Taking the Train to New Orleans

  by Ben Trolio

          Trains. I chose this single syllable form of transportation that has fallen out of favor amongst the greater U.S. population for my trip to the Big Easy just under a week ago.  I was driven to take the train by my eco consciousness, but discovered new reasons to label the train as king.   I shared the thirty-hour trip with my dad, my bike and a microscopic amount of luggage. Although trains have fallen off the radar for much of America, this is not for their lack of amusement. The snaking line of cars can carry busloads of travelers, allowing the riders to simultaneously view the landscape and forget their worries.   Over my day plus train ride, I met a variety of new people and was treated to the beautiful transformation of vibrant Northeastern cities into rural Southern splendor. At every stop, people board and exit the train, infusing the steel bullet-like machine with fresh character. Trains aren’t just for enviro geeks, people who love sleeping or wintering bears. Trains are for people who seek community.  Although there were many reasons that I enjoyed my ride, two reasons in particular were David and Dixie Ann.

                   The elderly couple showed us the true community that trains foster. The characters, Dixie Ann and David from Atlanta, Georgia were very nice people. Too make a long story short, here is an important list of lessons learned from our encounter with the Atlantans on the train.

  1. Dixie Ann and David are awesome.
  2. They chose a cheery attitude over being cranky and hungry in the face of a marathon wait for dinner.
  3. The idea that the rich oil companies in the world should return our taxpayer dollars to repair damages that the fossil fuel industry wreaked in the Gulf Coast is not crazy!
  4. I received validation that biking 1000 miles on $5 of food a day is the best way I could spend my summer.
  5. Trains contain fantastic people!

I never would have met these inspiring people and shared this experience if I had flown or drove to New Orleans. Thankfully, I got to meet an incredible set people.  The moral of the story: friends don’t let friends ride in airplanes or cars (unless they really, really have to!).

Trains are often avoided because our contemporary society believes that speed is king. We hop in cars and shoot off at warp speed, trying to get as much done as possible.  And what are the costs? We become encased inside a metal bubble of stress, convenience and destruction (flying is a great example). Our cars and planes anchor our society to oil. The requirement of living in a better future is to push the “slow down” button, changing the pace of our lives. Traveling by bike, train or bus limits the destruction of our transportation system and provides us with entirely new experiences.  Let us avoid our self destruction through speed and embrace the train!

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