Washington DC – traveling by train! Part 1

I was sorting some postcards of Washington DC from the 1930-1940’s and was thinking about a trip we took to DC in 2001.

I really enjoy traveling. Each step is fun; from planning, reading guidebooks, arriving, and then going home again. The only thing I don’t like is the packing. Ick. I tend to take too much stuff. When I trim down and minimize my stuff, it seems the first stop anywhere is either Wal-mart, K-Mart, or Walgreens.

In July of 2001 we planned a trip to Washington DC and North Carolina for October to see the leaves – and avoid the heat and humidity of a DC summer. Sis and I were emailing back and forth and swapping websites for places we wanted to see or tours to take when the terrible tragedy of September 11 occurred. As the weeks passed it seemed safe to travel and we went forward with our plans.

Trains – who can resist the idea of sleeping on a train? We were raised on classic movies and so many of them included train scenes. A favorite movie in our family was “White Christmas.” Leaving Florida one evening and arriving in the snow the next day, imagine that! The Auto Train leaves from Sanford, Florida and arrives in Virginia the next morning. Sis and I both had tickets – and so did her NEW car!

A valet checked the car’s ticket, filmed a video during a walk around inspection and drove it away for loading. It was kind of disappointing that we couldn’t watch the process, but did get a picture of one of the auto carriers.

The car was checked in and it was time to check in ourselves. The wait to board the train seemed long, but FINALLY it was time to board the “Superliner.” Snazzy name for a two-story train! Trivia: the auto-train is the longest passenger train, nearly ¾ mile long.

We went “whole hog” (country term for first class) and booked a deluxe sleeper compartment, so had our own sitting area/bunks and bathroom. The sink was about 8×12, and the commode was no more luxurious than a porta-potty with a shower. (Oh well, it sure beat dressing and wandering down the hall in the middle of the night!)

Complimentary snacks and juice were available when we boarded. Sis was exhausted as she had worked the night before and only napped briefly before packing. As soon as the train was in motion, she lowered the upper bunk and crawled in for a nap and I enjoyed the scenery. I was familiar with the some of the places on the Florida route, and recognized landmarks and towns along the way. There were some beautiful views of rural Florida. Scenery from a train is different than that from a car. We were passing so close to the trees they would flash by and you’d catch the occasional quick glimpse of someone’s back yard. Train bridges don’t have rails like highway bridges and if the ride was a little smoother it would be almost like you were flying across the water.

A movie was the entertainment after dinner, but we were so tired that we skipped it and crashed early. The next day was going to be a busy and full day with lots of things to see.

A muffin and cereal breakfast and we pulled into the station in Virginia to a beautiful day. The train station was just a few miles from Mt. Vernon, our first stop. The day was perfect – just cool enough for a light jacket and a cloud-free sky. The temp in Fla was 90 the day we left and it was 60 in Virginia (almost chilly to my thin blood)! Nice! It was exciting – the trees were just beginning to show some color.

I remember a lot from that day – we arrived at Mt. Vernon early and were able to get a great parking place even though a fall festival was held that day. It was absolutely beautiful. See for yourself! Click here to go to the website.

The above link is a great site…it gives lots of information and pictures. I thought the grounds beautiful, and George himself was the landscape architect. The design stands the test of time! The mansion is seen from a “broad” expanse of lawn. Wow. I was impressed by the view from the “back porch”…the grounds sloping down to the Potomac river as shown in the picture to the right.

I love trivia, and we were told on the house tour that George picked the colors for the downstairs (put-your-eye-out Prussian blue and a brilliant turquoise) and Martha picked the colors for the upstairs of softer and more relaxing colors.

The central hallway was beautiful, pine paneling painted to look like mahogany. You can just imagine the hot and humid summers…sitting here in the evenings trying to catch a breeze from the open doorways and swatting mosquitoes.

back porchI tried out the wooden chairs on the back porch while Sis toured more of the outbuildings. She came back to find me napping in the sun – and took a picture to prove it to me, our family, and all our friends. (it does NOT need to be preserved for posterity on the internet so it is not here, but we do have this nice picture of the “back porch” and the view of the river.

It was time to move on and we drove into Alexandria. I remember Christ Church – they were blessing the animals that day! It is not often you see cats on a leash…

And I will leave you here. More to come!



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