So Channel Six will turn travel blog for awhile, because in two days, I'll be setting out to really test my green mettle, on a trip with two simple rules — no planes, and no cars.
You would think this doesn't leave a lot of transportation options, but really, it does. They are, in order of preference:
1. Sail-powered ships
3. Non-sail-powered ships
If all goes well, I'll probably use all of these options at some point during my trip. Failure equals calling a cab.
This didn't start out as a green trip. It started out as a simple trip to Boston. Various circumstances (mostly, the economy) left me without a trip planned with friends this year, and I'm one of those people who goes a little batty if I go too long without traveling.
I checked flights to Boston, and the prices were good. But the more I plugged info into Farecast, the more I began to realize I didn't want to fly. I didn't want to go through the hassle, and I didn't want to be a part of all that jet fuel burned, all that carbon spewed into the atmosphere.
Maybe I could cut my flying time in half by flying in and taking the train back, I thought. I checked the times for Amtrak's regional train back — about 8 hours, but maybe a good way to wind down on the ride home. Then I noticed that the regional stops in Mystic, Conn., another place I'd been interested in visiting. A night or two in Mystic would break up the train ride nicely.
Then I decided to drop the flight to Boston, too. Looking strictly at the in-transit numbers — 6 hours and 45 minutes for Amtrak's fastest train, the Acela, to get to Boston versus an hour and a half direct flight — the train wouldn't seem to compete. But any one-way flight would involve either: a more expensive flight out of Metro-accessible Reagan National; Metro and then a bus to Dulles; or Metro and then a train to BWI. When I started to consider the 2 hours early I like to arrive for a flight, versus the half hour I'm comfortable with arriving before a train, well, the train suddenly started looking a whole lot more competitive.
And then there's Union Station. The mall-ified-but-still grand Beaux Arts masterpiece is one of my favorite places in Washington. It easily bests Dulles' dated concrete swoosh, or BWI's extreme blandness. Somehow, it felt like I would be cheating on Union Station if I departed for my trip anywhere else.
The Acela's business-class seats are a little out of my usual price range, but I decided I would splurge and take the high-speed train up, to save some time and see what it was like. Then Amtrak offered a fare sale on the Acela, and that sealed my plans.
I'm a big fan of public transit, and after I decided to take the train, it didn't take long for the rules to develop. Or for me to add another city and state to my itinerary — a day trip to Portland, Maine.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the future of travel — about what happens when we run out of oil. I'd like to think that you could still make this trip in that era. So this isn't one of those multi-day sleeper car rail trips where the journey really is the trip. This is just a trip where rail is a more relaxed, greener means of getting from point A to point B, one that's likely to still exist in 50 years.
Now let's see if I can stick to the rules.