Thursday, July 23, 2009

Train Trip.....Deland Florida to Bridgeport Connecticut

On Assignment in the United States
Shelton Connecticut

I needed transport to the northeast of the United States. I have some time flexibility so instead of taking an airplane, certainly a speedier option, but not necessarily more convenient; I chose Amtrak. Cost wise, taking the train was about $30 dollars less than the airplane option. I have always loved taking the train. The NYC subway and the ease that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) can scoot one about a bustling metropolis is great. But this was the first long range Amtrak trip I have taken since I was a wee lad, negating any decent comparison between air and rail. Overall, I had a excellent experience and will make room in the future for train travel.

Things started out a little negatively with the train being 4 hours late. But, I received an automated voice mail on the BBC (Blackberry Curve) letting me know that Train 78 was struggling to meet its obligations, cushioning the blow. Some kind of derailing event in Miami. Armed with all my gizmos, to include; iPod, BBC, Macbook, Martin Backpackers Acoustic Guitar and Kindle, I was in a good position to stay occupied for the long term. And so it was.

Prior to the arrival at the station in Deland, my Dad and I had some pizza. Just as we were pulling into the station the news trickled out that the schedule was continuing to slip. So with the late afternoon sun waning, my dad had to get rolling back home to tend to my mom. Not to long after the powerful GE locomotive came rolling into view. For some reason I get off on the process of a train pulling into a station. I love the clanging of the bell, the clamor of the passengers jockeying for position and the conductors giving task direction. It reminds me of history, of the World Wars and the critical role railroad played in America's expansion westward. It reminds me of Dagny Taggert and Readen Metal. I also like the view from the train itself. With each town and city passing, you wonder what is happening with the town and the people sitting atop their luggage, waiting.

Once aboard my top priority was finding a seat that had 110 volt plugs to power my base of operations I was fixing to set up. I was more than pleased to see many available seats and all had the critical plugs. There is plenty of room compared to an aircraft. The train car was about the same width as a Boeing 737, but with four seats, two on each side of the aisle. Where a 737 has crammed six seats across. three to port and three to starboard. I thought beautiful as I settled in for the twenty five hour run up the east coast.

One of the best reasons to take a train is to watch the country side roll on passed. Once we left Deland, the train quickly picked up the pace to 80MPH and everything whizzed on past, except the sun, which was busy sinking below the horizon. Once darkness settled in, I headed aft to the Dinner Car and lounge. It was a buzz of activity with the regular folk (me) and the Sleeper Car crowd. I thought class warfare may rear up, but no, everyone seemed to be happy just mixing it up. This atmosphere does not permeate aboard aircraft while crowded around the bathroom. I had some dinner, followed with a good cup of coffee, which always brings me joy. Once I reached my target heart rate, I headed back to my seat and base of operations. I settled in with the BBC to brief all hands on Facebook and then watched 4 hours worth of Band of Brothers on DVD. During this period, I also had the BBC tethered to the laptop to finish downloading Revolutionary Road as a rental from iTunes. Which I subsequently watched. So it goes.

I tired out after all the hoopla, but struggled somewhat to sleep. Sleeping on Amtrak is similar to an airplane, unless of course your in a sleeper. Even with the big seats and adequate leg room, it can be tough. But I did get three to four hours of rest. I was interrupted at 3 am, when a non English speaking lady came aboard, tired and very frazzled. She needed a seat and of course, being a spreader outer, I had expanded my base of operations into the seat that she wanted to occupy. She was a wreak, so I helped get her luggage secured in the darkened compartment without waking everyone up. Turns out she was a diabetic and needed to do her thing. She was lockin up and was very relieved that I didn't bark at her. Twenty seats were empty just aft of us, but it didn't compute for her and I wasn't about to get into an altercation with a 60 year old Mexican woman. Especially since the only Spanish word I remember is perfecto, which would take the sting out of any shouting match. She was pleasant company all the way to NY's Penn Station and clearly a well loved woman. Her phone rang every five minutes with her family very worried about her traveling alone. Once in New York I was pressed into duty again and handled her luggage for her. Perfecto.

Even with stops at most major cities, the train was able to make up for lost time. I was able to get to NY's Penn Station with plenty of time to grab my connecting train north to Bridgeport Connecticut where my sister picked me up.

So, I like Amtrak. It chaps my ass though, that President Nixon declared during his reign that Amtrak would be profitable by the end of his term. 35 years later and we still pour billions into the operation each year. But, Amtrak is in my immediate future as I head to NYC late next week and then take the Hudson Line to upstate New York.

All Aboard!

Capt Chris

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tethering.....Another Drifter's Tool

Currently on Assignment in Los Estados Enidos

I took possession of my new Blackberry Curve (BBC) 8330 once on terra firma in the states. I like gadgets and especially the BBC. I suspect other smartphones are nearly as amazing. I am learning new applications daily but have come across a really exciting application, at least for me. I stuck with Sprint as my provider specifically because they offer tethering, which is the ability to use the phone as a modem. I was flumexed to find that tethering is offered, but only for Windows XP/Vista users. Bummer man. In a spasm of activity, I spent an afternoon on the internet, skulking throughout Blackberry Geekville to find a work around. I found it! Not only does it work, I've been able to configure the laptop and BBC to speak with one another via Bluetooth. So, not only do I have internet connection where ever I have cell service, but I can avoid using a USB cable. Beautiful.

I like to roam, I also like my information. I can do both easily. The pic is my mobile command post set up at the breakfast table.

Capt Chris