It was mid-afternoon on a Thursday when I boarded the Vermonter Amtrak train. I waited, sitting with my back to the freshly built wood railing, legs splayed in front of me on the platform. There were only a few other people waiting with me. The high-pitched whine of the train on the tracks let me know it was arriving before I saw or heard the engine. Moments later the train pulled into the station, screaming to a halt as two conductors dismounted and helped us on. Watch the gap, they said. I wished they had seized the opportunity and tipped their hats to the London underground. And then we were off, easing out of the city and picking up speed as we went.
I knew the trip would be pretty, traveling through the Green Mountains in mid-October, but I had no idea just how breathtaking. As we snaked our way north, the landscape sped by, trees a fiery orange and the sun sinking lower on the horizon before the sunset. The trip back to school was equally as stunning, perhaps even more. The Vermont landscape I had missed on the way home at nightfall was alive and well. Covered bridges, rushing rivers, fog low on the trees heavy with their red and yellow leaves. It made me fall even more deeply in love with the state I call home.
My trip north was mostly a dream. I have always loved trains and, while driving is technically faster than the train, the ability to work or relax while traveling is well worth the extra time. I worked throughout, using onboard wifi and my personal hotspot when reception got sketchy. There were only a few stretches where I lost internet, during which I napped because #college. Being able to work on the train meant I could be fully present at home with my family, which was such a gift given the short trip for the long weekend. The conductors were wonderful and there was even a quiet car, which I probably should have taken advantage of given my distractibility but didn’t. The train was slightly delayed due to “slow orders” over some parts of track, which the conductor explained happens when new sections of track are laid down and enough trains must pass over it at slow speeds in order to deem it safe for full speed (~60 mph).
I returned to Northampton the following Monday, aboard the busy southbound train. The Vermonter Amtrak makes two runs a day, one north and one south, and goes from Washington, DC to St. Albans, VT, passing through New York City, Northampton, and my hometown, among many others, which meant that the Monday train was a key way for folks to get home after the long weekend. While my trip to Vermont was smooth, the way back to school was a little rockier. First, it seemed the train wifi was not working, which meant I had no connection to work. I tried to use my personal hotspot but even that wasn’t working well. Additionally, the train ended up being almost an hour and a half late to the station, mostly due to those slow orders but likely also because of how long it took to move so many people on and off the train. Ultimately, I was just glad to land back in Northampton after a long travel day.
Overall, I loved my Amtrak trip. Amtrak trains, which run all over the US and Canada, are definitely underrated and I encourage everyone planning a trip to look into routes in the area! While there were definitely some quirks and frustrations, this was to be expected and comes with the unpredictability of travel. I absolutely adored being able to sit back and enjoy the trip without having to worry about driving, putting miles on my car, or missing time with family and friends. And the views! Can’t beat that.
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