Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

In February I have to go to San Antonio for work. I have identified three options for the Boston-to-San-Antonio trip:

  • Traveling via plane (with a connection in Houston or Dallas) takes about 7 hours, not counting the inevitable airline delays or time needed to make it through security screening. The airfare is currently going for under $300.

  • Traveling via train (with connections in NYC and New Orleans) takes about 50 hours, not counting layovers. The round trip, including a sleeper car, costs a little upwards of $1000.

  • Traveling via automobile requires almost 33 hours of road time, not counting traffic or bathroom breaks. Assuming the 4,000-or-so-mile trek were reimbursed at 50 cents/mile, the road trip would run around $2,000.

I'm sure the best travel option was as obvious to you as it was to me. Train! I should add that my fear of flying, irrational though it may be, weighed heavily into my decision. Plus, I've never been to New Orleans so I figured I might as well tack on a few days there to my trip, cuz there's no telling when another hurricane will come and wipe the city off the map for good.

(Side note: My family thinks I'm insane for choosing the train option. I suspect, however, that they may be jealous of the adventure I will no doubt have riding the rails. Or maybe they are just upset that not flying minimizes the chances I'll die in a fiery plane crash which would allow them to cash in my life insurance.)

I just have a few questions, though, to pose to those in the know about train travel on Amtrak's Sunset Limited line in Louisiana and Texas. Why on earth does the train trip from New Orleans to San Antonio take 15 hours (!) when the estimated drive time between the two cities is more like half that? Does the train only get to go 20 miles per hour through the bayou, so as to not upset the alligators, or something? I'm half tempted to rent a car in New Orleans and drive that final leg of the trip, but I worry that driving through the Bayou and then across Texas may be a dangerous proposition for a Yankee chick such as myself, given my limited tolerance of reptiles and cowboy-hat-toting conservative Republicans. Thoughts?

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