Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!!!

A New Reality

Sunday, December 26, 2021

As we approach the second anniversary of Covid Times, how many of us are anxious, eager, chomping-at-the-bit, waving-our-arms, jumping-up-and-down ready for this to be over???

Yeah, us too!!!

Will we ever accept the fact that, like the common cold or yearly flu season, Covid will be with us forevermore?  When the therapeutics such as vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson); or the pharmaceuticals (Pfizer’s Paxlovid or Merck’s Molnupiravir); and treatments like monoclonal antibodies (Regeneron or Remdesivir) are universally available and in regular use, will we be ready to embrace the “big sky theory” or “sometimes bad things happen to good people” and learn to live with the risk of Covid???  We already do so for the common cold and flu.  According to the World Health Organization, in any given year, 290,000 to 650,000 people will die of flu.  In the U.S., the CDC estimated that 12,000 to 52,000 flu deaths occurred annually between 2010 and 2020.

So, we try to “come to terms” with Covid by accepting and managing the risk.

And how’s that going???   

Well, your RovingRaconteurs, (fully vaccinated, boosted, and protected against the yearly flu virus) have taken to the skies, boarded the rails, and hit the road!!! We keep trying to sail the seas, but the cruise lines continue to cancel and roll our plans for world travel!!! 

Planes,….
trains,….
and automobiles!!!
The cruise lines are not taking us to world adventures. Yet. We keep throwing deposit money at them; but we’re not yet aboard a liner!!!

Here is what we have experienced:

The airports are busy.  Not long ago, nearly 2 years since Covid began (and just before this current fiasco of positive-test, 10-day crew-quarantining), we returned to the skies.  We learned airports are bustling–even during the omicron panic.  Flights are crowded.  Services and amenities are curtailed.  Staffing shortages were having an impact on efficiency even before the latest mandates.  The entire process is time-consuming and stressful!!!  We did have drinks and food service on our flights—not as charming as pre-covid, but at least offered!!!  The security lines were long and slow.  But our flights boarded, departed, and arrived on-time.  We had no “disturbances” on board the flight; but grumbles could be heard.  Smiling, happy travelers were in short supply.

Airports are crowded.
Lines are long
But once onboard, the experience seems more normal (other than the mask thing). Our flight boarded, took-off, and landed on time. We were served drinks and a meal during flight. No one disturbed the calm and quiet.
We have always been partial to air travel. There is beauty and serenity aloft. It’s the congestion of the airport that drives one to distraction!!!

Amtrak is old, dated, and in need of attention.  Just a few weeks ago, we took our first trip on Amtrak.  Both of us had enjoyed train travel as kids—sitting up in coach seats and wandering the cars for meals, views, and entertainment.  Now being grown-ups, we chose to book a bedroom for the overnight journey.  We were excited about having a new experience and looked forward to the adventure.  We climbed aboard the Amtrak Auto Train in Sanford, FL and set off to Lorton, Va.

As one enters the Amtrak Auto Train Station, the auto carriers (those tall containers on the upper right) are prominent and ready to accept the cars for transport. These carriers, once full, will be attached to the passenger cars.

 Ahh, but first, here’s a little info on the creation of Amtrak.  Founded in 1971, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak, is a for-profit organization owned by the United States government and managed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Their business is providing rail passengers long-distance inter-city service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states and 3 Canadian provinces with more than 300 trains daily over 21,400 miles of track.  Amtrak owns only 623 miles of that track.  Say what???!!!  Just how does that work?  Well, passenger trains were once owned and operated by private corporations whose primary business was transporting freight.  They got into passenger service as a sideline. Demand grew; and by 1916 they were serving 42 million passengers a year.  But with the advent of cars and buses and air travel, ridership declined.  By 1967 there were only 6 passenger trains in service.  The U.S. government came to the rescue by passing the Rail Passenger Service Act.    Amtrak was up and running in 1971 with equipment and tracks LEASED from the freight lines!!!    Today, the cars are owned by Amtrak, but the tracks are still leased.  And that’s what causes many of Amtrak’s problems.  All too often, the freight takes precedence on the tracks while passengers are shunted to a siding and wait, and wait, and wait.  Amtrak is seldom on time!!!  

