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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Auto Train gives motorcyclists a fun way to ride

Motorcycles are unloaded from enclosed Auto Train cars.
The romance of riding the rails is second only to the thrill of riding cross country on a motorcycle. But you can combine the two.

Save the wear and tear on your motorcycle by riding the AMTRAK Auto Train between Central Florida and Northern Virginia. I recently rode the Auto Train to deliver a car to my daughter in Washington, D.C. and was interested to see motorcycles being loaded aboard.

Boy, does that seem appealing. I could imagine riding the Blue Ridge Parkway without having to subject my Royal Enfield Bullet to Interstate 95. Alternately, if I was a motorcyclist from the Frozen North, I could ride the train to Florida and back to enjoy riding in our perfect winter weather.

You get the experience of seeing America from a railroad passenger car. You also get dinner, a good night's sleep and breakfast. When you arrive, your motorcycle will be right there waiting for you.

There is only one Auto Train in the United States. It runs daily between Lorton, (Washington, D.C. area) and Sanford (Orlando, Fla. area). The overnight "nonstop" trip (there is one short stop to refuel the locomotives and change crews) takes about 18 hours. You check in by 2 p.m. and arrive at 9 a.m., regardless of which way you're traveling.

Going my way? There is only one Auto Train in the U.S.
The cost is less than the lodging and 900 miles worth of gas and oil would be if you attempted to ride the whole way. Checking the website for a random date, I see that a one-way ticket for an upper level seat (for the best view) on March 3, 2018 would be $112 for the rider, plus $141 for the motorcycle.

Prices are subject to change of course, and with only one train a day, you must make reservations well in advance.

There are special rules for motorcycles: "Standard factory-model two-wheel motorcycles. Maximum length: 102 inches from front to rear tire edges. Maximum tire wheelbase: 51 inches. Maximum height: 72 inches to top of handlebars/windshield. Ground clearance: at least 5 inches. Tire maximum: 7 inches wide, 2 1/2 inches deep. Check-in is required by 2 p.m."

Auto Train banner advertises appeal to motorcyclists.
For some reason only Harley-Davidson three-wheelers are accommodated — yet the website says there is some space for sidecars: "For small trailers, jet-skis, trikes (three-wheeled vehicles), sidecars, choppers call 1-877-754-7495."

Your motorcycle will ride in an enclosed double-decker train car. My car arrived just as clean as it was when loaded.

AMTRAK "Roomettes" are available but I found the standard seat very comfortable. You sit two-by-two, there's plenty of legroom and the seats recline and have a Lazy Boy style footrest. Bring your own pillow and blanket.

The train rocks from side-to-side a bit but is otherwise smooth and very quiet inside. Too quiet? If someone uses their cell phone you will hear every word of their conversation even if they whisper.

AMTRAK tries, but the meals are average fare and the plates are plastic.
Meals are included and are served in the dining car. Not quite so much room here; if you are traveling alone you will sit with the people at whatever table has a spare seat. AMTRAK tries to make this a stylish experience, with a choice of entrees and wine is available. Realistically, however, this is at best airline quality food.

The view out the big windows is wider than the view from an airplane, especially if you reserve a seat on the upper level. You're looking out at America's back yard, which can be boring or fascinating, depending on your interests. I find rusty pick-up trucks, ancient factories and little town squares interesting.

The view out the train windows is distinctly America's back yard.
At one point the Auto Train rounds a curve so tight you can look back and see your own train out the window. It's announced before you get there, so you can get the photo. I shot this short video to give you the idea.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Royal Enfield is suspended for Art Basel, Miami Beach

"Odysseus" is a Royal Enfield motorcycle suspended in a transparent diamond shape.
Royal Enfield's "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibits during Art Basel in Miami and Miami Beach this coming weekend caught me with  plans to be out of town. So, although I live only an hour away, I had to jump the gun a little to see them.

Literally the hardest to see was "Odysseus" by Miami sculptor Brookhart Jonquil, on display in the atrium of The Betsy-South Beach Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, until Dec. 10.

It's described as "a Royal Enfield motorcycle hung within a mirrored, crystal-shaped structure."

Is the riderless motorcycle somehow menacing?
Jonquil's work is almost architectural, featuring triangular forms that are transparent and light but immensely strong looking.

The Royal Enfield hung vertically inside an almost diamond shape appears simultaneously precarious and yet secure. It isn't going anywhere, although its headlight and pilot lights are aglow.

"It looks like a Christmas ornament," my wife suggested.

Seen at night, the "crystal" reflects and multiplies the Royal Enfield.
According to the press release, Jonquil describes Odysseus as, “suspended vertically in an infinite and immaterial space, the motorcycle’s travel across land is transformed into the endless metaphysical journey.”

OK. Unfortunately, the direct Florida sun made it difficult to see into. I went back to see it at night.

The Royal Enfield seems like a creature embedded in amber.
The same sort of thing had happened when I went to view the Royal Enfield painted by the collaborative artistic duo The Milagros Collective, at the Young At Art Museum, 751 SW 121st Ave., Davie, Fla.

In that case the Royal Enfield was still in a hallway, waiting to be moved into the exhibit space. I'll have to go back to see it in its full glory.

There are two other Royal Enfield sponsored art events to see during Art Basel.

Artist Alexander Mijares has painted a Royal Enfield motorcycle for exhibit at the Imperial Moto Cafe, 7299 NW Second Ave., Miami. It will be displayed until Dec. 31.

The Milagros Collective’s second contribution to The Art of the Motorcycle is an installation at Made at the Citadel, 8325 NE Second Ave., Miami. The work will be unveiled on  Thursday, Dec. 7 and then  moved to Walt Grace Vintage, 2450 NW Second Ave., Wynwood, an art gallery and vintage luxury car showroom, until Dec. 31.

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