On Wednesday, traveling from my office at Farragut North to the Ashland, Virginia train station near my mom’s was house a breeze, and it was all via public trains. I’m thankful for that.

A view of the Potomac from Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train, taken on a trip home the day before Thanksgiving. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

I paid $59 for my ticket on the Northeast Regional 95, departing out of Union Station at 2:30, when I bought it a week into November. The same trip is usually only $34, but considering I waited until just a few weeks prior this time, I don’t think that price was too bad.

Greater Greater Washington’s offices officially closed at 2 pm the day before Thanksgiving, but I ducked out five minutes early so I could get to Union Station in time. I walked downstairs and caught the Red Line and was at the station before 2:15. It was pretty clear that I wasn’t the only one headed out of town for the holiday.

Union Station on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Dennis Jaffe.

I’ve made this trip a few years in a row now, and I remembered Union Station being packed, with barely any room to walk without bumping into someone. This year it was definitely crowded, but it didn’t feel anything like the sardine can I was anticipating. Part of the reason is that there were extra workers in the Amtrak concourse asking people what train they were taking and directing them on where to wait so that lines didn’t sprawl all over the place.

Union Station was busy, but not out of control.

At 2:25, the door to the tracks opened up and the line started moving down toward the train. A few minutes later, I was in my seat and ready to roll. I took a few minutes to enjoy views of the Potomac as we departed, and once we hit Alexandria, I had opened my laptop and logged onto the free WiFi (to make up for those last five minutes of work, of course!).

Check out the sign on the right. You can go to a lot of places on Amtrak.

Our quick stop in Alexandria.

It was smooth sailing from there. The train waited an extra few minutes here and there at the stops we made along the way, but there weren’t any serious delays. There was, however, plenty of scenery to take in. Whenever I make this trip, I love taking in views of my home state.

I was scheduled to get to Ashland at 4:22 and wound up getting in closer to 5, but given the alternative, I was pretty happy to have traveled the way I did.

I also know that Amtrak did have issues on Wednesday. And, going back to the start of my trip, as GGWash’s staff editor, I’m certainly no stranger to Metro’s woes. But still, overall, my trip was easy, fast, and relatively cheap, and a network of train systems and the people who run them are largely to thank for that.

Home, sweet home.

Making this trip is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. I’m looking forward to doing it again at the end of December.

Jonathan Neeley was Greater Greater Washington's staff editor from 2014-2017. He gets most everywhere by bike (or Metro when it's super nasty out), thinks the way planning decisions shape our lives is fascinating, and plays a whole lot of ultimate. He lives in Brookland.