Having a sister that lives in Manhattan, I don't get to see her as often as I'd like. This past weekend, I headed up to the city that never sleeps for a long overdue visit, but this time was different. I decided to take the train.
When searching the Amtrak website, I pleasantly discovered that one train, the Carolinian, went from the beautifully renovated Durham Station, all the way to Penn Station in Manhattan. Booking a week and a half in advance, I was able to find round trip coach tickets for $166.
The passenger experience was quite pleasant. The train ride is very smooth -- with more leg room, hip room, and isle room than your standard airplane. You don't have to wear a seatbelt, you can get up and walk around whenever you like, and there are two restrooms on every car.
For a change of scenery and seating, you can mosey over to the Cafe Car, which has a selection of sandwiches, microwave entrees, snacks and soft drinks. They also have a variable selection beer and wine; on my trip they had Miller/Bud Lites, Sam Adams, Heineken, Chardonney and Cabernet.
There was plenty of space for carry-on baggage, but there is also the option to check. It was nice to be able to retain some of my personal rights and dignity -- there were no metal detectors or strip searches. A photo id and ticket check provided an appropriate amount of security screening.
The only potential down side is the time, as the ride is approximately 10 hours. This is a rough equivalent to the time it takes to drive, and the cost of gas, tolls, and parking makes the train fare become suddenly affordable. The air travel option makes more sense if you are either short on time, or are able to find a cheap flight.
It was a liberating experience to take public transportation all the way from my place to my sister's, with a walk to Durham Station, a train ride, and walk from Penn Station. In a way it makes the distance feel not quite as far. Of the 3 modes of trainsport I have taken to NYC, this was by far the least stressful. I was able to get a bunch of reading done, had some good chats with fellow passengers, and got to gaze upon the gorgeous countryside.