Where in the world is Dave?

4 12 2004

This weekend I’m travelling to Washington, DC, to attend SMOFcon 22, a sort of meta-convention for people who run SF conventions. I’m staying at the Wyndham Washington DC through Monday. This is one of those inside-out hotels – no real windows on the outside, all the rooms look in on a 12 story high atrium. The base of this structure is a bizarre multi-level terraced arrangement. In that picture, I’m currently sitting right next to the big clock on that terrace. Quite surreal.
And, what’s with the world now? The hotel rooms are nice… not cavernous, but the ever-present desk in the room… comes with a Aeron chair. I’ve always found the hotel room chairs totally unuseable for real work, but ya know, having a really nice office chair like that makes me consider never leaving my room.
I did arrange to make my way from Boston to DC on Amtrak’s Metroliner service (as opposed to the Acela, which was noticeably more expensive). Even still, the comfort level of a coach Amtrak seat far outshines even business class on most airlines. And given my frame (6’6, 250lbs), I’ll take the extra time required for the train.
On that topic, it’s not hard to make a point that train travel is really not far behind airline travel. For me, it was 45 minutes to the station, only 10 minutes to checkin and board, 7.5 hours to DC in a comfy seat (with 120v power for the laptop!), then 1/2 hour through Union Station + the Metro to the hotel.
If I were to take a plane, it would be an hour to the airport, an hour checkin / security, 2 hours to DC, 1/2 hour out of the airport, 1.5 hours various trains to the hotel.
9 hours in comfort for the train vs 6 hours running and sitting in painful seating. On the train, it’s basically a work day, just in a different location. I was able to get an enormous amount done on my laptop during the trip, thanks to good music, headphones, and a power outlet. I can get up and mosey around, walk to the snack bar car and eat in there, stand in the isles / open spaces and stretch – even get out and walk around on the platform in NYC if I want (15-20 minute delay there). Heck I can even use my cellphone anytime. For the airline trip, of that transit time, perhaps an hour of and a half of it can be used for real work, and no phone during that time.
Besides. Trains are cool.




4 responses

4 12 2004
Emergent Chaos

Destroying the airlines in order to save them

My friend Dave writes about trains vs. planes: On that topic, it’s not hard to make a point that train travel is really not far behind airline travel. For me, it was 45 minutes to the station, only 10…

4 12 2004

I love love love my Aeron. I wish I had one at work but there’s no way I’m bringing mine in. Travelling by train is definitely relaxing but not effective living out in Colorado.

4 12 2004

The only advantage planes have over trains is time, and in the Northeast Corridor, the time advantage isn’t even that great if your origin and destination are near the city center.

6 12 2004

It must be nice to be in the one part of the country where Amtrak is worth taking. You’re getting a very skewed perspective by going down the New Boswash corridor.
It’s about 450 miles from Boston to DC. A roughly equivalent trip for me is from Chicago to Nashville: this trip would take me over a day.
Another trip, slightly shorter, is from Chicago to Minneapolis. This is closer to your time, taking a mere 9 hours. (I can drive that in four.)
Of course, my real experience with Amtrak (that I can remember: we took it to Omaha many times when I was a small child, but I don’t have many memories of that) was going to my Mom’s in Kalamazoo. The train never failed to break down (which turned a trip that was supposed to take 2.5 hours into at least a 4 hour one, every time: the longest time was the ten hours it took when they couldn’t get us a train and they put us on Greyhound midway through the trip), and it was delayed half of the time. (This was a total of about 20 trips.)
If the rest of the country got the service New Boswash gets, Amtrak would be awesome.
I wish I could say otherwise: I like trains, too. But outside of New Boswash, Amtrak resembles the Trans-Siberian Railroad more than the Orient Express. I think that they should shut it down outside of New Boswash and privatize what’s there: then we’d see how competitive it really is with the airlines. Without the massive subsidies, Amtrak would not survive on a national scale, but I think it could make it if it was just running in the one area of the country where it works.
For me, living in a provincial hick town like Chicago (with its mere 25 million in the Chiwaukee metroplex) the trade-off is between driving and flying over distances longer than Metra can carry me. (And it appears that Metra will be soon extended north from Kenosha into Milwaukee.) I hate driving in cities, but long-distance driving isn’t bad so long as I have books on CD/tape.
But I hate air travel, too, at least on planes. But if you want cool, I’m hoping that Zeppelins make a comeback. The Zeppelin NT gives me hope. Not much terrorist can do with those in terms of threat, so less justification for “Vhere are your papieren, und take off your zhoes!” security and the design could be modified to carry more passengers. (There’s also a design called the Cargolifter, which is supposed to carry freight, but could be modified to carry a lot of passengers, although it looks like the company that made the design is defunct or close to it. And carrying a massive number of passengers would make it a target, so I’d probably hear “Abajo con zapatos!” when getting on to one of those)

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