I’ve never traveled by train before, so when Amy Powe offered to write this post about her experience travelling from New Orleans to Chicago, I was excited to live vicariously through her.- Christy
Text by Amy Powe
As the population of those who embrace slow food, slow design (local and sustainable!), and slow money (yes it’s a thing), continues to grow it’s hard not to be curious about what’s next. In The South we have a reputation of never been in too big of a hurry about anything but, are we ready for slow travel?
Recently, I traveled with my family of four to Chicago aboard the infamous City of New Orleans. The train station is much closer to us than the airport. Parking, easy, surface lot, five dollars a day. The scene at the train station is interesting. There is an eclectic and eccentric crowd of all ages, shapes and sizes in all manner of dress. Honestly when is not the case in New Orleans?
As there are no security checks other than a sign that reads “We’re All In This Together” with interior shot of the train, there is no need to arrive any earlier than 45 minutes prior to departure. We have an easy departure time of 1:45 in the afternoon. First class (aka sleeper car ticket holders) board first. You are allowed two bags and can bring on liquids and food. My daughter and I share a deluxe sleeper car complete with (albeit small) sink, toilet and shower. We made our travel plans last minute, so there was not a sleeper car available for my husband and son, so they bunk in a sleeper car roomette. The roomette does not have nearly the amount of room as the deluxe model, or a private bath.
Inside our sleeper cars, we are greeted by our train hostess Kenya. She provides us with bottled water and 4 pillows. She explains that once the conductor makes his announcement we are free to move about the cabin. She also takes our dinner reservation, asks what time we would like beds turned down and what time we would like a wake-up call.
The sight seeing car has lots of seating and tables to keep travelers busy on their journey. There is much card playing, reading, crossword puzzle and suduko action. I never did get a clear answer as to whether or not wi-fi is available but, there didn’t seem to be much of a demand from my fellow passengers. There is a bar and snack bar downstairs. I would skip the snack bar next time and pack sandwiches from La Boulangerie before leaving town. The hot items are “cooked” via microwave and that is scary for me because I don’t own one and it definitely isn’t in the theme of slow! However, the Coronas were exactly right and there was a fair variety of beers and wine. Fast forward to dinner. The dinner menu was pretty bleak however, the local special was barbeque ribs. Actual non-microwaved food. My husband and kids loved it. I assembled a salad and vegetables from the menu. The retro of it all made for a very charming atmosphere. Once back in the room, the beds were made and it reminded of bit of a micro version of my Cabra dorm room at Loyola. The curtains were drawn back as the sun slowly disappeared from the sky. It was a lovely thing to have nothing to do than watch the sunset.
Sleeping on the train is very doable, but if you are a light sleeper you may want to medicate or take ear plugs. The train does continue to make stops during the night and the horn continues to blow as it approaches crossings. But, if you’re like my daughter you will sleep through the night and then some.
A basic breakfast is served morning before our 9 am arrival in Chicago. We arrive a few minutes ahead of schedule and make our way off the train and onto the platform. Chicago’s train station is much more advanced than the New Orleans train station. A cart picks us up, and wisks the four of us and luggage with urgency through the crowd at the station. The driver makes a stop at the rental car office (a brief pause for paperwork) and promptly drops us off to our rental car. Back to the fast lane.
photo credits: travelingmamas.com tarprail.org flickr.com condrenrails.com amtrack40th.com travelingmamas.com