A pleasant journey
A view from the Vermonter.

A pleasant journey

Taking the train for a 300-mile round trip amid soaring gas prices was a bargain — and also a pleasure

WILLIAMSVILLE — When I boarded the train in Brattleboro on a recent Friday, gas was approaching $5 per gallon, and my ticket cost less than making my 300-mile round-trip in my Prius.

When I returned home that Sunday, gas had hit the $5 mark. If I calculated the cost of purchasing, registering, insuring, and maintaining the car, the train was an absolute bargain.

It was also a pleasure.

After boarding, I settled into a seat the size of a Barcalounger, which would have been comfortable even if a passenger occupied the seat beside me.

Comfortable as it was, my seat lacked a seat belt as well as attendants exhorting me to buckle up. There was no “fasten seat belt” sign, no one reminding me it's a federal crime to tamper with the smoke detectors in the lavatory, no instructions on how to negotiate an oxygen mask or life vest, no expectation that the train would crash and we'd all die.

It was all very pleasant.

* * *

I didn't just save money by taking the train; I also gained time.

For two and a half hours, I lost myself in The Lincoln Highway, a wonderful novel by Amor Towles. While I was traveling north by train in reality, I was also transported east imaginatively, traveling by boxcar with Emmett and Billy Watson.

It's 1954, and the Watson brothers are trying to drive to California, but Duchess and Woolly, Emmett's friends on the lam, have complicated the boys' journey.

It's quite a yarn. Every once in a while, I had to take a break from the story and stare out the window at the lush Vermont landscape passing by.

* * *

The train ride wasn't perfect.

The Vermonter, as this route is called, travels to and from Washington, D.C. to St. Albans. Nearing the end of its run, the restroom I used needed some attention. The floor was so sticky, I feared I'd step out of my shoes. But there was a functioning toilet and still plenty of TP.

Low expectations make for pleasant surprises.

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