The train ride was uneventful. The sleeping compartment was small, which freaked Stephanie out at first, but she adjusted. We did our best at getting some sleep, which was interesting given the frequent sounding of the horn at crossings and the surprisingly bumpy ride. Imagine a 16 hour flight where you’re constantly jostled by turbulence. Was the night train we took in France this rough? I can’t remember.
Earplugs and benedryl helped some, such that we “slept” right through breakfast. We made it to lunch though, and were pleasantly surprised to discover that meals were included in the price of the sleeper compartments. The romance of the dining car somewhat compensated for our lack of deep sleep.
It was here that I finally realized why all travel guides advise you to take the train instead of flying. We were seated facing two other travelers who had just gotten their meals. The woman was talking on her cell phone about real estate, and the man barely acknowledged our arrival, focusing instead on his pork and gravy served over rice.
I found the fact that we were seated with strangers jarring at first, and I shifted my gaze towards Stephanie. But once our food arrived and the woman finished her call, I made my first attempts at engaging them in a little small talk. They had gotten on the train in Los Angeles (at its origin), and were taking it all the way to New Orleans (the terminus). 46 hours in all, with our mutual destination only 2 hours away. They admitted they were a little stir crazy. They looked it.
I realized we’d have many more opportunities for interactions like this one, not just on our upcoming train ride from New Orleans to DC, but over the next several months as well. Even though many would seem rote or fleeting, these moments would comprise most of our social contact, so it would pay to get used to it—and get good at it.
We arrived in New Orleans an hour early! When does that ever happen? Though it was raining as we approached the station, by the time we got off the train it had stopped. We caught a cab to our hotel in the French Quarter, Place D’Armes, and then made a beeline for Cafe du Monde.