By Betsy Leiter
I recently had reason to travel via Amtrak from Stratton Mountain Resort to Penn Station, 34th Street , New York City. The logistics in arriving at my destination were surprisingly simple and streamlined, so I thought our readers would appreciate some of the how to’s in making their own arrangements.
My trip started at 8:30am on a cold and wintery Tuesday morning up at Stratton. Local roads were clear and well plowed. Highways were spotless. I drove Route 30, south on Vermont 7, over the 279 Bennington Bypass, and then West on New York Rte 7 to Rte 9. Follow 787 South about 8 miles, then take all exits to Rensselaer. Soon you’ll see well marked roads to Amtrak. Follow those for long term parking, and enter the parking garage. One way the drive was 1.5 hours.
The parking garage rises up several levels, and you’ll be surprised how many cars are parked there, which is a vote of confidence about safety. You’ll enter the station, and walk into a pleasant, warm waiting room complete with a well-stocked deli, restrooms, a car rental agency, a large ticket window staffed by real people who are very knowledgeable about the different routes, real paper maps and schedules (if you can remember how to read these), and a post office. Notifications on train arrivals and departures are easily read on multiple LCD screens throughout the room. My train, the Ethan Allen, departed on time at 11:15am.
The ride from Rensselaer to New York City takes about 2.5 hours. Make reservations on a route that includes the café car. I had a chicken salad sandwich, potato chips and a soda. All good. Most passengers passed the time on lap tops or mobile devices since you can pick up wifi as soon as you enter the train. There are outlets in every seat cubicle for charging your device too. The train make quick stops at Hudson, Rhinecliff, Poughkeepsie, Croton-Harmon, and Yonkers before you arrive at Penn Station. I arrived in New York City in the early afternoon, and was able to complete my business, catch a show, and return on the 5:47 the following evening. Thanks to technology, you can get on the train showing just an eticket on your mobile device, no printed copy necessary. In Albany, my car was right where I left it, and you pay a real attendant when you leave — $12 a day. This is a good place to get rid of the $1 coins you may have collected from the MTA subway machines.
As I drove back to Stratton, relaxed and glowing, it was obvious that this service was excellent – clean, convenient, and fast. Already I was planning some personal trips that would allow me to get to the City without the complexities of inner City driving and parking. Amtrak offers severals discounts for children, seniors, and AAA consumers. You can bring 2 pieces of luggage, one of which may be your skiis as long as they are not over 72” long. The other contains your personal belongings that can’t weigh over 50 lbs. There is plenty of storage room overhead and at the end of each car. You’ll need to rent a car to drive from Amtrak to Stratton, and there’s a car rental agency on site.
So if you’d like a hassle free way of getting out of the City and spending some leisure time in the heart of New England, take Amtrak, and give it a try. You can leave New York Friday evening, and be back in time – refreshed and recharged — for the Monday morning commute.