Book Tour By Amtrak: NYC to Washington, D.C.

Amtrak Maddie

Hi Everyone,

It’s editor Maddie here, writing from my very first leg of the Amtrak tour! See that photo up there of me looking wistfully out the window? Well, that’s pretty much how Amtrak travel makes you feel. And let me tell you, with the amount of traveling I’ve done this weekend, I feel like somewhat of an authority on modes of transportation.

You see, in the past three days I have traveled by car, plane, bus, subway, taxi and now Amtrak. The flight out of San Jose was bearable, mostly because I had gotten three hours of sleep leading up to my departure and could barely tell which way was up, but that ignorant bliss was quickly squashed when I was forced to surrender the wine opener I accidentally left in my bag at security (womp womp. Spoiler alert: You don’t have to do that on Amtrak, so I bought two new wine openers at the Penn Station gift shop). From there I finally discovered how to rid a New York City bus, transferred to the subway, and walked the majority of lower Manhattan trying to find the bar where I’d set up a party for myself.

A cab I tricked into taking me to Brooklyn dropped me off just in time for the Brooklyn book party the next day (which was AMAZING, more on that later) and then an off-duty cab that I also tricked took me back to Manhattan that night.

So, as somewhat of an expert these days, I can say without reservation that having endured layovers, turbulence, way too damn expensive cabs, Amtrak is easily the most comfortable and accomodating mode of transportation I’ve ever been on. Back when Michael and I were dating long-distance between New York and Boston, I was a slave to the Chinatown bus. And while I begrudgingly accepted that my fate was to ride that cockroach-infested speed monster until the day I die, I remember that every year my uncle would give me an Amtrak gift certificate for Christmas. I would always save it for a special occasion trip, knowing that for one glorious day I would be guaranteed to travel like a human being.

Amtrak Champagne

Now I’m here again (and in first class, baby!) and I’m overcome with how amazing and different feels from what I’m used to. As I’m writing this, I am devouring a generous slice of carrot cake and watching as Meg tracks down a glass of champagne for us. I have enough space underneath the table where my laptop sits that I haven’t once had a panic attack about getting deep vein thrombosis (I’m a worrier).

Now that I no longer have to travel to see Michael, or commute three hours to get to work each day, I really thought I’d sworn off train travel entirely. But, as it turns out, I’ve just sworn off crappy train travel. And luckily for me, Amtrak happens to be just the opposite of that.

Now I have to go because there is a glistening bottle of Korbel on my table practically begging for me to drink it. But don’t fret, I’ll be back to update you again on the next part of my adventure: overnight train travel! Until then, cheers.



Pictures from Instagram, where Meg is documenting the trip. Follow her on Twitter for more.

**This post was made possible by Amtrak, who is sponsoring the book tour. Thank you Amtrak!**

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  • Amanda

    No tricking required to get a cab to Brooklyn! They are legally required to take you there. The key is not leaning in the window and “asking” if they’ll take you to Brooklyn – you’re supposed to hop right in and tell ’em where you want to go. If they don’t like it, pssh, not your problem!

    • meg

      Girlfriend, this crew is FROM Brooklyn. We know.

      • Amanda

        Fair enough! I just hate when people bemoan getting cabs to Bk like it’s… staten island or something ;)

    • The real trick is knowing what to do when they lock their door until you tell them where you’re going. I never did figure that one out. Then again, I was more of a subway person anyway.

  • Maddie! Liz! Excitement! See you soooon <3!

    • Liz

      Excitement! Even though I won’t see you soon!

  • Amber

    I feel like these posts need the “sponsored” graphic on top of them.

    • Yeahhhh…. I totally get that the traveling is exciting and Amtrak has been helpful in making that happen, but WOAH, it feels like a lot of not-quite advertising. Or advertising-that’s-subtle. Or something.

    • Emily

      Agreed. Most haven’t bothered me, but this one is getting to be a bit much. At least maybe put that “This post was made possible by Amtrak who is sponsering the book tour” banner at the bottom?

    • Maddie

      Hi guys! We have been crazy busy and did forget to put up the disclaimer that is usually at the bottom of these posts. That said, we’ve been extremely clear from the start about Amtrak’s role in the book tour. Since we are traveling by Amtrak and having a good time, most of these posts will mention something positive about them.

      However we do want to make it known that Amtrak has no control over the content of these posts. I understand that I have a different voice than Meg, and I’m a little more enthusiastic about pretty much everything ever. I *am* excited about this trip. And I hope you guys are too!

    • meg

      Hi Everyone,
      As you can probably understand, we’re dead tired at this point, and our Amtrak thank you at the bottom got left off, fixed! These posts don’t have a “sponsored” graphic because our sponsorship program is a very specific program for independent businesses that advertise on our front page, and I couldn’t afford to design a whole other graphic just for this. That said, we’ve disclosed every level of our partnership with Amtrak at every point, so you guys know exactly what the deal is here.

