Friday, October 23, 2009

An Addendum on Traveling

Dear Reader,

This morning, after a short nap of nine hours, I had an opportunity to read my last missive about traveling. I think it could best be described as downtrodden. Maybe spending too much time alone in a hotel room is apt to put anyone in a bleak kind of mood - that is unless it's a hotel on some sun-blessed shore with good music and warm starry nights. Then again, I guess if you're in your room long enough instead of out somewhere dancing and enjoying good company, well you'd probably be depressed in Bali Hai. I guess the point is, I don't want to come down on the wrong side of travelling because I really like to travel. Well, at least somewhat.

It seems at the moment travelling has kind of run down hill and, at the moment, is lying in a ditch waiting for an ambulance to arrive. I'm old enough to remember a time before the major airlines started knocking on congress' door with a cup and cart of apples, so I remember a time before the airlines cut costs by eliminating service. Ah, yes, the times before every plane was packed to the overhead bins, before passengers and ungulates had a shared understanding of the trip to the slaughterhouse. At present there are two trips a day from Indianapolis International Airport to Dulles - one departs at 6AM and the other arrives at 11PM. Any enjoyment in between would seem to be of the delirious, bleary-eyed sort. Add to this the fact that the major airlines have steadily decreased space for passengers and gotten progressively worse at making schedule and you've a good idea of why travel (business travel) can be distinctly unpleasant by its very nature.

So, what's a fellow to do? We're all prisoners of the Airlines, aren't we? The simple answer is no, we are not - so long as we have time, that is. We're prisoners of our schedules, when we adapt and make our schedules adaptable a great number of opportunities present themselves.

I give you my schedule for my latest business trip to Virginia: Depart Monday morning, arrive Monday afternoon, shuttle to the rental counter, pace the hotel lobby and sleep on an uncomfortable bed, go to work over the course of three days, return Thursday evening, delayed by the airlines, and finally arrive back home in time to welcome Friday morning which was already an hour old by the time I parked in my driveway. Total cost, $414.00 plus rental car and meals with all the health benefits of drinking a slurry of catsup and salt.

Now, I present an option:

You can catch an Amtrak from Indianapolis to Chicago Union Station and then on to Washington DC, a seventeen hour jaunt on train with a 2 adult bedroom car, for $366.50. On-train meals won't cost any more than they do in an airport and if you bring a deck of cards and maybe a good friend you can make a rolling party of the jaunt. Grabbing a rental at Union Station isn't a problem since the rental car agency (at least the one I use) has a desk in the train station. GPS will get you from the station to the hotel in barely more time than it took to drive from Dulles.

The difference is obvious - 17 hours. Think of my trip, though. If I would have left Sunday Evening I could have ridden through the night and arrived Monday morning and probably wound up at my hotel earlier than I did by flying. Not to mention the sights between Indianapolis and DC, the off chance of meeting a few colorful people, with a wireless account I could have worked from my bedroom, or if I wanted I could have gotten a few chapters of my next novel written. And all for the cost of 17 hours trundling along on the rails - it's worth considering.

Yours in Sharing the Rails,

- G

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