Published in the September, 2013 issue of the Biscayne Times newspaper:
I wanted to be carried away by the clickety-clack romance of steel wheels and sway along the rails from Miami to Orlando, brimming with nostalgia. I wanted to watch wild palms and citrus groves unfurl outside big windows while I reflected on life, as travelers often do.
I had read reviews online before buying my ticket. People raved. They said they’d choose Amtrak any day over driving or flying to Orlando, or even to New York City, even if it meant a longer trip. So, along with my childish fascination with choo-choos, I set out on a recent summer morning with high expectations.
I see now, though, that the effusiveness with which some people speak of Amtrak isn’t a reflection of quality. It’s simply the excitement of people unaccustomed to rail travel, elated to avoid traffic and airports.
Trains, whiskey, and guns form a holy trinity in American folklore, but only the last two still hold a prominent place in American culture. And as I made my way north on the rails, eavesdropping and chatting with affable oddballs, I found myself wondering how South Florida, and most of the United States (once the greatest railroad nation in the world), ended up with a neglected, unreliable, underfunded, and largely forgotten passenger rail network.
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