I thought I wrote this two years ago, but I guess I didn’t. I’m telling this story now for #AmtrakResidency purposes and also, I love taking train rides. This is my story from Union Station in Washington D.C. to Orlando two years ago this week.
Let’s begin in June 2011, when I was going to the Annual Safeway Barbecue Festival in D.C. I signed up for one of those “Either Win a Trip or Cash” contests. I didn’t win, but one month later, I got a call from one of the timeshare people and they ask me if I want two free trips? I said yes and schedule an appointment in late August at Williamsburg, VA.
When late August came, I was ready for my appointment. Then… Hurricane Irene came and the timeshare company reschedule my appointment to November.
Fast forward to November, my brother, TK, his wife and two sons, and I traveled to Williamsburg as I was the only one going to the timeshare presentation and they gave me advice of what to do in a timeshare presentation: just say “No.” After the long presentation, the people tried to make a sales pitch for me for around two hours. I held my ground. Then, one of the people handed me a map of where I want to get my timeshare. I looked at map and realize something. I asked the salesperson and said,
“I don’t see any of your timeshares are located in the city. I’m a city guy.”
The guy looked at the map again and when I mention that, he gave me my two free trips to Orlando and Williamsburg, VA.
It’s January 2012 and I had to book my hotel and travel to Orlando, SHRM in Atlanta, and Williamsburg, VA. To save money, I decided to take airfare to Atlanta since it was a “business” trip and take the train to Orlando. That means 21 hours of sitting and moving around a tight seat. Luckily, I wasn’t the first person in my family who took the long trip from D.C. to Orlando by train. My other brother, Nate, did the same thing in 1994 and gave me advice on how to deal with the long train ride.
It’s March 2012 and I was ready for the long trip to Orlando. Also, this is the time of Lent and I decided to eat only 600 calories during the 40+ days because I was getting heavy. Before I went to the train, I decided to get a few granola bars and ate dinner at Subway in Union Station so I can be full for the train ride.
At 7:30 PM on a Monday, I left Union Station and headed to Orlando. In the first hour of the trip, I witness the Shenandoah Valley and it looked magnificent and got a good glimpse of Richmond. Other than that, that was basically it on the first half of the trip since most of the travel was night time and I would be asleep.
During my sleeping period, I had a hard time finding the right position since I was sitting in my cushy seat for the whole 21-22 hours. I was trying to listen to music to get me to sleep but it didn’t work. I tried to slap myself out of oblivion, but with no luck. I had probably 5 hours of sleep to Orlando.
When I woke up, I notice a lot of trees and branches banging on the train.
There were two stations I remember clearly. The first was the Jesup, GA Amtrak station. I remember it being an old school feel of a train station, which I love seeing. I passed there by day to Orlando and by night to D.C. and there is a huge difference. By day, you see Jesup as an old train station where neighbors can gather around and wave at visitors. At night, the station feels like a ghost town and I felt chilly just seeing Jesup at night.
The other station I remembered was DeLand, FL for it’s palm tree surroundings and the most distinguish sign during my trip to Orlando.
After DeLand, we stopped at Jacksonville and I met a guy who was departing Jacksonville to Miami. He was the only person who talked to me during my trip and basically discuss what we do and where were traveling. He did offer me some food, but I couldn’t accept because 1) Lent and 2) my stop is coming soon. He was a great guy to talk and made the trip to Orlando much easy and fast. Then, I arrived in Orlando.
When I arrived in Orlando, I needed to get a taxi and met a guy who was unoccupied. Then, there was a couple who was going to the same Orlando trip and we all joined together. After the first couple got off, the driver struck up the conversation with me and ask who my favorite teams were. I mention I was a fan of all D.C. sports teams and then he mention that he used to live in D.C., but he talked a lot of his hometown in Cleveland. we both talk about the NFL Draft and when the Redskins traded up to get the #2 pick for a chance to get Robert Griffin III. He was upset that his Browns didn’t trade their two first-round picks for him and talked about the long-suffering Cleveland fans, which I conceded and agreed.
I arrived at my hotel room, which had an indoor swimming pool in the middle, so people can see who’s swimming. I walked around my part of the area and there was nothing but restaurants, gift shops, and putt-putt courses. There were so many choices, but select to go to Golden Corral because there’s a lot of choices and I had to pick my poison.
The following day, I went to Walt Disney World and wanted to enjoy the rides, but there were long lines, so the only rides I went was the Disney train rides to all of their sites and I acted in part of the parade because it was cool to take part in it. The real reason I was at Walt Disney World to watch a spring training game between the Nationals and Braves. I was sitting on the first base side…the Braves side, so I was the lone wolf with the Silver Elvis wig. I mostly cheered on Chad Tracy, who was fighting to be on the roster and he hit a home run, but the Braves won in the 9th, 3-2. Afterwards, I went back to Walt Disney World to see the fireworks display.
The next day, I took a taxi to Viera, FL to see the Yankees-Nationals. I remember my taxi driver driving through the highway at 15 mph over the speed limit. I didn’t mind it all since my trip I saw were all trees, lakes, and swamps.
I arrived at Space Coast Stadium and talk to some of the Nats fans from D.C. who travel for the week (or month) there. There were two things I remember the game. The first was the beginning of Chien-Ming Wang’s downfall as he got injured trying to pickup the baseball in a swinging bunt situation. The other thing was this was the first time I got sunburned. I had no idea about the intensity of the Florida sun and I witness first hand why. Nationals lost the game, but did see players after the game, but had nothing for them to autograph.
After taking the taxi back to my hotel in Orlando, I search the internet to heal my terrible sunburn. I got some lotion and filled my bathtub with water and sat there the whole night watching the NCAA Tournament. I eventually went to sleep in my bed, but I know the trip back home is going to be painful.
I packed up for my trip home and realize I had some time to kill. I wonder around the Orlando Amtrak station if there is something to eat. This is on a Friday, so I can’t have meat that day. There were restaurants, but they mostly had meat. The only place I saw that could have vegetarian and/or seafood was Thai Stop and I was glad I came by. Knowing my limitations, they had a seafood section, but it was an additional $3, and I want something spicy. So, I got a Seafood Red Curry and it really hit the spot and very convenient for hospital workers and train visitors to go to. Now, I was ready to go home.
During my travel back home in D.C., I was mostly watching the NCAA Tournament, but I wanted to see myself crossing state borders. Thanks to Google Maps, I can do that:
I really wanted to see a Piggly Wiggly store, but it was in the evening, so I couldn’t see it. When I woke up, this is what I witness between the North Carolina-Virginia border:
After the long trips, weak 3G, the sunburns, terrible sleeping positions, and my hunger, I finally got to Union Station in D.C. at 10:30AM on St. Patrick’s Day. After that long trip, I ordered a Vegetable Deep Dish Pizza at Pizzeria Uno and went back home to Fairfax.
If I were to do it again, I would take more pictures in daylight and enjoy the surroundings and landscape. I would like to do this again and hopefully have a room and get some decent wifi. If I had to take my pick, I would do D.C. to Orlando again, but this time for the SHRM Conference this year in Orlando. There are so many things to write about, if I get a chance.
I love taking trains because you see most things you don’t see in the air or travel by car. Although I felt uncomfortable for 42-44 hours sitting down, watching the stations and landscape of the South is a beauty to see and if there is a long stop, I would check out the station and its surroundings. Although trains does take more time to get to your destination, you enjoy it more because you see everything from landmarks, trees, houses, buildings, history, and the people. That’s what I take away from my trip two years ago and I’m willing to do it again.