I drove home from Bentonville, Arkansas in 11 hours, 15 minutes today, courtesy of Hertz and not courtesy of US Air, who not only couldn’t honor my ticket today, but who couldn’t even promise to get me home by Tuesday. I rented a Mazda 6 — nice car, surefooted and easy to drive — and it wasn’t bad. But jeez, airlines really suck today. Perks and first-class upgrades are okay, but the bottom line is, can you rely on them to get you where you’re going? Not so much. . . .We've noted, previously, the withdrawal of the air carriers from some of the less-heavily-trafficked routs, and the occasional usefulness of the passenger train as an option, even in some surprising places.
The passenger rail network that we have today, however, still has the structure of the late-1960s network, and trains withdrawn prior to the creation of Amtrak have only rarely been added to the system. The retrenchment began even earlier in the Southwest. The best rail itinerary from the summer of 1954 would make the current U.S. Air offering look good. The nearest passenger service to Bentonville is the Frisco at Rogers, Ark. Board the Meteor at 9.23 (sections and bedrooms available). Arrive St. Louis at 7.45 the next morning. Board Baltimore and Ohio's National Limited at 9.45, arrive Cincinnati at 5.35. Sections might be available for day use. Get supper in Cincinnati, then board Southern's Carolina Special 9.50, arrive Knoxville 6.50. Sections and compartments available. Two nights out, though. Driving, even on pre-Interstate Highway roads, looks appealing.
On the map, a Rogers - Fort Smith (Ark.) - Little Rock - Memphis - Knoxville routing looks more direct, but the connections involve either a long wait at Memphis or a change of trains at Chattanooga.