Last week, I finished a bicycle trip from Buffalo, New York to Albany, New York. Instead of flying back at a cost of $500, I decided to get a ticket ahead of time on Amtrak. That only cost $100! Though it took all day to get home, it would be a pleasant way to travel. I hadn't taken Amtrak in a long time, and thought maybe it was like the airlines in that they would check your baggage and load it and transfer it at various points to your final destination. Not so. Evidently, I would have to do that. Unfortunately, the bike suitcase weighed 50 lbs., and I also had a duffel bag that contained my tenting stuff and clothes. I felt it would be too much of a hassle to try to schlep all of this around on my own, so I asked if it could be sent on a later train and I could pick it up a day later. They said no problem, and it didn't cost anything.
Since I had finished my bike trip a day earlier than expected, I changed my outbound train, and that only cost $20! I was used to expensive change fees on airlines, so this was a nice surprise. It was because I had an existing reservation and ticket. :)
It was nice to travel with just a little carry-on bag on the train that contained a book to read, an MP3 player for music and my bicycle helmet. I enjoyed reading, listening to music, taking pictures out the window and also checking out sights in the distance with my binoculars. It was very pleasant and relaxing. You also have lots of leg room, the seats are comfortable than airline seats and you can get up and wander around the train if you want to stretch your legs.
Our train was delayed in getting to New York City, by an hour and a half, so I had to trek across Penn Station to the Amtrak counter to get my ticket re-issued for a later train. I was glad I didn't have to carry all my bags that way, let alone getting into the ladies room afterwards. If I had had someone traveling with me, it wouldn't have been difficult, but on your own, it's much harder.
The train to D.C. was delayed a half hour, so I finally got into DC at 5 p.m. (a few hours later than I expected). But, I wasn't in a hurry - I had all day to spare, which was nice. It was a long travel day, but really, not too much different from my flight to Albany. Between transferring planes in New York City, and then an hour delay sitting on the runway while 40 (!) planes waited to take off, it took me (door to door) about 9-10 hrs. Same as the train!
My next Amtrak trip will be later this month, when I take it up to Philadelphia for the day, to bike with a friend on bike trails there. I will take my smaller folding bike, which will easy to get on and off the train. Stay tuned!