Sunday, August 16, 2009

Auto Train

Since I'm moving to the Washington DC area for my new job, I decided to try out the Amtrak Auto Train. After all, I am moving from one end of the route to the other. Plus, the alternate option was to drive my car up, and that didn't sound as appealing.

The trip takes 17 hours (depart 4 pm, arrive 9:30 am the next day), and it went by pretty quick. Dinner was tasty and included complimentary white wine. The seat next to me was unoccupied so I stretched out a little bit and had no trouble sleeping. But then I doze off easily on airplanes and sometimes in cars.

One friendly couple gave me a ton of advice on the route - they live in Philadelphia and were frequent travelers. The main advice was that the sleeper cars (super liner roomette, and bedroom) weren't really worth it since the trip was just one overnight. And who hasn't taken a long plane flight and slept en route? Same thing, except the train is more spacious even in regular seats.

Another tip is to always try to get a lower level seat. That's because each car connects on the top level, so foot traffic is higher in general above. On top of that, half of the lower level is occupied by restrooms. So if you sit on the top level, you will have a better view from the window, but people will walk by you all the time on the way to the stairs down for the restroom. Meanwhile, on the lower level, there is a sliding door separating the passenger compartment (big enough for 12 passengers) from the restroom half, so we don't hear much noise at all.

The train included a "lounge" car, which had booths, coffee and snacks available all the time, and small TV screens for movie showings. Amtrak tries to arrange families and especially kids near the lounge cars, since they tend to go back and forth to the lounge. Another reason the upper level tends to be busy. All the way at one end was the dining car, which served up a very nice dinner (I had vegetarian lasagna).

There were electric sockets available along the windows, and if I had known that I might have brought my notebook on so I could watch a movie. Instead it stayed packed in my car, which wasn't had since then I didn't have to worry about my computer when I went off to eat. I brought a book, but wound up looking out the window until dinner time, and doing that again after dinner until it was dark. When I woke up around 6:30 am, I had breakfast and then the staff announced we were running nearly an hour ahead of schedule and would arrive at 8:30 am!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

On The Road Again

It seems my fate involves moving frequently - I hope this next one is it for me, and that future moves will be in the local area. Ideally I will meet someone and settle down. ;) As far as employment opportunities, cultural attractions, entertainment and so on, the Washington DC/Baltimore metropolitan area will be hard to beat... and so I hope to stay. I'll be busy exploring the area for a long time!

I typically don't miss places as much as people. That being said, I wound up liking central Florida much more than I thought I would. There is other stuff to do besides theme parks, honest. The weather is pretty good for running and biking year round, and I took advantage. Kennedy Space Center is nearby - I got tickets to see a launch once, but it was delayed and I couldn't make it. I enjoyed kayaking and canoeing, and the occasional airboat ride, even if that is more on the touristy side of things. I'm not a huge beach goer, but I went a few times and had a great time with surfing lessons. I visited Key West with my family, but never did explore the rest of the state much at all. No trips to the panhandle or Jacksonville or even St. Augustine, no stop in Miami, and only two or three quick visits to Tampa.

But it comes down to the people I knew, and I will miss them. I got lucky finding a great/active biking club and running club and made several close friends. The good news is flights are short and cheap - 2 hours and about $200 if purchased in advance. I know I will be back in Florida twice in November - once for a friend's wedding, and a second time for a half marathon.

My blog helped keep in touch with friends when I moved from Washington. But now, most of the people I knew in Florida are all on Facebook so I guess that will be the new way to keep in touch.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Friends Helping Friends 5K

I had a great race this morning, taking 2nd place overall at a local 5K! I started out in 6th place - I could see five men in front of me immediately after the start - and over the course of the race, I reeled most of them in. My time was 21:44 which is really good for me.

This victory falls into the "cherry picked event" category, for three reasons:
1) New race - I know the people that put this event on, and they got the idea and began working on it five weeks ago. That isn't a lot of time to get a race together, much less advertise it!

2) New location - the event took place in Colonial Town Park, a shopping plaza in the Lake Mary/Heathrow area. It isn't obscure, but it certainly isn't as popular as the typical spots of other area races.

3) Other events - the biggest reason I did so well, is that most of the really competitive runners (i.e. the Lake Monroe Roadkillers) all went to another event that same morning, the Moss Park Forest Run. That event has been held a few times, is bigger, well advertised, etc.

But, 2nd place is 2nd place, so I'm happy!

Check out the map from my Garmin - this event had so many turns, a few runners got lost on the course.