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One Morning on a Train

I wrote a post on Wednesday morning meaning to post it later when internet connections returned. But here it is now instead.

It’s my third morning on a train this year – interesting to realize that the previous trip (Ann Arbor – Los Angeles) was earlier this year, where it feels like longer.

In contrast to my observations in 2012, Amtrak now seems more comfortable in the digital age. This long distance train still does not have a wifi service, and who knows why, but there are plenty of people using their digital devices and not blinking an eye. I think that coming into a snowy atmosphere, with accumulation being constant and building as we head East, adds a different flair to the atmosphere.

The bus driver from Detroit to Toledo was certainly one of the most democratic drivers I have ever had on public transportation. He asked the full bus to “not use profanity” if we/they were talking on cellphones, and then initiated a vote as to whether people would like to get concessions at a convenience store prior to boarding the train in Toledo. We did, and it proved to be a good move.

I found (as I had expected) that the initial travel experience brought back sharp flashbacks of my earlier visits to Michigan, before I was a resident in the state and had not gotten to know it as well as I do now. In particular, being back in the same places – the Detroit and Toledo Amtrak stations – brought back very clear memories of what I had done in the previous visits there, such as calling California friends – so I called one of them – and observing Ohio’s old – style porcelain highway signs, which have now been replaced at some point in the last couple of years. And being resident in Michigan, with its troubling bumpy roads, made me notice the smoothness of I-75 immediately after crossing the state line.

As for the rest of today, since I’ve just gotten over the mesmerizing quality of observing the passing snow, I’m hoping that the lack of internet distractions gives rise to some productivity on my assortment of homework assignments due in December….

Amtrak in the Digital Age

Tonight I will re-board Amtrak’s Capitol Limited train for the first time since 2012. My previous trip on that route, which was coming to Michigan rather than from it, also marked my last post in a previous blog. And so I thought I’d re-post that entry here. I will be turning off my smartphone tonight.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012
Return to Amtrak in the Digital Age

I did not realize how much of a distraction this iPhone would become tonight. Something about having it along is making me see tonight as just another digital night. EXCEPT that the 3G signal disappeared around Harpers Ferry, and seems unlikely to return until Pittsburgh at the earliest. I now see how Internet dependent the phone is, as if I did not know that already. Unfortunately, the same situation is running rampant like a virus across the train – I see at least half of the passengers tangled up in their digital devices . People are still taking in the scenery, but now it is dark and some have already fallen asleep.

While the aforementioned digital issue has given this trip a different feel, it has certainly still been memorable. My second ever visit to Washington DC allowed more flexibility than the first, which was coincidentally the last time I did this train itinerary. The US Capitol building was within reach, though securely guarded, and I took it all in with some surprise at the scope of The District. Perhaps my close knit (native New Englander) geographic orientation also extends to my perception of the capital city. I am sure that is the case, where it is a similar scenario when 2 inches on a Massachusetts map does NOT equal 2 inches on a … New Mexico map. The physical sensation of seeing more of DC was grandiose, and more about the WOW feeling than a question of melodrama.

Now the focus turns to the great state of Michigan, site of intense political scrutiny today and at least SOME fallout or backlash tomorrow. I have greatly enjoyed my previous stays in the state, especially this past August going from the distant lands of the UP all the way down to the Ohio border. This time the focus will return to the city of Ann Arbor and its immediate vicinity, and I am sure that being there with the University in full swing will be just as memorable with a Leap Day fresh spin.