End of the Line: Meals on Wheels and To the Moon by Rail

Toward the end of my 30-days, I noticed that my Rail indicated I had one-more day than I had expected. As a result I planned another assault on the Lake Shore Limited. It took a while to get the tickets for the final day. A number of ticket clerks were stumped by the computer glitch that would not give me travel on the final day indicated by my Rail. With tickets secured, I started rocking and rolling northward with a nagging suspicion that either something was wrong or I was pre-senile.

Reflection on the one-day gap brought back memories of undergraduate school course additions. The first time I wante to take more than eighteen hours, I had to get permission of the Dean. Several appointments were broken by him as he had more pressing matters. Likewise with when I wanted to take more than twenty-one course hours with the head of the university. The third time I need permission for course overload, I used a trick. After registering for my non-overload class load, I would add the additional 3-hour class while droping a 3-hour class with no net-change in the number of hours total on the paperwork. The trick was that I was dropping a 3-hour class for which I had never ever registered! Slick, saving the Dean and Prez from wasting their precious time for little old me.

A variation of this had happened which extended my Rail. Originally, when I requested the pass I specified a starting day which appeared on the printed pass one day later. My tickets were written beginning on the day before the printed pass. Thus, I had a printed pass good for an extra day while the computer knew different. To my credit--one of those rare moments--I alterred my final train days to observe what I had paid for legally rather than what I could get illegally. I firmly believe that what goes around, comes around and that karma rules. The most expensive things in life are first free with later, larger and longer cost: lunches, love, financial advice and oil wars.

On my final day, I decided to observe  "Meels On Wheels." Breakfast in Baltimore. Lunch in Lancaster. Cheese steak in Philly. Happy Hour in Washington. Supper in Richmond.

Paraphrasing the Tommie interviewed by a British reporter in the sands of North Africa at end of the Second World War, I am going to kiss my wife and then take off these stinking tennis shoes. After each 30-day pass, I have tweaks to make for the next trip. Got the food down sweet, greens and noodles with an apple a day. I've got body cleaning down. I got the clothes cleaning down.

Like washing dishes on a regular, daily basis, learning to lived cheaper and cheaper breeds a greater appreciation of those moments of greater freedom. It is sort of like occassionally stubbing your toe: Your toes feel so much better after the pain goes away than they felt before the stub. You appreciate your toes more. Likewise with amenities of wife and home. A month of traveling and working makes the wife and home more enjoyable than before.

Going over 25,000 miles on a 30-day Amtrak Rail is not something that everyone should do. Listening to people complain after traveling five hours indicates the potential for explosive situations. What training do Amtrak personnel have for disruptive passengers besides calling the police? Any mace? Any taser? As Virginia Tech initiated procedures needed before the student massacre, Amtrak will belatedly initiate training after the fact. One reason for my seeking true academic freedom by abdicating from academia was the double-standard between preaching and practice: The density of counselors and counsel teachers was higher per capita on the Va Tech campus than off campus which is akin to the density of campus marriage counseling and campus divorce. Is academia is divorced from reality?

Several questions hang over the my "round the world" trip. How will Amtrak and VIA respond? Will they set limits on usage of the tickets, precluding some of the tricks that I have developed, e.g., boomerranging. Will they define Rail in a limited way? I'm sure Mr. Kummant, Amtrak's number one problem, will work to limit rather assist rail lovers who see the beauty in "round the world." Will the rail service encourage or discourage the development of a "Roads Scholar" plan?

My motives for the rail hail-mary pass were numerous.

  1. More work in an environment in which I can work as much as I want and not feel guilty about not entertaining the gal in the next room. No such guilt if the gal is in the next state or country.
  2. More sampling of public response to some of my ideas on economic and political reform, that is, better democracy and capitalism.
  3. Because it seemed funny as heck as well as a physical impossibility: Around the world in 30-days on a train.
  4. More testing of how simple a person can live. In the future, people will have to do better with less. As with hunger, simplicity is best presented by those who have lived it.
  5. More views of the dying environment, sadly.