Attire ... Boomeranging ...  Coffee Pot ... Different Cars ... Emergency Exits ... Food ... Geek Vest ... Hygiene ... Luggage ... Pillow Coat ... Must Have ... Sleeping ... Toilet

Hobo for 30-Days

To go enjoyably around the world in 30 days on rail, one must be a hobo at heart or in part. Dainties need not apply. As with all adventures requiring some on-going limitations, forewarned is forearmed. Items needed are standard with additional ones for the special needs.

Be sure to schedule your trip 3 to 5 days in advance, for a missed connection can waste time having to re-schedule and re-ticket.

Attire: Two changes of clothes are adequate, one to wear and one to handwash for drying overnight. Change as often as you cannot stand yourself or fellow passenger comments. If you wash and deordorize your pits in the morning and at night, you won't develop train stench so quickly.

  1. Underwear: At home, I save up my "time-to-discard" undies for discarding during my rail trips as I need fresh, clean undies. Unlike many media darlings (Spears and Paris) who don't seem to have any underware anywhere, I have underwear all over North America.
  2. Pants and shirts: Carry an extra set with a washout every other day.

Boomeranging: When arriving at Buffalo, N.Y., in the middle of the night on the westbound Lakeshore Limited for visiting Niagara Falls, what's the cheapest transit and sleeping accomodations until sunrise? Stay on the westbound train until Cleveland where you deboard to pick up the eastbound limited that will deposit you in the morning after a fairly good sleep at no additional cost. This is using your 30-day pass to boomerang to save more money, from $60 to $100, and to save more time. Do you really like finding a cab and lodging in the middle of the night? Each tour city has a giiggle link for hostels.

Caffeine Soda: I used to pack 12-packs of caffeine-packed soda which cost less than two cans of pop on the train. Then I discovered the caffenated kool-aid which are slim packets (3" x 0.5") that can be mixed in a 16 oz cup. In the space of one 12 oz soda can, one can carry three dozen 16 oz packets of refreshment.

Coffee Pot: A small, 4-cup coffee pot does not take up space since the coffee beans can be stored in the pot itself. With a blender, one can brew a good cup of coffee any time of the day even when the cooks are sleeping. One can heat water for ramen noodles. As one conducter said early one morning of the aroma of fresh coffee from ground beans, "That's a new one. Never seen a coffee pot before."

Different Cars: The primary cars which a rail-hobo will for the long-hauls are the Superliner coach and cafes.

The coach cars are consistent on the top layout. The differ on the lower level. One-half of the lower level will be either additional seating for the physically challenged or a baggage room. One-half of the lower level has toilets. One or two dressing rooms can be found with toilets. If physically challenged seating is present on the lower level, a handicapped toilet will be present also.

The cafe/lounge cars differ in both top and bottom layouts. Originally fitted with only observation seats, some of the lounge cars have half the seats replaced with tables that increase the seating capacity. Electical outlets are the same on both layouts.

The bottom of the lounge cars, the cafe, differ in different layouts with electrical outlets being different also. If an outlet is taped over, remove the tape. If the electricity does not work, ask the conductor, not the attendant to reset the electical circuit breaker.

If you want to appear like a nice guy, carry a 6-outlet strip extension cord with you. While it will appear that you helping others when you plug it into the outlet at the unused wetbar on the top lounge level, you are actually doing yourself a favor. People will find and use the strip outlets without having to ask and interrupt your beating upon your computer.

Emergency Exits: Listen up and checkout so if there is an accident then you know how to help self and others. Remember how many exits are on the train. Besides the normal egresses there are the emergency windows. Interestingly, VIA of Canada has instructions more akin to an airline procedures with designated door openers as well as questions for a person sitting next to an emergency window. nd, of course, like planes, the actual number of exits on a train depends on the severity of the crash.

Food: When Amtrak replaced prepared food with glorified TV dinners in 2007, the reasons for carrying your own food increased. Simple food is best. Keep regularity in mind for, in more than one way, you don't want to be stopped on a train in the middle of nowhere. Like the demise of the free movies on long distant trains with the avent of the RailMedia monopoly, it is reasonable to conclude that the demise of on-board cooking was to give a monopoly to one or more outside food companies. While both are claimed to be example of free market dynamics, are either more than a controlled monopoly like the slave market that increases freedom a few while decreasing freedom for the many?

MealsForRail.com: If you want some a freshly cooked meal, consider the benefits of having a laptop, a cellphone and a credit card.

  1. Google the next major city that train will traverse during mealtime, e.g., "Denver, Downtown, restaurant, 'we deliver.'"
  2. Call ahead to see if they deliver to the train station with prior credit card payment.
  3. Ask if they will give you a 10% discount for each person you recruit for an order with ten being the max.

Use the last name, first initial for each meal. Collect cash using your credit card for the purchase. Take a business write-off, if you dare.

Amtrak could and should initiate an on-board food ordering for lunch and supper of local cuisine. An aspect of the Student and Writers tours is use of MealsforRail.com. It is a variation of people deboarding and visiting foodsites for carbos return.

At the risk of offending or perturbing some, my favorite on-rail and at-home dish is ramen noodles covered with a can of greens (spinach, turnip, mustard or collard) spiced with freshly ground pepper. A tasty, moving meal.

Geek Vest: For compact, mobile traveling with all the necessary tools for communication, you need a geek vest.

Hygiene: Wash your hands each time you use the toilet. Be sure to do a PTA each day on long trips.

Luggage: Two rollalong luggage are more than enough. Choose your luggage to be no bigger than the allowable Amtrak carry-on size but make sure they can be daisy-chained so that you can easily tie one to the other for pulling like a two-unit semi-truck.

Must have: Inflatable neck cushion. While compact, it will keep your neck in great shape by preventing your head twisting your neck while you sleep.

Pillow Coat: Two birds with one stone. Repeatedly I saw people lugging large pillows onto the train. While Amtrak and VIA give out pillows (VIA's on average are 50% bigger), a larger pillow is better for creating sleeping cup wherein to slumber. Better than a pillow is pillow shaped bag that can be picked up at a luggage shop--see sample--within which one can stuff clothes and coats for a pillow!

Sleeping on a train

  1. As a rule, sleeping on trains is like a winter in Minneapolis: I don't mind it when I'm doing it but I sure don't miss it after several days. At home one can lazily fall asleep while a train seat requires a little work with the workload depending passenger load. Full load means single rather than double seat sleeping. Don't drink to sleep for you will not sleep well. An OTC sleep aid works nicely. At one time, one could swivel a seat so as to have two-facing seats that make a nice four foot by six foot cushioned bed with the foot rest raised in the middle. VIA allows it but Amtrak does not. (Some people have been known to crawl up into the luggage racks which is unsafe. They would be more successful if they did not snore or talk.) Sleeping in the lounge car, floor or triplets during lights out hour.
  2. Do have a small bag about 6x6 (ideally with a draw string) in which to empty your pocket each night of the small articles will jab you while you try to sleep, e.g., coins, billfolds, pens, etc.

Toilet Etiquette: See Train Toilette Training, future article.

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