What Travel Could Look Like if the U.S. Had High-Speed Rail

Jens Schlueter - Pool/Getty Images
Jens Schlueter - Pool/Getty Images

In terms of train infrastructure, the U.S. is behind the rest of the world. The Industrial Revolution was built on railroads, but by the time the interstate highway system came along, trains were left in the dust. Amtrak currently only has one high-speed rail route, the Acela Express between Boston and Washington D.C., and that has a maximum speed of just 150 miles per hour—with an average speed less than 70 miles per hour. That means it's slower than all but the most law-abiding cars on the freeway.

Meanwhile, Shanghai’s bullet trains can travel at speeds of up to 267 miles per hour, and Italian high-speed trains go up to 220 miles per hour. Much of Europe is connected by various high-speed train lines that can shuttle people across borders in just a few hours.

As exciting as it is to dream of a Hyperloop, the technology to make rail travel far more convenient already exists, and other countries have been implementing it for years. What would it look like if the U.S. had this kind of transportation network? Perhaps a little something like this:

Screenshot via Business Insider

Business Insider illustrates how high-speed rail could criss-cross the country in the graphic above, using a plan from the US High Speed Rail Association. The association proposes a 17,000-mile network of bullet trains connecting the country's biggest metropolises.

You can check out BI's full animation on the potential future of high-speed rail here

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

Airlines Are No Longer Allowed to Ban Service Dogs Based on Breed

chaivit/iStock via Getty Images
chaivit/iStock via Getty Images

As the species of service and emotional support animals have become more diverse, airlines have had to make some tough decisions. Birds, monkeys, and snakes have been barred from boarding airplanes with passengers, but even more conventional pets like dogs have been rejected based on their breed. A new rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) aims to change that. As Travel + Leisure reports, the agency now forbids airlines from discriminating against service dogs of particular breeds, including pit bulls.

Last year, Delta banned all pit bulls from flying, regardless of whether or not they were certified therapy animals. United Airlines also banned pit bulls last year, along with 20 other dog breeds, including pugs, bulldogs, mastiffs, and shih tzus.

Under the new DOT guidelines, these policies are no longer legal. The statement reads: "The Department’s Enforcement Office views a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal to not be allowed under its service animal regulation. The Enforcement Office intends to use available resources to ensure that dogs as a species are accepted for transport."

The new rule applies specifically to service animals, or animals that have been trained to perform a job that's essential to their owner's wellbeing. Emotional support animals, which don't require special training and aren't covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, don't qualify.

Even if a pet is a certified service animal, airlines still have the right to reject them in certain cases. Air travel companies can request documents related to an animal's vaccination, training, or behavior history. If they find anything in the papers that indicates they're not safe to fly, airlines can turn them away on that basis.

In the same statement, the Department of Transportation clarifies which species of service animals should be allowed on flights. Miniature horses are now included on the list of service animals airlines must allow to fly, while ferrets, rodents, snakes, reptiles, and spiders are the only species airlines can ban outright.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

An 89-Year-Old Grandmother Is Visiting All 61 National Parks With Her Grandson

Sunrise in the Smoky Mountains National Park
Sunrise in the Smoky Mountains National Park
SeanPavonePhoto/iStock via Getty Images

The U.S. has 61 National Parks—including several hidden gems—but some people haven’t been to a single one. Until 2015, Joy Ryan was one of those people. Her adult grandson, Brad Ryan, told her about a hiking trip he once took on the Appalachian Trail, and Joy said that in her 85 years, she had never seen a mountain—except on TV—or an ocean. When her husband was still alive, the couple would drive to a lake in Florida, but avoided the coast.

“She told me at that time that she really, really regretted that she didn’t get to do more of that type of thing and have more experiences in life,” Ryan told CBS News. Joy, now 89 years old, lives in Duncan, Ohio, a “two-traffic light town.” She spent most of her life working a minimum wage job and raising three sons, two of whom died young. She’s a leukemia survivor, and in recent years has battled pneumonia.

In 2015, when Ryan was attending veterinary school, one of his classmates committed suicide. To cope with the tragedy and because life is short, he invited Joy on a three-day camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, where she finally got the chance to see some mountains in real life. The adventure went well enough that in 2017 it inspired the unlikely pair to start a GoFundMe campaign so they could hit up all 61 parks. Flash forward to 2019, and the duo has visited 29 parks, and counting.

So far, they’ve visited 38 states—Alaska and Hawaii are next—and driven 25,000 miles in the past three and a half years. One time a moose chased them, but according to Joy, of the animals they've seen, a prairie dog is her favorite.

Ryan told the BBC that this time with his grandma has inspired him, and he’s liked looking at the world through her eyes. “It helped me to slow down—the way she would notice the little things like the color of the mushrooms on the ground,” he said. “I was focused on goals, like climbing the mountain, but sometimes it’s not all about the epic views; it’s about enjoying those little moments, too.”

To see where they end up next, you can follow Grandma Joy’s Road Trip on Instagram.

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