My Hellish Amtrak Train Ride to Virginia

south station boston
South Station in the 20s

The Amtrak train arrived on schedule at 6 a.m. or so, as I’m sitting in the Boston train station still attaching – as it turned out unnecessary – locks to my luggage. Hustling to the train dragging two large suitcases was a feat. One kept twisting and turning, refusing to stay on its wheels. As if it didn’t want me to leave. I hugged my daughter and blew kisses to the baby. Suddenly, I’m welling up with tears.

I’d told the entire family that I was traveling for the next two months at least. The adventures I’d imagined and the time by myself didn’t factor in the reality that I’d miss them terribly. Would the baby forget me in two months? How would they get along without me? Would my absence leave a hole during events like Halloween or birthdays?

My daughter texts me a few minutes later asking me not to leave. Too late as the train rolls out of South Station. We’re both crying and texting as the wheels put more distance between us. It’s my first time away from home, and the first time she’ll be without me. The older daughter seems fine with my departure. She understands it’s an adventure and professes a bit of jealousy.

I’m off to be a digital nomad! There’s no room for tears. Tears aren’t part of the adventure. I tell myself this, but it’s really hard to stop the waterworks.

The train hits more stations on its way out of Massachusetts towards Virginia. Most of the people boarding the train look like commuters on their way to work. We seem to stop in every city.

To keep my mind occupied, so I don’t burst into tears, I start reading a book on my tablet. The plan for this long trip from Massachusetts to Virginia – a total of 12 hours, by the way – is to keep myself as busy as possible. Writing, watching Hulu or Netflix, and reading. That should keep me from growing insane with boredom, which is a real problem for me.

Except when I try to use the Wi-Fi on the train, it tells me that streaming isn’t possible. That’s a serious bummer. That leaves writing and reading.

By hour six, I’m really tired of sitting and reading. I never get the chance to sit and read. I thought it would be terrific!

Why did I think this was a good idea?

The first rumblings begin in my stomach. I could use some food and some coffee, which I’d missed in the morning. I’m scared to walk between the train cars! What if we hit a bump or a turn just as I’m walking out, and I get pitched over the side. I can feel some of you rolling your eyes! I didn’t know. The connections are actually closed. It was a huge relief.

The cafe car has a small snack area with nothing really. I grab coffee and an energy bar. As I start my trek back to my seat, the swaying of the train causes coffee to spill all over my hand. The lid has a hole in it! On purpose! Amtrak, why would you do that on a train?

I see other people in the cafe car using their laptops and watching videos or movies. Not sure why I can’t do that on my tablet in the Quiet car. By the way, the Quiet car is for people who want to read or sleep. Noise is meant to be kept at a minimum.

In my seat finally, I sip my coffee and start taking pictures out the window. Anytime, I saw something interesting, I snapped a photo. I didn’t actually think I’d get anything except blurry images as they whirred by the window. Most of them were surprisingly clear.

Outside washington img_20160930_145418 img_20160930_130302 img_20160930_100533

I sent one to my daughter. She asked if that was the Brooklyn Bridge. I was close enough for that to be the case. She confirmed it was. You tell me.

brooklyn bridge


Throughout the trip, I used Google Maps to pinpoint my location through GPS to see where I was, and how much of the trip was left. Maybe a mistake since I could see how far away I still was!

Finally, I had to use the bathroom. I’d avoided having much to drink. I figured it would be a cramped space, and I was right. It was also smelly and dirty. There was water all over the floor, and it turns out, I can’t pee on a moving toilet! Okay, I did eventually, but I didn’t love it.

Leaving at 6 am meant I’d be there by 6 or 6:30 pm. Except we ended up stopped on the tracks for no reason. It happened twice! Well, there might have been a reason, but I couldn’t hear it. The speaker in the quiet car made the announcements sound like hissing static.

The announcement sounded like, “HISSSSS, mumble, mumble, another train, HISSS”

Thanks announcer.

We didn’t end up in Virginia until 8 pm.┬áMy 12 hour train trip ended up being 14 hours. Talk about slow travel to Virginia.

I stumbled off the train with my overstuffed bags. (I need everything since I’ll be gone for months! Literally everything.) The conductor helped me off with my bags, which was nice. He can’t speak up on the train’s announcement system, but he was helpful when he finally got rid of the last passengers!

Newport News is the final destination for that train. At 8 pm, I put in a request with Lyft, and a few minutes later my Lyft driver showed up at the station. I’ll talk a bit about Lyft in another post.

He dropped me at the house in Hampton. Luckily, my hosts are incredibly laid-back and flexible. They didn’t mind my late arrival at all.

There you go. My hellish train ride. I’ll never take a trip that long again. Not sure what I was thinking, anyway.

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