train trip and by the end of the journey I would have sold out my whole family for an hour of sleep.
In our search for squeezing the last drop of service from our remaining carbon reserves, mass transit has to be improved and must be advanced as the only sane alternative to the culture of the automobile. Making train travel a comfortable and inexpensive alternative to the automobile should be a no-brainer.
Don’t ever think of taking the bus!!!