Thursday, July 7, 2011


Generally speaking, my favorite way to travel is by train. That's just fine if you live in the so-called Northeast Corridor, where, in addition to the commuter rail lines, there are the major Amtrak lines connecting New York with Boston to the north and Washington, DC, to the south. Of course, I don't live there right now. And the city where I now live, Knoxville, lost its train service some time ago. (There are still freight trains passing through. I can hear them every night. But no passenger trains). Unless one wants to drive everywhere, long-distance travel means air travel. Air travel is super expensive, however, and has many other inconveniences - e.g., my 30-hour trip last month from San Francisco to Knoxville, much of it spent stranded at Dulles Airport outside Washington. At least Washington and NY have direct flights to and from Knoxville, although the other inconveniences - high cost and the persistent problem of stormy weather - remain. So, rather than fly to NY for my summer vacation this year, I decided to experiment with Megabus. Megabus has been around awhile, providing service to and from various cities and recently instituted a run between Knoxville and DC. The thing about Megabus is that, if you purchase your ticket far enough in advance, you can ride for $1.

So, yesterday, I took the Megabus to Washington. It's about a 9-hour trip, which is a bit on the long side, to be sure. By definition, the bus lacks some of the amenities of train travel. But, for $1., who's going to complain. Actually, the service was good. The bus left Knoxville on time and was only about half-full. It made one rest/lunch stop and then stopped again somewhere in rural Virginia to pick up more passengers. So, for the last few hours, the bus was almost full. That's good. It means they will stay in business!

We arrived in Washington just slightly behind schedule, thanks to some rather heavy traffic entering the city. But otherwise, it was a fine ride. I doubt I would always choose the bus over the plane to go to Washington, but it's a handy option to have - especially if one's plans are tentative. If it costs (literally) just a couple of dollars, I may not hesitate to buy a ticket even if i am still unsure about whether I will actually be able make the trip, whereas with airfare that would be much more problematic. Of course, if air travel were cheaper and more user-friendly, that would be great. Having a passenger train connection would also be great. But, for the time being, the bus is a worthy alternative.

So, I am here at the Paulist seminary in DC, just hanging out for a couple of days, before heading up north to New York (by train) for some serious vacation.

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