Pop quiz, hotshot. You need to drive your grandmother from Minnesota to Phoenix. A nasty sciatic means that 1600 mile trip will take three days, for an overall average speed of around 30 mph. Once you’re in Phoenix, the need to minimize vacation days will join forces with your hipster sensibility to get you out of that lame-o town as quick as possible. But there’s a catch – you’re neurotic about air travel, due to its tremendous environmental impact.
Do you go by ground transportation? There’s no Amtrak in Phoenix, of course, and the Texas Eagle, which picks up in nearby Maricopa, takes 60 hours to get to Chicago (I think part of that is due to a transfer to bus in East Texas because Southern Pacific is repairing some track, although there seems to be a 10 hour layover in San Antonio all the time). A bus from Phoenix to Minneapolis doesn’t take terribly long (only about 40 hours), but that much time on a bus is itself kind of terrible.
So the least terrible ground route is to catch a Greyhound at midnight in Phoenix, which arrives in Flagstaff about 3 am. Then you kill two hours in scenic Flagstaff by night, before catching the Southwest Chief a bit after 5. 32 hours later, you’ll be in Chicago just too late to catch the Empire Builder to St Paul. The Megabus only has redeyes after 3pm so you’ll have to get a 5 o’clock Greyhound. That’ll roll into Minneapolis at 1 am, only 49 hours after you left Phoenix, giving this itinerary an overall average speed of 32 mph.
Or do you fly, hotshot? A direct flight to MSP from Phoenix costs the same as ground travel, and takes less than a tenth of the time. If you’re willing to put up with a layover, the trip takes 5 whole hours but you can save $50. Will the incredible time advantage and sizable price advantage overcome your neurotic resistance to flying? Or will you cave to societal pressure and join the cadres of cramped, stressed, timesavers of the sky? What do you do, hotshot? What do you do?