Friday, January 20, 2006

Planes, trains, and, well, you get the idea

The problem with taking the plane most anywhere is that it's largely uneventful. Why is that a problem? Because it doesn't give us the chance to experience hair-raising adventures or miss connections that offer opportunities of character building.

Let me stress the character building part.

I took the plane to visit my grandpa. For the first time in my air traveling life I got the middle seat. Nothing unusual there, really, except the lady sitting to my left was praying the rosary for about 20 minutes before we finally got to crusing altitude. She talked to Mary longer than she did me. The guy on the other side of me had nothing to say at all, my comments to him answered only with a smile and a nod. I got a lot of puzzles done.

After five days in Colorado, I took Amtrak to California. The train leaving Colorado was an hour late, and by the time I pulled in to Sacramento I was more than eight hours late, thanks to a freight train derailment near the California-Nevada state line. A curator from a train museum in Sacramento who got on board in Reno started telling us about the history of Donner Pass and the railway, and promised that he would narrate the trip all the way to Sacramento. But after we sat on the mountain for several hours, he stopped talking. Funny, I never heard another story. He either fell asleep or got off the train somewhere.

When we pulled into Sacramento at about 11 p.m., an uncle I hadn't seen in more than 20 years and my grandma were waiting for me. Grandma had planned on having a nice dinner and a family reunion of sorts. Alas, all that became of that was 45 minutes of catching up and a paper bag care package of barbequed pork, pasta salad, bread and brownies courtesy of Grandma and cousins Susan and Cindy. Grandma was tired and had to go home to sleep. She said she normally went to bed at 9 p.m.

True to form, Amtrak was more than an hour late pulling out of Sacramento to take me north and to home. The train died somewhere in the Sierras. The conductor didn't bother to tell us what was going on. We just guessed something was wrong when the train stopped and, later, the power went out.

Mudslides prevented us from going past Portland, which was fine because by that time we were more than six hours late. More than one passenger threatened to never ride Amtrak again, and felt the need to make the threat over and over and over again.

Buses took us to Seattle. A cab took me to the Greyhound station. While there, the security guard told a rabbi to stop spitting on the floor, and showed the nearest exit to a stalker of a young Oriental woman. I then caught a bus for my last hour home, and pulled in at about 2:30 a.m.

Lessons learned:
1. Flying is faster.
2. Ignore Amtrak's schedule. It doesn't matter, anyway.
3. When in coach, don't expect the conductor to tell you anything.
4. If you want rail history, read a book.
5. When at the bus depot in Seattle, watch where you step and carry mace.

Bill

2 comments:

mcwigginses said...

You forgot...

6. Always take snacks.

Carol L said...

7. Renting a car might be the ticket should such a need arise again?