Thoughts on the Amtrak ride

Chip Oglesby bio photo By Chip Oglesby

The train steadily creeps along like a lumbering packaderm through the whitecaped foothills of North Carolina.

Snow covers the ground like a wet cold blanket as we travel through old mill villages that time has forgotten about. They remind me of my days as a child.

In the field to my right I see two whitetail deer grazing for foilage.

The train makes occasional stops, but never more than 10 minutes. The starting and stopping is what makes the trip 10 hours.


Over to the left are perfectly lined tree plots of pines, the tips of their needles sagging from the weight of snow.

Snaking along the side of the train is a small creek filled with muddy water the color of mocha.

Business class is much nicer than I expected, very few passengers, most are friendly. The higher prices keep most people back in coach. I fear I’ll be soon upgrading my other tickets to business as well.

Small dots of rain line the window as we travel through Raleigh NC. A small red barn sits atop a snow covered hill.

We picked up more passengers in Raleigh, our most yet. About half of the seats are still empty as some passengers converse while others type away on their blackberries.

Talks of God, life, love and old times surround me, leaving me feeling comfortable with my new surroundings.

The homeless stations under bridges have been abandoned because of the cold weather. Surely they’ll freeze to death if they stay. Most of their belongings fit into one or two bags, it makes you realize how many unnecessary things we surround ourselves with.

A passenger asks a stewardess which side has the best view. “it’s all the same to me…trees…sometimes water.” Over time we have all dulled our senses to what life has to offer.

I talked to plenty of people are from both NY and DC and live in NC/SC. Most said I’ll love it. One said “don’t look up.” I think what they mean is don’t stop and stare, keep moving.

I checked out the coach section, you can really tell the difference. Most are working class adults and each seat is full. It reaffirms my decision to get a business seat.

Some people are reading USA Today. Some out of desire, some because it’s free. You cam tell if their interested based on how long they stay on each page.

What the paper won’t tell them is the story of the “terror training” exercises that they’ll find when they arrive at Union Station in D.C.

Now in Virigina the snow covered mountains nestle the small train cars like candy in a wrapper. We limber slowly alongside 195 as cars and trucks fly by.

We’ve reached Richmond. My destination is within reach. Conductor announces “smoking/fresh air break” No thanks, I’ll pass. I’d miss the signal and be stuck there.

The train is moving extra slow through Virginia. We arrive at Union Station an hour late. 10 hours is too long for one train ride. I may have to rent a car to go back home.

Union Station is nice but busy. I breeze right through on the way to the Red Line. Once on the Red Line, I stop in Gallery Place/Chinatown to meet old friends for dinner. I know I’ve reached D.C.

Tomorrow begins a new day and a new journey.