We found the bedroom compartments to be amazingly small, but they are functional.  The bathroom and shower are en suite but you are advised, by a notice on the door, to sit on the toilet (for safety’s sake) while showering in a moving train.  It is necessary to take that seriously.  The tracks are rough and the train jostles to the max!!!  Standing, walking, and even laying down in bed causes one to list, lurch, bump into walls and jambs, and sprout black & blue bruises all over the arms!!!

The service is spotty.  Like the service industry everywhere, your experience on any given day will depend on the personality of whomever is on duty!!!  Our experience was a mixed bag of helpful and rude—it was a matter of degrees!!!

Several hours before departure, the autos begin lining up at the station.
The cars are loaded onto the car carriers. (Visible here on the left.)
These car carriers are assembled on a siding and will, later, be brought over and attached to the passenger train which already has its full compliment of dining cars, lounge cars and sleepers.
Passengers are boarded with their overnight gear. Luggage remains secure in the automobiles.
The in-room toilet and shower sure beats going down the hallway!!!
There’s a sign on the door advising bathers to sit down–and they really should!!! Its a rough and tumble ride!!!
This is a bedroom compartment. It is tiny. That table under the window will fold down and disappear. The sofa extends and turns into an oversized twin bed.The sink is on the right.
There are several Lounge Cars. Some for sleeper cars/some for coach cars.
It’s the same for the Dining Cars.
We happily found the food to be quite good!!!
The wine was included with the meal.
We were pleasantly surprised. The food was tasty and arived prepared to order!!! (It is our bad the picture is not more attractive.)
We were served a three-course meal.

Automobile travel, during Covid times, might be the least stressful, but it requires a longer timeline.  We found the driving experience to be quite enjoyable.  Because we are retired, we can allocate a lot of time to our travels and do so regularly.  Often, we will dedicate only 4 hours a day to actually driving from point A to point B.  That gives us the opportunity to stop, wander and explore.  Case in point:  we would never fly to Austin, MN for a tour of the Spam Museum; but it was only a short detour as we drove along Interstate 90.  We try to find unique and interesting hotels along the way; often looking for iconic, historic places to stay.  And we always find interesting (and sometimes quirky) restaurants, diners, and cafes.

Travelling the open road leaves you footloose and fancy free!!! Impromptu decisions are the rule!!! Surprises are just around the corner. Whims are easily satisfied. This photo was taken on the way to Wall SD.
The Spam Museum in Austin, MN (Darb02, CC Share Alike 4.0 International)
Gibson Inn, Apalachicola, FL (public domain)
We experienced a feeling of joy when we came upon a town-full of John Seward Johnson’s wonderful statuary in Carmel, Indiana.
Woody’s Library Restaurant in Carmel, Indiana occupies a charming old library building.

Ocean liners remain our preferred mode of travel!!!  We like the convenience of our hotel taking us to wonderful and exciting ports-of-call!!!  Once you have settled into your cabin and stowed your gear—ahh, that is when you feel “at home.”  The ship is your community, and your fellow passengers are neighbors and friends just waiting to be met!!!  Dining, shopping, entertainment, concerts, movies, classes, lectures, and demonstrations are all available.  The frustration during this time of panic is the interference of governments in the operation of the cruise lines.  Mandates and rules cause confusion and disruption of itineraries at a moments notice.  We were on a cruise in the Caribbean when the world-wide cruise shut down occurred in March of 2020.  The remainder of our itinerary was canceled and we came home. Since then, we have booked several cruises only to have them canceled as the protocols of different countries change with serendipity.  That must make it impossible for a cruise line to put together a long cruise itinerary.  Perhaps that’s why it seems most cruises, during these Covid times, are around 7-days long and limited to only a few ports in a concentrated geographic area.  The world cruises we love so much are now scheduled to resume in 2023!!!  In the meantime, we have booked a Caribbean cruise in the New Year!!!

Cruising remains our very favorite mode of travel. Love having the hotel take us to exotic ports-of-call. There is nothing as relaxing or carefree as touring by ship!!!

Someday,

This pandemic will be declared endemic.

 We will all get on with our lives.

This suffocating “new reality” will become a “return to normalcy”!!!

Here’s to sooner rather than later!!!

CHEERS!!!

3 thoughts on “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!!!”

  1. Sandy

    Enjoyed the blog! From your blog to god’s ears, let this pandemic be over! Last night was fun. See you when we get back !

    Betsy

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  2. Cabin fever struck and we did 2 cruises on Celebrity’s Edge and Constellation in November and December. We felt very safe with the protocols Celebrity had in place.

    Like

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