Luxury train travel in the U.S. a bust? Train cars for sale

Last month, GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, a luxury train company we’ve blogged about in the past stopped operations due to financial woes. It’s not that Americans aren’t interested in train travel, Amtrak’s business went up this summer, it just seems that fancy trains have a hard time making a go of it in the U.S.

Rachel Dunlap at Intelligent Travel stated her surprise that the GrandLuxe Rail wasn’t able to make a go of it. As she pointed out, it had met with great reviews.

Dunlap is stymied about the demise, particularly since luxury trains have been able to find a market outside the U.S. Just yesterday David posted about VIA Rail’s upcoming Concierge class for the discerning train traveler.

I’m thinking that one reason why luxury train travel hasn’t picked up in the U.S. is because train travel in many parts of the U.S. is not something people think about as an option. Train schedules on a day to day basis aren’t the most convenient. Although I took the train with my 6-year-old son from Cleveland to New York and loved it (see post), we took the bus back. The train would have put us into Cleveland at 4 or so in the morning, plus we don’t live in Cleveland. One trip there from Columbus was enough. The bus had several schedule options–none of them perfect, but doable.

Perhaps in the U.S., we are so attracted to the idea of speed that even if the train offers a luxurious way to go to a destination, we’re not hooked into the idea of the journey as being the pleasurable aspect. We want to be on that beach or at the tourist attraction–and quick.

Although, cruise ships have done a tidy job of making the journey the thing. Except ships are huge, and there is much to do to occupy a person’s time. Not that I’ve ever been on a cruise ship, but from what I’ve heard there are several options geared to keep people from thinking much. On trains, scenery gazing and letting one’s mind wander are the major highlights.

If the U.S. peps up train travel, and passengers get used to heading to destinations on the rails more and more, perhaps luxury train travel will have another go at it. Even without the luxury, I love a train.

As Dunlap mentioned in her post,the GrandLuxe train cars are for sale.

Metro logos from around the world

Thanks to Intelligent Travel that has a post on another blog, Prêt à Voyager, here is the heads up on a very cool Web site,, dedicated to subways, lists the various logos of metro systems from around the world and tells the cities where those metros are found. As it turns out, my logo memory is sad. Very sad. So sad.

But, as I browsed the list, I counted up the metros I’ve been on, and if my mind is not faulting me, which is a possibility, I came up with 24. I think. Some of the metros are under construction. The array of cities and countries is dizzying. Several are in the same country.

If you traveled in Taipei or Bangkok before and after the metro systems were put in place, and you’ve probably noticed what a difference a light rail can make. Traveling on both systems make getting around each city actually pleasant and has cut down on pollution.

Which subway logo is the one in the photo? The photo is from the metrobits Web site that features 171 logos so far.

Bilbao, Spain

Unusal Labor Day jaunts: It’s a festival bonanza

You’ve probably noticed if you’ve browsed your local paper that Labor Day weekend, along with kicking off football, is a great one for festivals. Last night I started off my Labor Day weekend early by heading to the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival. I proclaimed it a hit after we had only been there for about 15 minutes.

So did my brother and a friend of his. They live in the heart of Manhattan and said several times over how clean it is was. Seriously. Folks in Millersport know how to use trash cans. Plus, the corn can’t be beat. It was not uncommon to see people with a pile of buttered ears in front of them, all to be chowed down in one sitting.

For other places to head to make this Labor Day weekend a stand out, Intelligent Travel has a post of festival offerings. These are unusual events that capture the fun you can find without a lot of effort besides getting in the car and going.

If you can’t make it to one of these this year, consider them for next year’s Labor Day. Why stay at home when there’s corn to eat , grapes to stomp, dancing to do, and more?

  • Kansas City Irish Fest in Kansas City, Missouri
  • The Irvington Stomp in Irvington, Virginia.
  • Marshall County Blueberry Festival in Plymouth, Indiana
  • Hard Crab Derby and Fair in Crisfield, Maryland
  • New York State Festival of Balloons in Dansville, New York
  • Albuquerque/Denver Tango Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Head to the Intelligent Travel Website for links to each festival. Make sure you click on Irvington Stomp. What a hoot.

Where to go in Denver and Boulder, Colorado. Two suggestions. Intelligent Travel needs more

Over at Intelligent Travel, editor, Janelle Nanos is heading to Colorado this weekend, specifically to Denver (for Friday evening) and Boulder (for the rest of the weekend). She’s looking for suggestions for what she might do and where she might eat. Hiking is one of the things Janelle is interested in doing.

As a person who as been both to Denver and Boulder, I have my ideas, although I haven’t done any hiking at either place. I have one suggestion for Boulder for a thing to do, and one idea for a place to eat. I have more, but for now, I’m highlighting two. ,.,Both are worthy of a post on their own, and I’ve gushed about them to friends and relatives.

A friend told me about Banjo Billy ‘s Bus Tour when she heard I was heading to Boulder. This tour was about the best one I’ve ever taken and I am so fond of tours.

The bus is a restructured school bus that looks a bit like a shack. The seats are horse saddles or living room couches and recliners. The tour takes in the lore of Boulder, like who was murdered in which building, and where the ghosts hang out–that sort of thing. As well as teaching much about Boulder lore and history, it’s a hoot–very funny. My daughter and son loved it too.

For a place to eat, Boulder Dushanbe Tea House is exquisite. My daughter and I ate out on the patio. I can’t remember exactly what we ate, but the the food and atmosphere were fabulous. We had the loveliest drinks. Both of them involved hibiscus. Mine was the version with alcohol.

Those are my two ideas. If you have others let us know, but most importantly, let Janelle know by going to Intelligent Travel and posting a comment on her post. Thanks!

Butter cows and other butter sculptures

Intelligent Travel recently posted about the Iowa State Fair’s tradition of the butter cow. This is not the only state to boast a life-size cow sculpted out of pounds and pounds of butter. Other fairs have cow and other objects done up in butter as part of their fair traditions.

The Ohio State Fair jumped on the butter cow bandwagon awhile back and has added other butter sculptures to the dairy wow factor. This year, displayed in the same case as the cow and her calf, is Ohio’s version of Mt. Rushmore–the faces of the eight U.S. presidents who were born in Ohio.

I was fortunate enough to visit the display this past Friday. There is a voice recording that blares out butter sculpture facts so that any one within yards of the building can get the scoop on exactly what’s involved in such an endeavor.

I also found the facts in this post by Kathy Lynn Gray who is blogging on the Ohio State Fair. It takes two tons of butter to sculpt 8 presidents and 2 cows. In stick numbers, that’s 8,000 sticks of butter.

If you’d like to try sculpting butter yourself, you’ll need a dairy case that is kept at 46 degrees in which to work, but work fast. You’ll only be able to work in increments of 40 minutes because you’ll get too cold and need to take a break.

In the same building that houses the butter sculptures at the Ohio State Fair, you can buy ice-cream, butter-milk and milk. The milk was a bargain at $1 for a 1/2 pint. If you happen to want ice-cream, the line moves fairly quickly. There are only four flavors: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and mint chocolate chip. My son shared.

A friend of mine wants to know what happens to the butter after the fair. I’m not sure I’d want to eat any of that butter on toast, even if it is kept cold. For more butter sculpture info, click here.