It's Rollin' Round the Bend
At the school where I've worked the past three years, we celebrate graduation on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. In the old days, when I worked here the first time, we celebrated on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. That was always a bummer. Your holiday weekend completely disrupted by your obligation to be at graduation.
Now that we have our four-day weekend back, it's easy to plan something nice and get away. Or, it should be. I am famous for forgetting about holiday weekends until they've basically already arrived. This year, I was really proud of myself because I booked two nights at a fancy mid-century hotel in DC. My plan was to hang at the pool, order room service, and generally just chill out. Then, we had almost two weeks of non-stop rain. The closer it got to Memorial Day weekend, the more I realized my pool-hanging might be thwarted. When I checked the extended forecast, sure enough, rain was likely all weekend. I spend most of my time alone, but I tend to lose it a bit when I know I could have been with friends or family and didn't make it happen. So, I started looking into plane tickets.
My oldest friend, K, lives in Atlanta with her partner, C. It's nice to get to visit them and I'd been dying to see them again. All plane tickets were outrageously priced, however. Holiday weekend prices were rearing their ugly heads. I was about to give up when I had a flash: what about the train? I knew there was a route from DC to Atlanta. Amtrak's Crescent line starts in New York City and ends in New Orleans. Along the way, it stops in DC and Atlanta and quietly chugs along overnight.
I boarded the number 19 Crescent at 6:30p at Union Station. My train tickets cost exactly half of what a plane ticket would have cost. That was, however, because I planned to sit up all night in a coach seat. To reserve a roomette, I'd have had to spend as much or more than the airline ticket. In general, it was really nice: there is a much more diverse crowd on a train and a sense of camaraderie that seems to be missing from air travel these days. The lady who sold me a turkey sandwich in the cafe car smiled at every single person who approached her counter. I had a row to myself on the journey south so I spread out, took a melatonin, and did my best to sleep.
We arrived in Atlanta only about an hour late and K and C took me immediately to brunch at Muchacho. I sucked down as much water as I could handle, a delicious iced coffee, and one of the best breakfast tacos I've ever tasted. Then, we checked out some of Ponce City Market (K and C are planning their wedding for September and we were scoping their venue), the Decatur Arts Festival, and generally enjoyed some much-needed time together.
Sunday was more brunch, more tacos, and more sight-seeing. And my phone regularly updated me about the lateness of my incoming train: first my 8:00pm train was scheduled to arrive at 8:58pm, then 9:28pm, then 10:01pm (when it truly did arrive, finally). By the time the beleagured looking group waiting at the Atlanta station boarded, it was nearly 11:00pm and we were all exhausted. I passed out almost immediately (despite sharing my row with a lady bound for Newark). I slept much less fitfully as we chugged back north.
Overall, I'd definitely take the train again. There was something very casual and almost relaxing about it (compared to air travel). However, you can't be on a tight schedule and I wouldn't recommend it if you need to be sharp and super coherent when you arrive at your destination (if you're sitting up, anyway). Next time, I would like to try a room. I think if I could lie down, the train would certainly rock me to sleep...and, I wouldn't worry so much about snoring and waking my neighbors!
When I finally got back to DC, the red line metro was receiving "maintenance" and two stops were closed...so, after all that, I took the metro to Dupont Circle, got off and onto a bus, took the bus to Van Ness, got back onto the metro and took it to Medical Center. From there, I called a Lyft to take me across the road and up the hill to my cousin's house, where my car was parked. If I'd been in a boat that day, I'd have done it all! It was a long trip but completely worth it for the visit with K and C and to experience something totally new.