[2 Days] From Nola to Mid-Kansas

Amtrak Adventure 27-28/31 (about October 26th-27th, 2021)

We’ve been traveling for the last two days, hence the condensed update; and will be traveling for two more, as we finish out our trip. It’s all train-riding from here!!

Two afternoons ago, after a morning of work and packing, we headed out our door for the last time in New Orleans. We had just enough time to take a trolley downtown, notching one last cultural experience! These ones are much faster than those in San Francisco… they can keep up with and even pass any cars alongside them.

Due in part to that abnormal speed, we were surprised to get kicked off only a few minutes after sitting down… but å glance at our maps reassured us quickly that there wasn’t an error, we had just arrived at the end of the route as planned.

It was about a 20 minute walk through downtown to the “Union Passenger Terminal” (not a “Station” this time), in which we passed the main branch of this public library.

Sadly, we had only budgeted enough time to pop in and look around—to get a proper review, I’ll have to come back another time. It seems large and functionally-designed, like a giant version of a normal library branch instead of something architecturally ambitious. Perhaps that’s a function of it being on the newer side?

Time was running short, so we left quickly and made it to the station with 20 minutes to spare before our train left. I dashed into a Subway to get some fuel for the journey, and emerged not a second too late—Mattea motioned me over quickly to grab my bag and get in the boarding line.

Not many people take Amtrak from New Orleans to Chicago starting on an early Tuesday afternoon; our Superliner car was the emptiest of any we’ve seen until now.

Speaking of “empty,” how about Southern Louisiana the moment sea level rises by anything over a foot? Throughout our time, we were repeatedly stunned that humans choose to settle there. The water table in parts of New Orleans is less than a meter below the ground; we saw multiple potholes that had water bubbling up to fill them!

Pictured below is the main highway out of New Orleans, along which the train went. That’s “not a bridge,” that’s the normal road, marked as above “land” on our maps app. It’s not temporary, either: the pictured portion goes on for about 5 miles. What?!

Southern Louisiana always looked weird to me on a map; it’s so pockmarked with water, as if you took a hilly area and cut it off at an arbitrary height! Well, that is the case: everything there is essentially built on top of the ocean, give or take a few feet.

The whole situation is truly unbelievable, and has significantly reduced my respect for hurricanes: if this is where you have to live to be seriously threatened, how can they really be? After a certain level of human arrogance, you’re honestly just asking for it.

The next morning, after twenty relatively-uneventful hours of train—two or three were without cabin electricity because our engine partially broke down, but that’s par for the course at this point—we made it to Chicago only three hours late.

Because of my anti-monopolist hunger strike, I was starving. We perused the station’s fast food options, and I ended up ordering a 2500-calorie “sharing pack” from McDonald’s and downing the whole thing in 19 minutes flat (don’t try this at home).

I was still kind of hungry afterwards, which makes me nervous: it’ll be three whole days before I’m off-train for a considerable amount of time, so we’ll see how well my anti-monopolist willpower holds up in the face of starvation. (I’ve already caved a little bit—Mattea offered me some chocolate—but avoiding Amtrak fare still seems doable.)

On a walk through Chicago to get some other food, we came across this giant flock of pigeons, which moved smoothly out of the way for any passing pedestrians and cars (and then back into the road/sidewalk after they passed):

Anyways, we’re now in the middle of Kansas, racing towards the West Coast for the final time (on this trip, at least). Our connection in LA leaves 1.5 after we’re scheduled to get there, which is quite stressful given Amtrak’s reliability… but we’re thankfully on time so far. Hopefully the good luck keeps up!

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