September 28, 2005
On the Road: Amtrak Dining Car
Dining on Amtrak is an experience. One car, staffed by two chefs, a maitre d', and 3-4 wait folks, provides food for anyone who can afford the prices. (Since we had a sleeper the first night, all our meals were complimentary.) No one dines alone; we always had two others seated with us. Here are three vignettes:
He looked like a broken-down cowboy who had just climbed off his horse and boarded the train: craggy, weathered face, bowlegs, jeans and a western shirt, with a gait that seemed more fitting for a plowed field. But he was a telecommunications engineer who flew all over the world setting up telecommunications systems for clients. He told us about jobs in Russia, South America, China. He installed both hardware (communications switches) and software, some of the latter which he programmed himself. He was on his way to San Francisco to see his grandkids.
They were two kids, barely out of their teens, with broad Australian accents. They had both quit their jobs (he an accountant, she a secretary) and were literally traveling around the world. Starting at Malaysia, they had spent 5 weeks in Europe via Eurorail, been to Niagara Falls, and were taking a train from Chicago to San Francisco and Los Angeles, leaving after a couple of weeks to fly to the Florida Keys, after which they would do some skiing in British Columbia. They planned to spend a little time in Hawaii and be home by Christmas Eve. Both employers said the kids would probably get their jobs back.
They looked like the classic jet-set couple—and they were. He was an airline pilot for Northwest Airlines (previously Southern and Republic) for 27 years. She had been a school teacher, flight attendant, advertising executive, and was trying to figure out what to do when she grew up. They had spent the past 4 years touring the country in a motor home, which they had sold, and were currently living along the beach (and a golf course) near Pensacola. Of all the folks with whom we ate, they were the only ones skilled in conversation; we stayed at the table talking together until the staff encouraged us to leave.
(*Our guest blogger recently got back from a cross country trip. Thanks, Gary! lgp)