Railroading North America

01/ Kissimmee

Kissimmee, FL to Washington, DC
October 20, 2008 Monday

The Silver Meteor (Amtrak Train 98) plugs daily from Miami, Florida, to New York City. On Monday, October 20, 2008, the train was thirteen cars long equally divided between sleeping cars at the front and parlor cars at the back. A snack bar and dining car sat democratically in the middle. It was an amiable crew and, although mostly full, composed of a friendly bunch of passengers who came armed with Gameboys, video players and plenty of headphones. This was a moderately upscale bunch, scatterings of retirees, recognizable New York accents abounded along with lots of Spanish and tons of mostly happy well-behaved children.

Train 98 set out from Kissimmee forty minutes late, but soon the crew was assuring everyone we would arrive in Washington (eighteen hours up the tracks) almost on time and, by god, we almost did. The route along Highway 301 and I95 through the Carolinas and southern Virginia was familiar since I have traveled auto-train many times. Moreover, I was armed electronically with an IPhone so, when curiousity overtook me, I could punch up the GPS and spot my location although I rarely did.

silver-meteor1This ability to locate the train by iPhone did, however, get the attraction of my dinner companions, Adrin and Isabelle. Adrin, a 38-year-old anatheaologist/MD from Savannah was traveling home alone after visiting his parents in Tampa. Isabelle was a retired legal secretary, who appeared to be in her mid-70s, who was going to New York for a conference. After fiddling with my IPhone for awhile, we lapsed into discussing the health care mess. Isabelle declared that her brother is a retired doctor, age 72, and a millionaire, while her nephew, also a doctor and much younger, is struggling to make a living. Adrin, a MD, said he was strictly for hire by companies who provide services for hospitals and if he selects more expensive anathesias for medicines he feels better suited for his patients, “I could be out of a job.”

Earlier in our dinner, Adrin commented on Isabelle’s unusual bracelette. Hs interest surprised her. “You are only the second person who has ever asked about it in 18 years,” she said. The bracelette was Isabelle’s wedding ring and after he husband died she made it into a bracelette. “Except for when it was being made into ths bracelette, I have never taken it off,” she said.

Adrin, a lifelong Republican, is voting for Obama “against my financial interests”, he said. He said he could not vote Republican, he just couldn’t, although until 2004 he always did. Isabelle remained silent. Neither asked me who I was voting for, and neither asked me what I did for a living or where I came from.

In Washington, while waiting to get my ticket for Montreal, a young girl dressed surprisingly much like me (all Northfaced-up) scooted in behind me with a back pack, two shopping bags and a suitcase not much smaller than a steamer trunk. I studied her for a moment and she confirmed what I suspected: “My stuff weighs more than I do.”

(Photo, me, Kissimmee, FL, station, waiting for the silver Meteor, 1 p.m. Monday, October 20, 2008 — photo by Carol Anne Crow)


Train, this leg: Amtrak Silver Meteor, Train #98

Route, this leg: Northerly and easterly through Florida, often paralleling old US 301, crossing into Georgia north of Jacksonville and running the low country, the fens, of South Carolina north during the night turning west and north through central South and North Carolina including down a main drag of Florence, SC, in the middle of the night where the crew change for Auto Train occurs, into central southern Virginia near dawn, through Richmond, and across the Potomac near the Pentagon and Reagan Washington National Airport, diving into tunnels near the Jefferson Memorial, running underground beside the Smithsonian Castle turning, underground, in front of the Capitol and under the Mall, and entering Washington Union Station.


Distance, this leg: Kissimmee to Washington, DC 917 miles
Time: 18 hours 30 minutes
Distance: Total, North American Rail Pass miles covered: 917


1 Comment »

  1. Why do I get the feeling that this is gonna be good?

    Comment by Edward Betz — April 5, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

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