The Southern Crescent


I just returned from New Orleans, having delivered my son to Tulane, which is another story.

We took Amtrak’s Crescent, the old Southern Crescent, from D.C.’s Union Station to Union Station in NOLA. After a rather ridiculous scene checking son’s giant box of books and tapes at the baggage counter, we boarded and found our cunning Roomette, very cozy (in the real estate sense) but perfectly comfy with a hidden toilet masquerading as a shelf and a fold out sink. An upper hidey hole for luggage. Little bottles of water. I was so excited and happy, especially having gotten the stuff onto the train and being able to stop worrying about it for 27 or so hours.

We were delayed about an hour waiting for an engine to come from Chicago (?). Why we knew not and our keeper O.C., could not tell us, not that we really asked.

Finally we started and went under the Capitol and then out in the pink and gold sunset across the Potomac with a beautiful view of the Jefferson and Washington monuments. Son (who has been immersed in early 19th century U.S. history and the John Adams HBO series) pointed out how pissed Adams would be if he could see that Washington and Jefferson had their glorious piles of white stone but he has — nothing.

We got to Alexandria about the time we staggered down the hall to the dining car and then stopped again for quite a while. However, we cared not! We were put at a table with a gay man from New York and an Aussie from Hattiesberg, MS, who were perfectly delightful. We talked about traveling, plays, food, college. The Aussie paid for my wine, and we went back to find that our little roomette had transformed itself into bunks.

We snuggled down, read and then I went into a wine-soaked slumber, so utterly contented to be lying down, click-click-clicking away the miles instead of gripping a steering wheel for two days. The train screamed constantly, a high lonesome sound, that also reminded me of my big cowardly dog Cid, who trumpets the same way when he leaves the house, to let everyone know I’M COMING!! DON’T MESS WITH ME NOW!

I wafted away to slumberland, ever so happy.

When I woke up we were nearly to Atlanta and called my friend Nancy, who just moved down there. She had left me a voice mail overnight! We had a nice chat, then after we left Atlanta, son and I had a hearty breakfast. When we went back, our roomette was two facing seats again. We settled down to read and/or sleep while the train poked along between Atlanta and Birmingham, going about 30 or 40 mph, alongside quiet back roads, through peoples’ back yards, and across ravines overwhelmed by kudzu, through little towns. Apparently north Georgia had a gold rush! The coolest place of all was the totally steampunk Sloss Furnaces, an old pig iron (what is pig iron, anyway), that is now a museum.

We then passed through Anniston, Alabama, where we saw a lone buffalo in a field and a bunch of Sherman tanks aimed at the train. Then finally we got to Birmingham, where O.C. announced that “fresh air, fresh air,” was available outside. It did wake me up a bit to go outside, although the air wasn’t really fresh, being very hot and humid and smoky from the smokers who’d been going crazy. Actually this one elderly woman had not refrained from smoking that morning in the train, even though she was hooked up to an oxygen tank and still had her nose apparatus on when she was having her smoke in the fresh air of Birmingham.

We picked up speed a bit after Birmingham. Finally crossed into Mississippi and then went to dinner, where we met a lovely girl from Philly and her Dad. She was also going to Tulane and she and son struck up a conversation.

Then at last, we were into the swamps, where egrets posed against the dark grasses, and quite suddenly onto Lake Ponchartrain. We crossed six miles over the lake with no visible support as if the train were sailing right on top of the blue water. In the south a huge pink and gray thunderhead loomed up, flashing with lightning.

And after a poky, exasperating final few minutes through the wastes of Gentilly, past ancient pumping stations, up and down a wilderness of tracks and highway overpasses and underpasses, we arrived at Union Station in New Orleans.

Amtrak Crescent = Highly recommended

5 thoughts on “The Southern Crescent

  1. I adore Amtrak. I used to take the train to Chicago all the time, it’s so much better than road rage or the freaky people you always end up sitting near on the bus. I’m glad that you enjoyed the trip!

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  2. I didn’t even know trains still did this. What a great way to travel. So very… Hogwarts.I can’t really except that your boy is in college. I’m sure you feel the same. đŸ™‚

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  3. This makes me want to ride a train anywhere. I used to sit on the Spring River in my canoe and watch the trains. As a kid, I tried to figure out how I could jump on from the river. Good thing I never tried that!

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