Sunday, September 10, 2017

Escaping Irma

© by Gerald So | 5:30 a.m.

Last year, Hurricane Matthew changed my vacation including Bouchercon 2016 to a New York staycation. This year, extended family and I were able to spend a week at a timeshare in Orlando. Then my mother, brother, and I caught our scheduled Amtrak Auto Train Friday. A day later, our train would have been canceled, and we would have been stuck riding out Hurricane Irma.

A smattering of my relatives has moved to Florida in recent years, some in the Tampa-Sarasota area now expected to be hit. One from New Jersey who planned to stay a week longer for job interviews is hunkering down in Orlando. Good luck, everyone.

As promised, departing at 4:00 p.m. and arriving by 9:00 the next morning, the Auto Train carries passengers and their vehicles between Lorton, Virginia and Sanford, Florida, saving smart drivers an almost 900-mile stretch. You pack your car as you wish, as you would a favorite suitcase, and relax in a roomier-than-plane reclining seat. Coach was comfortable enough for me to sleep in my light jacket and jeans, though you can carry on a blanket and pillow, too, or pay more for business class or sleeper car accommodations.

Hot dinner and cold breakfast in the dining car are included along with free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate in the lounge, and other food and drink available for purchase. For $50 more, your vehicle can be one of the first thirty off-loaded, which I recommend as well.

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