By JENNY LYNN ANDERSON
Special to the Herald
I used to believe that if I booked a plane ticket, I would arrive more or less on time. Those days are long gone! Especially during the holidays, air travel can be a disaster. With delays, cancellations and airline staff shortages, I’ve had to rethink air travel so I could gain more control over my travel experience.
I recently had the opportunity to use Amtrak for the first time in my life. How in the world did I miss out on this travel secret? After one trip on Amtrak from Savannah, Georgia, to Orlando, Florida, I was hooked and vowed never to fly a short distance or white knuckle it down I-95 in a car ever again.
Here are six reasons Amtrak won me over as its newest, loyal “Amtrak Evangelist” and why you should “fast-track it” to your nearest locomotive.
Parking is a breeze
With a bit of trepidation I arrived at 6:15 a.m. at the Savannah Amtrak Station for the “Silver Meteor” which left Savannah at 6:49 a.m. I was nervous. After all, I was a newbie at this. Luckily I discovered when you park at the Savannah Amtrak station, the lobby of the train terminal is literally a few steps away from your vehicle. As a woman and solo traveler, I felt safe and secure since the parking area had ample lighting. Another bonus: no charge for parking.
Easy on, easy off
A female Amtrak attendant with a booming, authoritative voice walked around the terminal and announced the train would arrive momentarily and directed us outside to the platform. There, two more attendants checked passengers’ tickets (either paper or on your mobile device) and pointed us to the correct car.
I was traveling light with a carry-on roller suitcase so the attendant lifted it up to me as I boarded and I loaded it in the overhead rack above my seat. The bins are much more spacious than on airplanes.
Comfie, roomy seats
No one was in the seat next to me for a couple of hours so I felt like I was in first-class accommodations. The passenger seat area is exceedingly spacious and has a power outlet for you to charge your media devices and like an airplane has a drop-down tray for dining or working.
When my middle-aged, male seatmate showed up at Palatka, Florida, carrying a bouquet of flowers, he paused in the aisle to check his seat number. I proclaimed with outstretched arms, “You shouldn’t have brought me flowers! How did you know it was my inaugural train ride?” He burst out laughing and like old friends we chatted during the remaining trek.
With comfort in mind, the seats also come with a footrest to elevate your legs and a pop-up recliner for your knees.
The price is right
Gas prices are still high and air travel is through the roof costing more than $400 roundtrip from Savannah to Orlando. Amtrak’s $110 price tag for a roundtrip ticket is a bargain. It takes approximately six hours and you get to relax while the conductor does the heavy lifting. There’s no wear and tear on you or your car and you arrive at your destination fresh. Think of it as the best mental health “wellness” Christmas present you’ll ever give yourself!
Since I'd only had one cup of coffee on the way to the station, I inquired where the dining car was and was advised the “Cafe Car” was two cars behind me. I was excited to learn they brew Starbucks coffee.
The dining menu is simple yet varied enough to suit any palette and offers snacks, soft drinks, sandwiches and salads. If you want an alcoholic beverage, beer, wine and even Prosecco is available.
I made my way back to my car and enjoyed the solitude and calming movement of being on the rails. At lunchtime, I returned to the Cafe Car and purchased a turkey sub plus hummus and veggies.
My favorite part of train travel is hopping from car to car, pushing the automatic door button and being “in between” where the open gangways slide and shift a bit and you get blasts of fresh air.
The romance of the journey
The sound of the locomotive and its whistle are a love song to my ears. It beckons me to a simpler time in the past. Its rhythmic, soothing white noise is said to be like the sounds we hear in our mother’s womb.
As I closed my eyes, I could imagine living in an era before interstate highways and traffic congestion. A time where there was no TikTok, COVID or cell phones. It was a simpler way of life where people were more courteous and actually talked instead of texting.
I miss those days, but now I can find them again if I board a train, which I plan to do very soon.
Jenny Lynn Anderson, 59, owns Buzz Marketing. She caught the travel bug early in life and was lucky enough to trek with her parents to Honolulu, Hawaii to a Farm Bureau Convention in 1975 where she stayed at the Kahala Hilton known for attracting Hollywood stars. At age 12, with a lei around her neck, she was asked to join the hula dancers on stage at the Don Ho Evening Show. Lucille Ball was in the audience. She loved Lucy and fell in love with airplanes, tour buses, macadamia nuts, fresh pineapples, her vintage Red Pink Samsonite suitcase and the anticipation of her next adventure.