It's not easy to get from Toronto to Nashville, Tennessee.

The first train left Buffalo at 5:00 am, and arrived in New York City at half past noon. Don't ask how I got to Buffalo for 5:00 am. I'll tell that story some other time. I'd never travelled by train before - kind of a mix of the subway and air travel. Unexpectedly complete with stewardesses and a little drink cart in the aisle, although US $2.00 for a can of Coca-Cola seems a bit rude.

It takes a long time to go places by train. I've been spoiled by corporate air travel. I mean, 5 hours from Toronto to San Francisco by direct air. You figure a train ride's not gonna be that much longer, right? Do a couple of crosswords and you're there. WRONG!

I should have wondered why it takes troop trains so long to get around in those American Civil War novels and alternate history derivations that I like to read. America's a big country, and a train is not nearly as fast as a jumbo jet.

A two hour layover in NYC, not enough time to see anything except the train station itself. Penn station. Vaguely interesting but a bustling horde of hot, harried and hassled humanity is not my idea of a good time. Plus I've a newbie's fear of New York. After all, the paper's on about alligators in Central Park. I thought that was an urban legend. I felt like it was some kind of joke arranged for my benefit.

Then it was 2:30pm and onto the Night Train from NYC to Atlanta, GA. I thought the people on the Maple Leaf Daily were surly - they had nothing on this lot. I'm a bit wider in the shoulder than the designers had in mind when they built the seats, the aisles, etc. Not quite as bad as an airplane, not quite as good as a modern movie theatre. Being too big for your seat earns you no popularity points, my friends, none at all.

I read for a while - Stephen Jay Gould alternating with my copy of "Software Requirements" - even on this truncated vacation I have to work. I think I'll have a job to go back to. I hope so. You can never tell in software. Later I slept fitfully, with my bulging JavaOne 2001 backpack clutched to my chest. Finally morning, and Atlanta.

Trying to buy a decent breakfast in Atlanta reminded me of my first visit to Quebec. I could make the locals understand me, but my Ontario accent cracked them up. At least we were all speaking English this time ... I think.

A three hour layover this time, and then 5 1/2 hours on the bus to Nashville. Sometime I have to do this right, with time to stop and see things. All that Civil War history out there somewhere, and me on a tight timetable.

6:00 pm in Nashville. A day and a half total travel. Strangely not tired from the journey, so I checked in to the hotel, showered, had a quick meal at the local Mickey Dee and took in Tomb Raider at the nearby cinema. (There was a waste of my dearly bought American money!) It did make me sleepy though, so perhaps not a total loss after all.

The next morning I was in the lobby at the appointed time, and the smiling Saturn dude arrived right on the tick. We popped into the sporty yellow SC2 he'd brought and tooled off to pick up my new car. One of the last of the special 10th anniversary Saturn SL2s, an "impulse buy" of sorts, even though I'd been thinking about it for a while. I'd been leaning to the roomier L-series, but hey - why not indulge myself. (It may seem odd to indulge myself with another compact sedan, but I decided I wanted it, and could afford it.) The only ones left were at the plant in Spring Hill, hence the trip down here.

All the paperwork signed, money handed over, the obligatory photo with the dealership staff and a complimentary tank of gas (a gesture of largesse because I'd come so far) and I was off to Arkansas. Nothing but an ancient AAA roadmap and dannye's lousy ASCII art to guide me, but I managed to find my way eventually. More on that adventure another time.

Next up: A marathon road trip north, ending with the gods' Summit in Savannah. Can you get there from here? dannye says yes. I'm not sure this was a good idea, but what the hell. You only live once ...