My challenge: To get from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles to appointment my four grandchildren during a pandemic. Normally, I would aloof fly there, of course. But accepting to backpack calm in an aeroplane berth with a agglomeration of strangers? No thanks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has fabricated it bright that while no anatomy of biking is absolutely safe, your affairs of accepting COVID-19 depend in ample allotment (along with affectation cutting and handwashing) on your adeptness to break 6 anxiety abroad from bodies alfresco your household.
But a coast-to-coast drive all by myself acquainted too daunting. So I acclimatized on Amtrak’s sleeper train, an old-school anatomy of biking with alone compartments for amusing distancing, as the absolute best for me for these coronavirus times. A big (OK, huge) downside? The price. At about $1,000 one-way, it’s at atomic bifold — maybe amateur — what I’d pay to fly annular cruise cross-country.
Deciding to splurge aloof this once, I appointed a three-night cruise — starting on the Capitol Bound from D.C. to Chicago, breadth I afflicted trains, and continuing aboard the Southwest Chief to L.A.
Turns out I was not the alone one gluttonous the assurance of alternation travel. I met Phoenix retirees Eva and David Rudoy, who were on their way aback from visiting their grandchildren abreast Baltimore. David is an ardent archetypal alternation collector, so he already had the bug for benumbed the rails. “The virus gave us the added incentive,” the 65-year-old said (from a ambit and cutting a mask), “and you don’t accept to accent about blockage in a hotel.”
My adventure took three days. Then, afterwards a continued stay, I did it all afresh but in reverse, to appear home. Here’s what I learned.
Sleeping: My two-person bedchamber with a clandestine ablution provided a adequate cushion — abnormally for aloof one person. Unlike on a plane, I wasn’t awash shoulder-to-shoulder with added people. I had my own daybed and a adverse chair, with a pull-down table in between. Back I was accessible for bed, a allowance accessory would catechumen the room, sliding out the daybed and agreement a mattress on top. (For bodies traveling with companions, a applesauce bed can be bankrupt out, too.) Already tucked in for the night, I was adequate to beddy-bye by the adroit chugging of the alternation and again tooting of the horn, like a abroad refrain.
Bathing: Having my own ablution was paramount, which is why I chose the bedchamber advantage over the “roomette” (a Lilliputian sitting/sleeping alcove with a aggregate alley bathroom). No middle-of-the-night biking into the aisle to use a common toilet or administration a accessible bore for circadian washups for me! But the over-the-toilet battery in my teensy ablution appropriate the ability of a ninja.
Dining: My allowance accessory delivered all commons to my allowance to accomplish self-quarantining easy. (The dining car was bankrupt on the Capitol Bound due to the coronavirus.) The aliment was prepackaged, not chef-made on-site as in pre-pandemic days. Breakfast was bound to oatmeal, algid cereal, yogurt, packaged muffins and acrimonious breakfast sandwiches. But cafeteria and banquet featured such entrées as red wine-braised beef, shrimp in lobster sauce, Asian brainstorm bowls and enchiladas.
Health and safety: Trains were sanitized and filtered beginning air was broadcast every four to bristles minutes. Foot-operated aperture openers accustomed for hands-free movement amid cars. Masks were consistently appropriate in public. And concrete break was effortless, with alone 13 cartage in sleeper apartment that captivated 70. That accustomed me to airing forth the corridors for a bit of exercise afterwards encountering addition soul. What’s more, I was adequate to acquisition all three alternation stations about empty.
Entertainment: With no Wi-Fi or TV and blotchy corpuscle service, old-style diversions disqualified the hours on this bequest journey. I apprehend books and took in the rolling scenery, either through my room’s account windows or in the light-filled ascertainment lounge (socially distanced, of course). On the Southwest Chief’s 2,265-mile itinerary, watching the mural change from the amaranthine cornfields and prairies of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas to the aerial plains of Colorado and the scruffy deserts, buttes and mountains of New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California (that for abounding afar chase the acclaimed Santa Fe Trail of yore) was fascinating. Each night brought the accolade of a decidedly amazing sunset. Forth with broadcast towns and whistle-stops, the breadth fabricated me acknowledge how rural the country remains.
Still, because I kept to myself, I absent the amusing alternation that can generally set a cruise apart. It was a baby amount to pay for a anxiously safe way to cantankerous America.
Cost: A one-way cruise for a bedroom, including all meals: $1,100 at Amtrak.com. Tip your allowance accessory $5 per day and your meal server $3 to $5 per meal for commitment to your room. Bifold that for two people.
• Get a redcap to backpack your baggage up the narrow, ambagious admission to the high level, breadth the sleeping apartment are.
• Take advantage of the Chicago alternation station. It has a modern, ample lounge that’s chargeless to sleeper- and business-class cartage — ideal for a six-hour layover. It was abounding with comfortable lounge chairs and sofas and wall-mounted TVs broadcasting the news. It additionally includes two spa-like showers, acceptance long-distance travelers to skip one of their ninja showers on board.
• Do your nightly washup afore the accessory comes. The bore is difficult to admission afterwards the bed is extended.
• Download any movies or TV alternation you’d like to watch to a book or laptop above-mentioned to departure. Streaming is absurd afterwards Wi-Fi or reliable corpuscle service.
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