Note to Self:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Journey is Sometimes as Important as the Destination (and how to eat on a train)


Because of modern technology I am typed these words—and subsequently uploaded them to this blog—as I barreled down train tracks at 60 mph on my way to NYC. This is one of my favorite train trips (from Buffalo to New York). It's about 500 miles and take just about the same time as it would to drive. In fact, it only takes a few hours longer than if you flew. A flight may only be an hour in the air, but considering you have to get to the airport at least an hour ahead and then find your way from the airport to the city, you easily consume 4 or 5 hours of time. Whereas with the train I can arrive 15 minutes prior and it drops me off directly in midtown Manhattan. But the relaxing atmosphere of the train is worth it—to me—to add an extra few hours. A train is relaxing to me in that I feel safe (yes, I know...trains wreck also), opposed to being in flight where I am always slightly nervous—especially when we hit turbulence. In a train I am able to sit back and watch the towns and countryside zip past. On this particular train route (as it travels east-to-west on it's first leg of the journey) the tracks hug the Erie Canal for much of the way, and then (as it turns south) rides the shoulder of the Hudson River into New York City.


Bluntly said, traveling by train—in this blogger's opinion—is by far the most civilized way to travel. I can only think that this must have been what it was like to travel in times gone by, when the journey took time and was in fact as important as the destination itself.


But time is likely one of the few things that train travel today has in common with that of the past. Today, of course, there are outlets to plug in (or charge) any number of your personal electronic devices. And what is relatively new (I believe) is that the train is wireless...thus one is able to check their email, facebook, watch movies, and of course, update their blog. But if there is an aspect of negative I have to mention it would be the subject of on-board dining...or lack of it. In old movies there is always a dining car pictured where a person was able to have an actual meal, this is not the case today. Sure, you can purchase beverages and snacks, but any of the hot (microwaved) fare they offer is not only overpriced but also inedible. When I see (or more specifically, smell) some poor soul—likely out of desperation—purchase a pizza or hot sandwich the unsavory aroma of it wafting through the car quite literally turns my stomach. This brings me to my next topic...how to eat on a train.


Said simply, to eat well on a train one must do two things. The first is to plan ahead, and the second is to bring your meal with you. The journey to my destination is always easier...I prepare some of my own food. On the return trip,this usually entails picking up quality prepared food from Balducci's or other reputable NY deli. Bottled water is a must, as are little bottles of red wine. They of course sell both on board but with the exaggerated prices I find it just as easy—and more economical—to bring my own. The one thing I do purchase on board is coffee...it's not too overpriced and is surprisingly good quality. Pictured above is what I prepared and ate for lunch today...a sandwich on homemade Ezekiel bread with hothouse tomato, NY State cheddar, raw onion, mesclun lettuce, and whole grain mustard. I also packed small container of roast spaghetti squash (which I marinated in balsamic vinegar and olive oil), a fresh clementine, and a small bag of kettle-style potato chips. Red wine is out of view. This meal was delicious and as good and wholesome as any...and it cost me pennies (and just a small amount of time last night) to prepare.


In this day and age of hyper-everything, sometimes I find it really good for myself to slow down now-and-again. Sometimes the journey itself is indeed as important as the destination (and that, I suppose, is a really good metaphor for life itself). Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll pour another glass of wine and get back to the movie I was watching.


Urban Simplicity.

2 comments:

Kevin in T.O. said...

I was delighted when traveling by train in Germany a few years ago to find that most of the train stations I encountered had very well stocked deli counters. They would sell prepared sandwiches or all the components if you preferred to assemble your own.

It was very common to see someone pull a bottle of beer, some coldcuts and buns out of their carry-on and proceed to make lunch for themselves.

The lack of support for rail travel in North America makes me sad. The VIA Rail service between Toronto and Montreal leaves a lot to be desired but I still prefer it over flying.

Enjoy NYC!

Joe said...

Kevin, I have taken VIA Rail from Niagara Falls to Quebec City, and A couple times to Montreal (though not in quite a few years)...if memory serves correctly it was about the same as Amtrak (foodwise..or lack of it). What's really nice now is having outlets and it being wireless. I've also taken a train in Europe (France and Italy...but again, many years ago)...what a difference.