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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8

March 2, 2009

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee, and member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee;  Finance Committee; Citizens Trade Policy Commission; State Park System Advisory Council; and Comprehensive Cancer Plan Oversight Board.

Senate District 8 towns: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

 


For years I have wanted to take the train from Claremont to New York City. The legislature took its annual February break last week and with some commitments at home during the week, there was time for just a couple of days away. It was my opportunity to ride the Amtrak rails to New York. 
I booked the tickets online which arrived by mail. We left Lempster with plenty of time to get the train south at 11:38 a.m. At the station, we sat in the car reading newspapers until departure time came close. We moved the bags and awaited the train on the small outside platform adjacent to the Claremont Cycle Depot. The train ran a few minutes late and we were very pleased to have warm hats, gloves and boots.

I had purchased our tickets to New York for business class. That meant nice seats in a separate section of the car, a personal copy of the New York Times ($1.50 value) and an offer of free juice, coffee and tea. The car was fine but there were a few happily noisy children, more than enough cell phone calls made and received by those around us but overall, it was a generally satisfactory situation. 

Trying to write or use the computer was a test because of the swaying car but Sandy made progress on her current rug hooking project and we both enjoyed the papers and our books. 

It was wonderful to travel down along route 12 through Charlestown and crossing over the Connecticut River at Bellows Falls, our first of 12 stops before hitting the Big Apple.

The snow in New Hampshire melded into brown, bare ground as we moved south. At New York, we went into the tunnel and under the city pulling into Pennsylvania Station. Out on the street, there was a brief wait in an orderly line to get a taxi to our hotel. The cab fare with tip of $12 was much less than it would have been had we come into the city from an airport. We had arrived about 7 p.m., a few minutes late and were in our hotel half an hour later.

The next two days were pleasantly filled with a Broadway play, ethnic meals and a visit to the Grant-Lee exhibit at the New York Historical Society. The exhibit is an excellent presentation and timely as it is being held during the Abraham Lincoln bicentennial year. There is also an exhibit of documents called, "Lincoln in His Own Words" which is also well done. In between, we chocked up several miles walking all over midtown Manhattan.

We were early to the train station for our trip back home. When the time came, we boarded with minimum hustle and bustle. We had booked our 11:30 a.m. return trip in coach class. There was no free paper or drinks but for comfort and quiet, it actually was equal or better than our business class car on the trip to the city.

But there was bad news afoot. Before we reached our first top, Stamford, Connecticut, the conductor collecting tickets told us that our train trip that day would end in Springfield, Massachusetts. There had been an engine failure in Vermont the night before and with the big snow storm, it meant passengers would get off and be bused to their final destinations up the Connecticut River. It was exactly what I did not want to happen. Not only did it mar our railroad trip home it also presented some anxious moments as to whether we would get to Claremont anywhere near our scheduled time.

Anxiety aside and with some humorous moments, the bus pulled into Claremont Junction just a few minutes after our scheduled arrival time. And from the overall experience, I certainly look forward to another Claremont -New York City train trip.

What did we learn? First, our cost for the business class tickets was $77.50 each, the coach class tickets back home were $40.80. Both of us qualified for senior discounts. The benefits for business class do not justify the added expense.

Overall, balancing the lower cab charges in the city, no parking expense (use the Claremont Junction lot for free), and the option to bring your own food and beverages aboard helps make the train a very reasonable option against driving or flying to New York. And while the time involved, six and a half to seven hours, may make it seem like a very long trip, for us there was a special joy in being able to lean back and relax for a few hours. That is all too rare an experience these days.

Dartmouth Coach initiates its new Lebanon and Hanover bus service to New York City today. There will be five trips each way each week. I had a chance to look over one of the new luxury motor coaches that have just 28 executive seats, a conference area, and WiFi onboard along with satellite radio. Going to New York from the Upper Valley now has a new option.

For me, it is back to the work of the legislature with our only week off behind us. Budgets, gambling, government reorganization and modernization and mandatory use of seat belts are just a few of the issues we face. The Claremont-New York train trip provided a brief but pleasant interlude to the legislative session.

 

Bob Odell
State Senator
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951

Telephone:  603-271-6733
Email:  rpojr@aol.com

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