A couple weeks ago, my wife and I flew up to NJ for my family reunion (held near South Bound Brook every last Saturday in June). I’ve missed the last few due to other things getting in the way (like living in Singapore and getting married ;)) – so it was great to be able to catch up with some people I haven’t seen in 3+ years, but sad that not everyone could make it.
Excluding the cruddy service we got on US Air from CVG, the trip was pretty good. The Sheraton at Newark Airport bumped us to the “lounge level” (that floor you need your room card to get to). The picnic was fun. And dinner that evening at one of my favored restaurants in Whitehouse Station was tasty, too.
Sunday early we got to Newark Penn Station to do something neither of us has ever done before in the US (and my wife, well, ever) – take a “substantial” train ride! I’ve taken the train back and forth between Albany and NY Penn a few times, and I’ve taken the train in the UK, but never anything longer than a couple hours in the US.
The Cardinal line runs 3 days a week, and hits myriad stations on its way from NY Penn (the stop before we got on) to Chicago (we got off in Cincinnati).
Some things we learned:
- coach class seats are comfy – for the first few hours; after this, a room would have been a LOT better
- had we bought a room, our meals would have been included
- it’s intensely bizarre to eat going backwards at 75mph
- the NRHS does narrated tours of part of the Cardinal run (West-to-East) a couple days a week
- there are way more train stations in this country than I would have expected: but never quite where you want them to be
- meals are eaten with whomever they set at your table – so unless you’re in a group of 3+, you’ll be eating with total strangers
We’re both constantly checking Amtrak now for any future trips – both leisure and business – to see if taking the train is a better deal than flying… and a non-trivial percentage of the time, it is turning out to be so 🙂
The only truly bad part of the trip was the taxi ride from the Cincinnati Amtrak station to CVG – the guy who picked us up waited until we got to the airport to claim his credit card reader was down (future reference – if the machine is off/”down”, it’s probably that the driver wants cash in his pocket, or for change, but he is still REQUIRED to take your card info by hand). Then he offered for us to “just buy gas” for him instead of pay him. Then he didn’t shut the meter off when he drove us to an ATM (at the airport terminal) to get cash out for paying the sheister. When I talked to the taxi owner the next day, he set us straight on how that should have worked, and fired the driver for cheating us. Oh – and he also told about all the “mechanical and electrical” issues his car had.. yeah – extremely unprofessional 🙁