      Here is a quick review if you need it: Amtrak has provided tickets for me and the staff across the country (and no cash) to allow us to come visit you on book tour. In exchange, we are writing a post from each leg of the journey (something I was planning to do, regardless of sponsorship). Some of the posts are about various aspects of train travel, some are about the journey, some are about the view. But as a blog that’s always been personal narrative driven, it’s important to me that I write to you about where I am at the moment. Amtrak controls NONE of the content on these posts, and we write about what we choose. Maddie has a different a generally more enthusiastic voice than I do, so she writes differently. This is what she wanted to write about today, she was genuinely super excited about the trip, since it was her very first time on the train. She’s also super grateful to Amtrak, and I join her in that, if in a totally different voice and tone.

      Final note, I’m a little disappointed that those of you coming out to the book tour, enjoying it, and giving me hugs, are turning around and complaining about exactly what has made all of this possible. If you don’t like the content that pays for this site to run, you are under no obligation to read it. But I’m not ok with you complaining about the way I’m able to afford to come to visit each of your cities. It’s super draining, and hard being away from my family, and I’m working overtime to make this happen with help from Amtrak.

      I’m wrapping up this conversation now, and trust that you guys now fully understand the sponsorship deal.


      • Emily

        No offense meant, Meg and Maddie! Thank you for the explanation, and apologies for any frustration or hurt feelings that these comments caused – it wasn’t kind to pile on like that. My comment was just a momentary reaction that I wanted to share, and not at all a condemnation of your Amtrak sponsorship. It is so awesome that you are spending the time and money to do a month-long book tour, and I know myself and hundreds (thousands?) of other APWers are so grateful for the opportunity to see and hear you speak. Good night and good luck with the remaining stops!

      • Right, like I said, I totally, totally understand how important Amtrak is in making the book tour happen, and I think that’s great. My point was that without the disclaimer, it sounded like… product placement, for lack of a better word. Posts that are all “Amtrak is the shiznit! They helped us bunches, so go show ’em some love and buy a ticket!” make more sense in my head, that’s all.

        I assume your collective goal isn’t to surround yourselves with folks always saying “that was the best post EVAR” (otherwise, how would you grow, improve, and refine the very good work you’re doing? in this case, it brought your attention to the missing disclaimer, ya know?). Just please know that my intent wasn’t to complain or offend at all.

  • I dig these train posts. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. :)

  • Note about the Chinatown bus: Yesterday I was driving from NJ to the city and saw a Megabus pulled over by the side of the road, flanked by 2 ambulances in front and behind of the bus. I was SO GLAD not to be on it!

    • After being frequent user of the Chinatown buses in college, I am thrilled that Megabus (and Bolt, for that matter) are on the scene. Wi-fi on board? Yes please. Someone was probably quite ill or something, whereas on the Chinatown bus, they would’ve just yelled at you and told you to sit down until you got to the rest stop in Jersey. And then you would’ve had to deal with the roaches on top of that. Guh.

  • Brittany

    I for one am loving the Amtrak posts, they’re inspiring me to make fun travel plans myself :) Plus, its interesting to see more of what the touring experience is like for you all, and clearly the traveling is a big part of that.

    Also, if you notice, this is post number three for the day. There are usually two. So, they’re still giving us the same amount of awesome regular content. These are just bonuses, if you choose to view them that way. Or if you don’t, you can always ignore them. Like anything, the posts are always going to appeal to some and not to others. Though, even if they appealed to nobody, the fact of the matter is that they are what allows the book tour to happen, and the book tour is something that we asked for. Those of us who begged Meg to visit our cities should be thanking Amtrak for helping to make that possible for us.

    • meg

      I love you.

    • RJ

      Me too! I am curious about Amtrak more than regular posts actually. It’s fun to hear the travelog. Also I have gone to Amtrak site and googled room layouts. I don’t get the one with the toilet in the room… but theo thers look lovely!

  • Miriam

    I haven’t always enjoyed Amtrak trips which I took frequently going from home to college… but I’m thinking maybe its because I wasn’t in first class and I should consider investing in that, after all its much cheaper than first class on a plane!

  • I love these Amtrak posts and, honestly, I can totally understand the excitement and the feeling of gratefulness towards the company for sponsoring the book tour. I am thankful to them as reader of APW for making this possible for you. One thing I would love to see more is pictures from the train journey, lots of them. I wonder how first class looks like and I keep imagining it as in Agatha Christie books (In my mind, Amtrak’s first class looks like the Orient Express ;)

  • Karen

    I think it’s awesome that you’re giving updates on your travels. It helps us all remember the people involved in this site and how much work goes into keeping this going. If I lived anywhere near any of the stops I’d go. I’m always super impressed that you have been able to make a life out of this blog.