Working on the Train

I like working on the train. I get an extra three to four hours of work done each day. Of course one has to have an activity to keep one busy. Whether traveling for work or pleasure, if you don't have something to do, you will be one of the bored travelers who will probably earn yourself the bane of complainer.

While working on the train, I was repeatedly approached with the question "Why are you working so hard?" One person gave me his business card with his cell and home phone with the comment, "When you run for office, call me. I want to volunteer for you." Since no politicians support Amtrak, it is unlikely that this rail-rider will ever be a politician. (Sometimes, I ended up working at my seat to avoid people with too much time and too many questions ... but that is what is great about a train ride.)

Some question the validity of visiting cities for only a few hours before having to leave. Is this really visiting a city or a variation of political hopscotching, that is, a politician gives a new speech each week on a topic of which his knowledge is weak, e.g., all the impatient, time-wasting irrelevant 2008 presidential candidates campaigning in 2006. This is missing the point. Power-visiting is like power-napping or power-dating. You are not doing the visiting from within the vacation setting but from a work setting.

Imagine being able to work for several hours and then visiting a sight in a city of which you are interested. In my three 30-days of travel in one year, I got more work done than I would have completed at home. And, I visited more than a dozen cities in which I spent several hours touring sites of interest. I would have spent more time in the cities if Amtrak was not castrated by freight line traffic dispatchers, hobbling along like a freshly neutered steer. Besides, I find that full-time vacationing and visiting sites becomes tedious. Visiting cities while working on Amtrak is like having a cable TV in which you have a real-time, real-world reality Tivo of the History or Discovery channel.

Consider Los Angeles which I have visited many times. One time I did Santa Monica Beach, sitting on a bench with a meal and a beer as I pounded the keyboard while the surf pounded the disappearing shore and the wind tossled my disappearing hair. Of course, I did a last minute stop in China Town, only a few blocks from LA's gorgeous train station. Another time, it was City Hall and China Town. Another time, the Walk of Stars and China Town. Another time, Rodeo Drive and China Town. With the metro system as an extension of the train station, one can be anywhere in LA in a few minutes for long breaks from work before riding back to catch the train after a stop in Chinatown. The same scenario has played out Vancouver, Miami, New York, Chicago and San Antonio, especially the city of the Alamo and the alimony. Consistently, my expert taste buds assessed the local varieties of hot and sour soup.

Power visiting is akin to power reading at a good coffee shop which has a good collection of coffee-table big books with pictures and commentary. With each coffeeshop visit I retrieve from my computer thing-to-do file the last book and last page visited. When I become bored with work or when the computer is bogged down in crunching bytes, I read a few pages. Like 24-7 city visits, reading a big book from front to back is boring and unmemorable compared to the enjoyment and memories from a short-burst of activity when you need it. Like the intimate difference between anytime spontaneity and Sunday mornings only. Power visits, power reading and power sex is great for recharging one's problem-solving batteries. It's a terrible lifestyle finding happiness and joy by economizing one's wants while meeting one's needs so as to have free time for the body and mind to wander and wonder.

There are few places better for beating up a laptop than the Grand Canyon, Riverwalk and Niagara Falls. Where can you work and feel like you are in the middle of Dr. Zhivago expecting Yuri to appear any moment with Lara's Theme playing in the background? Where? On the Cascades or Coastal Starlight going through Oregon and Washington in the winter. Warm cuddly snow that belies the cold reality like a politician's campaign speech.

Clearly, working on the railroad and power-visits of the cities is not for everyone. Clearly, I am not a vacation purist. Clearly, I am a workaholic who thinks laptops are the salvation of the workaholic: Now, we can take vacations. Clearly, I visited more cities and ate more Chinese food elsewhere than the average vacation purist.

If you sweat the small stuff, train travel is not for you let alone working on the train. In a way, train traveling and working is good training for ignoring the small stuff. As to the rocking and rolling, one often sees people sitting at that their desk with "restless leg syndrome," fidgeting and moving as if they had ants in the pants, jumping beans in their pockets or amore on the mind. Attitude is everything with attitude often being the difference between unity and hypocrisy of personality. On a train, one often hears a variation of the rugged individual who praises the rigor of camping for building character while demeaning the "demands" of train travel.

Working on the train is not in lieu of vacations which my wife and I take--she is more of a vacation purist.This sNoBrainbeeish defense of working on the rail and power-visits is to encourage the reader to consider buying a Rail instead of an airline ticket when you can leave the night before for next day visit as I did in the 1990's so as to have frequent railer miles for the rest of the month. Three weekends of vacation and work for no travel costs is pretty economical--see Rail Usage. Great for the chicken traveler: cheap, cheap, cheap.

It is important to note that the options are innumerable for little getaways. The trips and loops outlined in these articles do not take in consideration the small bus rides that take you to hundreds of more out-of-the-way places that used to be serviced by rail. All the green lines from the Amtrak train stations represent bus routes for which your 30-day pass provides you free passage--see Amtrak map. As a rule these buses are not crowded. A very good example is the Amtrak bus service from Emeryville, California, into San Francisco, NewPort News, VA, to Virginia Beach. Each tour lists some of the available sidetrips.