General Assembly by rail

I know I don’t need to recap the situation about gasoline or air travel. Just groan among yourselves.

But I did notice that the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly this year and for the next three years are in cities with Amtrak service.

  • 2008 Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • 2009 Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2010 Minneapolis, MN
  • 2011 Charlotte, NC

I’m already thinking of going to GA next year.

Of course, from Washington, D.C., the train to Salt Lake City would take 55 hours each way and with a roomette the trip would be very expensive. But expensive travel is part of our future and delays, too, I suspect.

But putting a better face on it, say, even if a couple hundred GA attendees made the trip — coming from east and west — there would be a noticeable presence on the train and might-could extend the GA experience for the passengers. And it would be a lovely way to make the trip.

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

11 thoughts on “General Assembly by rail”

  1. As someone who doesn’t fly I take the train to GA every year and enjoy it.

    On long distance trains, going Coach is nowhere near as bad as going Coach on an airplane. The seats are bigger and, depending on the route, you get two seats to yourself. And while it takes time, the trip is usually beautiful.

    Also, the 2012 GA is in Phoenix, which, while not on the Southwest Chief line, will get one to Flagstaff where Amtrak provides Thru-way service down to Phoenix.

  2. @Kim. Thanks for adding in the 2012 locale.

    I’m 6′ 4″ and I really like how roomy the seats are. And there’s something wonderful about having breakfast in the dining car. (Even if the food’s so-so.)

    The downside is that, with increasing popularity, there’ll be fewer free seats to stretch out into.

  3. Oh my Lord. Fifty-five hours on an Amtrak. Kill me now. The upside of this train travel is that wonderful people like Kim Hampton use their time in productive ways and knit afghans. Me, I’d probably just sit and eat Twizzlers until my head popped off.

  4. Well, PB, you do get a layover in Chicago.

    I’m giving it some serious thought because you see so much of the country, including one of the world’s most scenic train rides. (Amtrak gets a lot of foreign tourists on the California Zephyr.)

    The cost in daunting; I would need a cabin-mate.

  5. I’ll likely attend SLC in 2009 – either by train or car or plane. Depends on cost and whether I go alone or with hubby and baby in tow. I love riding the train – I just wish they were more reliable in my neck of the woods (soooo many delays on a certain two lines), and that the sleeping car wasn’t so very expensive. But it’s absolutely better than the plane for comfort. I’m not even going to talk about buses – ack!

  6. I’ve taken the train to GA a couple of times: from Geneva, Illinois, to Fort Worth, Texas; then from Westwood, Mass., to St. Louis, Mo. (several hours in Chicago to sight-see). Both times, I’ve met lots of GA-goers on the train. (Oh, and once I took commuter rail from Concord, Mass., to the GA in Boston, Mass.).

    This year I’ll be taking the train from Westwood, Mass., to Fort Lauderdale. I’m looking forward to my layover in Washington, D.C. And yes I’m looking forward to spending 30 hours on the train each way — as a 6′ 5″ guy, flying is so horrible now with the reduced leg room all airlines have that 30 hours on the train seems like nothing at all. But I’m still trying to decide about Salt Lake City — three days on the train is a little much, even for me.

  7. Most definitely the downside of train travel is delays. And sometimes they can be really long (one day I’ll have to post about my 54-hour adventure to GA in Long Beach). One thing I’ve learned is that some routes have more delays than others (the Zephyr and Eagle have the most I believe). And let’s not even talk about delays that are seasonal-related (I would never take the Empire Builder in fall/winter).

    My one piece of advice is always take something to do. As I am leaving for Boston in a few hours, I have 2 books on CD, some yarn for crocheting and an article to read in prep for a sermon I’m doing in July. Once I get to Chicago, I’ll buy a couple of magazines and books for my trip down to Ft. Lauderdale on the 22nd.

    Anyway…..I really wish the UUA would encourage more people to take the train. Amtrak would work with them and if enough people signed up early, they could have their own coach car (and maybe sleeper, depending on how many would want to do that).

    Thanks for this thread Scott.

  8. My favorite part about the train (I ride the Northeast from Trenton to RTE about 6 times a year) is the fact that there are outlets. No internet, but one or two movies on the laptop and the trip is over.

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