You Can Read It In The Sunday Papers: Uncle Pat, the Gumbo King

I have to travel to Washington, DC, quite a bit - this week, in fact. So, boy, I wish that our Amtrak rail service to the nation's capital was faster and more dependable because once you get to the airport, go through security, etc., we're starting to get closer to the time it takes to drive.

Our European readers will howl they learn it takes almost 6 hours to travel the 280 mi/450 km from the capital of North Carolina to DC. While Amtrak service is pretty awesome from Boston through New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, once you're south of DC the passenger trains have to compete extensively with freight trains. Turns out 6 hr is optimistic, too - my colleagues who last took the trip endured over 10 hours.

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Alas, two happy things happened when I picked up the Sunday paper this morning (yes, I loves me my dead tree on the weekends). First, I learned from this frontpage article that a high-speed rail plan that's been in progress for several years may come to fruition faster than expected due to federal stimulus package funds. More importantly, one of the major players behind the scenes is PharmGirl's uncle, Patrick Simmons, Director of the Rail Division for the NC Department of Transportation - and there he was, staring back at me from the frontpage in this photo by Corey Lowenstein.

Uncle Pat is a great guy and his time in Louisiana has instilled in him tremendous culinary gifts. Yeah, yeah, I know that he is a major mover and shaker in the state transportation system but I can't read this article without thinking about the tremendous gumbo he makes each holiday.

Here's the next challenge, Uncle Pat - get the high-speed rail cars to serve your gumbo. Now *there's* a good use for the stimulus package!

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Abel wrote "Our European readers will howl they learn it takes almost 6 hours to travel the 280 mi/450 km from the capital of North Carolina to DC."

Our lab in Stony Brook, NY, hosted a French student who wanted to take the train to Boston to spend a day sight-seeing. He was gobsmacked when I told him the round-trip would take most of the day.

Later, my Hungarian friend figured it out. In Europe, or in individual countries there, maps are printed on a standard scale. When her friends visit from Hungary and look at a map of the US on an 8.5 X 11" page, they think they can drive from NYCity to Florida for breakfast. They come planning to tour the country in day-trips, and discover day-trips are restricted to a very small region.