Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Acela Experience and The Best Dang Vegetarian Food Ever

I love meeting face to face with clients - it's just a spectacular way to get a whole lot of work done in a short amount of time. Problem is, I'm usually limited to local clients for this. A new client was interested in a face-to-face meeting and to make matters a little on the tricky side, he was located in Philadelphia, about 3 hours drive from DC.

I could spend most of the day driving, or, I could zip there in half the time on the Acela service by Amtrak. With all that Acela provided, how could I pass up trying it?

Well, I've got to say, it has delivered in nearly every way. The seats have tons of leg room, the cars are clean, the passengers courteous, the views interesting and the electric outlets plentiful. With my tray table down and headphones in, I had an ideal little workspace. (One where I'm tapping out this blog entry, actually.)

The only thing I wasn't impressed with was the free WiFi. It was painfully, unbearably slow. I switched over to my T-mobile stick thingy, and had high speed internet nearly the whole way.

I remarked to one of the passengers I was waiting in line with how I wish the fairs just weren't so expensive. To which she replied, why should they be cheaper? In other words, Acela isn't supposed to be your second choice to flying - it should a premium option that stands on its own. And for a business trip to Philly, it totally does this. No TSA lines, and no need to get to the station an hour ahead of time - this really does kick the pants off flying for short trips.

Perhaps this strategy of offering Acela as a premium transportation option is the right way to go. After all, rail will always lose on price to the bus and car. And for long distances, it can't compete in terms of speed with flying. Maybe it's best shot is to go after the convenience and comfort market.

Now for the promise of a fantastic vegetarian restaurant. My client took me to Govindas, located at 1408 South Street. I got a "pepper steak" sandwich, and good gosh, it was tasty. Seriously, it may be the most delicious veggie sandwich I've ever gotten at a restaurant. They also offer many vegan options. If you're in Philly, look the place up. We did the takeout/fast-food side (which wasn't very fast), but there's also sit down service, too.

All in all, I've really got a refreshed view of train travel from this trip. I'd seriously consider a longer trip (though, not with a 18 month - I'm not that crazy). There's just something magical about watching the world whiz by, and having the conductor come by and punch your ticket. We used to take the train as a kid, and apparently this brought all sorts of warm memories back.

Here are some photos of the 30th street station. I had a few minutes to kill, and I couldn't resist taking a few snapshots.

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