Category Archives: Transportation

Amtrak & PVTA tips

UPDATE: October 2015

Double trackAmtrak service has been running for 10 months now here in Northampton.  It’s great to have a passenger train running through town again, but it’s an expensive ride.  Here are some tips on getting around inexpensively.

You can save 20% on the Vermonter (and many other Amtrak trains) if you buy 7 days in advance via this page on compiles all the Amtrak promotion codes.  It’s a great resource and helpful to learn about how Amtrak prices tickets.

If you’re heading all the way north to Burlington-Essex Junction, VT, it’s cheaper to buy two tickets: one from Northampton to Brattleboro and then another from Brattleboro to Essex Junction – on the same train and the same day!  Amtrak is currently offering “Saver” fares of $18 from Brattleboro to Essex Junction with a 3-day advance purchase.  Together with the 20% discount from Northampton to Brattleboro ($12.61), you can do the whole trip for $30.61, instead of $41 if you just buy one ticket.

Heading south to Springfield and New York City, it’s far cheaper to take the PVTA from Northampton to Holyoke (B48), and then an express bus from Holyoke to Springfield (P21e), all for $1.50.  Weekdays, this bus combination runs once an hour from 7 am to 6 pm (7 pm on the way back). Then you can transfer to the many trains running from Springfield.

Even if you are committed to taking the train from Northampton, it’s often cheaper to buy two separate tickets, one from Northampton to Springfield ($12, or $9.60 with the 20% discount), and then one from Springfield south to New York ($34 in advance).  This only works if you buy in advance, because special “Saver” fares (14 day advance ticket) are posted for Springfield south, but not from Northampton – even for the same train.

If you’re going to New York City and you can’t buy two weeks in advance, consider taking Amtrak just to New Haven from Springfield ($23, or $18.40 a week in advance), and then riding Metro North into the city ($16.25 off peak).  Together with PVTA, the total cost is between $36.50 and $40.75 one way (versus $61 for taking Amtrak the whole way).

Finally, if you join the National Association of Railroad Passengers you get 10% off all Amtrak tickets.

(There’s also Megabus, Greyhound and Peter Pan bus lines if you’re willing to forgo train travel entirely).

Random vacations

The other day my friend Barry and I went on a walk.  At each intersection we flipped a coin.  Heads meant we continued straight.  Tails then we flipped again, and then heads was left, tails was right.

Later that evening a group of friends brainstormed taking random vacations:

Taken from
Taken from
  1. Zip codes.  Roll up to 5 numbers on a ten-sided die (or 9 or 11 numbers depending on how precise you want to be!), and plan a vacation to that zip code.  It might be Smith College (01063), the Northampton Post Office Boxes (01061), Ketichan, AK (99950) or the IRS office in Holtsville, NY (00501)!
  2. Amtrak stations.  Pick a random one and travel by train.
  3. Megabus.  Set a dollar amount you are willing to pay, and figure out the farthest you can travel on Megabus for that amount.  Someone should write a program to help figure this out.  $25 can take you pretty far if you book in advance.
  4. Hitchhiking without a destination in mind.  Just go wherever the rides you get are going!
  5. Follow the wind.  Take a bicycle trip (or sailboat) and always go downwind as much as possible.  Or upwind if you want a challenge.
  6. Follow the money.  Offer your labor to everyone around you and do or go to whomever will pay you the most.  Or least.  You get to decide what your limits are – legal or illegal.
  7. Follow an animal’s tracks.  Once I followed a moose’s tracks in the snow for hours.  They can travel hundreds of miles, so it could be quite an adventure.
  8. On USGS topo maps, each square kilometer is outlined.  Pick one of these, and spend a day exploring it.
  9. Visit a random intersection of integer degree latitude and longitude lines, such as 42°N 73°W.  Who would want to do that? 12,832 so far with the Degree Confluence Project.

Why are these kinds of things interesting to me?  I think it creates an opportunity to break away from my ordinary routine and thinking.  Who knows what will happen en route or who I will meet?

In October I have two weeks off.  Maybe I’ll pick one of these – which one do you think I should do?

Walking journey 2015

UPDATE: Listen to the radio show of the first five days of my walk!

I’m going on a walking journey from April 17 to 25, 2015, around Western Massachusetts and possibly into neighboring states.  I’ve created a website to help me plan the route and find hosts at

Last April I spent four days walking from my house to western Florence, Huntington, Easthampton, Mass. and back home – about 35 miles 2014-04-17 13.53.36total.  Each night I spent with a different friend, and each day I walked, sometimes with friends, sometimes meeting new people along the way, sometimes being barked at, mapping new trails and roads that I found and adding them to Open Street Map. Most of the time I was off of major roads, walking old woods roads and sometimes bushwhacking through fields, forests and the occasional swamp!

This year I’m not quite sure what the journey will bring, but I’m looking forward to meeting new people and seeing the beauty of the early spring.

My route is mostly set, but I’m still looking for a host in Williamsburg, MA.  If you’d like to host me for a night, visit and fill out the form at the bottom of the page, or contact me.

If you’d like to walk with me for part of the journey, or want me to deliver letters to people along the route, be in touch!

Here are some pictures from last year’s journey:

2014-04-16 12.10.58

2014-04-16 14.27.38