All aboard!

Thank you all so much for sending your good juju to us!  AGMA & Hubs did indeed survive the weekend alone with the 3 adorable Grands.

Their parents came home on Sunday afternoon, and all 3 kids were alive, hydrated, and fed, with only two band-aids used on microscopic “ouchies” the entire weekend.

I’d call that a screaming success.

Now we have moved on to another adventure.  

Ya’ll know I can’t sit still…

AGMA’s aways wanted to take a train trip to the Pacific Northwest part of the USA.  You know, a trip where you have a tiny room on the train and get to sleep in it.  And go to the dining car for meals.  And then go to the Panorama car for a 180 view of the spectacular vistas of Glacier National Park and environs.

Well, we’re not doing that exactly.  But it’s close.

Sort of.  Not really.

Taking advantage of an Amtrak sale on “roomettes”, I booked a train trip from Chicago to Washington DC. Then from DC to Pittsburgh, PA.  Then back to Chicago. 

No dining car.  No Panorama car with 180 views.  No Pacific Northwest.

But it’s probably as safe as travel can get these days (hopefully) and we get to see family we haven’t seen for over a year.

And, best of all, we get to sleep on the train.

However, AGMA thinks sleep may be an overly generous term.  

A roomette is a small, private room that’s about 4.5 feet wide and nearly 7 feet long.  It has a sliding door that closes to keep all the virus yuckies in the hall and out of the room.  There are two wide seats in the roomette that face each other with a tray table that pulls out to eat or work on. It has a closet in it that is literally 6 inches wide. The seats magically convert into a lower bunk, and there is an upper bunk stored above the seats that folds down at night.

We do have to venture out of our cocoon to visit the water closet, but we have been assured by everybody at Amtrak that the attendant de-viruses it multiple times every hour.  

I brought loads of hand sanitizer with me just in case.

The meals are delivered to the roomette by the attendant.  And everybody has to wear a mask other than when they are in their little room.

So it feels kinda, sorta safe.

Now I have to interject for any European readers (maybe Candians as well?) that train travel in the US is a far cry from train travel in your country.  The infrastructure and trains cars are older, the trains are slow, it’s expensive unless you catch a sale, and, other than the Northeast US, the service network is not very extensive.

This makes AGMA sad because I love taking trains in Europe. They are, for the most part, fast, reliable, affordable and cover most places you want to go.  (Although I was on an Italian train once that was chaos, but that’s another post…)

Way back in the day, Americans used to travel by train quite often, but they’ve had a love affair with their automobiles ever since Henry Ford puttered down main street in a Model-T.  They abandon rail travel for the “road trip”.   Gas was cheap and with the brand new interstate highway system in the 1950’s, they never looked back.

I’m on the train right now.  It’ll take us a hour longer to get to Pittsburgh from DC on the train than if we had driven.  

But it’s so much more fun than driving…

Except maybe the sleeping.

AGMA had to take the top bunk on the trip to DC because of Hub’s mobility issue.  I didn’t mind.  To me, it was all fun and games….

Until I actually got up there.  

Beside being incredibly narrow, the bunk was so close to the ceiling that I couldn’t sit up in bed.  And I’m a touch claustrophobic. It felt a little like I was in a closed MRI machine.

Uh oh…  A mild panic started to rise up, but I did some deep breathing zen stuff and it went away.

Sort of.

And rather than the gentle rocking that would lull me to sleep I had imagined, it felt more like AGMA was in the first Conestoga wagon to travel on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800’s. I was jostled back and forth with only these small canvas straps attached to the bunk going up to the ceiling to keep me from being flung out of bed into the depths of the roomette floor 15 feet below.

Okay, it was only 5 feet.  But it seemed a whole lot farther when you looked down.

I won’t even start to go into the machinations AGMA had to go through to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.  

The next day, Hubs complained about the rough train ride during the night, and how he rocked back and forth too much.  While he was in his comfy bottom bunk. Poor baby.  

I just glared at him.

Strangely, my enthusiasm for riding the rails is not dimmed.  With our trip nearly 75% complete, AGMA’s thinking that I need to watch for the next Amtrak sale to book another trip.  Maybe one this winter going through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to California?

Not sure I can talk Hubs into it though because he really did not like of all of the “rocking back and forth”.  Poor baby.

So I might have to go solo and claim the bottom bunk as my own on the next trip.

“Distance makes the heart grow fonder”, as the old saying goes.

Hmmm…maybe yes.  Maybe no.

But I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep better.

(Note: I wrote this on the train a few days ago, but we are now safely back in Chicago. As predicted, AGMA’s eagerly planning my next Iron Horse adventure!)

Ridin’ in style

Train

OMG…

AGMA’s on yet another domestic trip. This is getting ridiculous.

The cats are going to give me the cold shoulder again when I get home. And probably cough a hairball up in the middle of the night on the bathroom floor for extra measure.

Right now I’m on the Missouri River Runner train from Kansas City to St. Louis. I’m almost 1.5 hours into the trip and I have yet to see a river. Could I get a refund for misleading advertising?

I considered going Greyhound, but it’s so much better on the train. So. Much. Better.

Like Sheldon Cooper, I love trains. Not so much for the the train cars or engines like Dr. Cooper, but for the comfort. And for AGMA, it’s important that my bottom (and the rest of me) be in a soft, roomy seat with opportunities to roam.

Aside from a huge comfy seat with lots of leg room, there’s a delightful cafe car with drinks and munchies, sort of a real bathroom, WiFi, and plugs for my various electronic devices. It’s just like home.

With no hairballs.

Plus, I get this weird thrill that courses through my body every time the conductor blows the whistle.

Does that happen to anybody else?

My mother took my sister and I from Pittsburgh to Miami Beach, about 1200 miles, on the train when I was a girl. It was probably 1961 or 1962. I don’t remember much about it other than I think I was pretty bored. Of course I was – there was no WiFi or Candy Crush Saga. And I remember getting sick with some sort of virus. I was sick for a few days after we got to Miami.

We ended up flying home.

So all in all, not a stella start for AGMA and trains.

But I’ve grown to appreciate trains in my adult life. Hubs and I have taken many a train in Europe. So quick and easy and relatively inexpensive. Europe’s extensive train system makes it incredibly convenient to get most anywhere you want to go. You can even use it as a money saving strategy by taking night trains on longer trips to save on hotel costs.

AGMA has never done this. She likes to move her bottom into a real bed a night.

Passenger trains in the U.S. – not so quick and easy. Sadly. Where you have the choice of 28 different train times in a day going from Frankfurt to Paris – 12 of which are direct- you have a choice of 3 trains from Kansas City to St. Louis. And none are direct.

Hubs and I did Frankfurt to Paris direct in December and it took less than 4 hours to cover about 300 miles. My ride today is going to take nearly 6 hours and covers around 250 miles. And that’s assuming the River Runner doesn’t have to “give way” to a freight train. Then it could take longer.

Because our rail lines in the U.S. are used primarily for the transport of lucrative freight, passenger trains get relegated to 2nd class. And passenger trains mostly run on private tracks owned by freight companies.   So when there are two trains competing for one rail, the freight train always wins.

Always.

I learned this when we lived in St. Louis and would take the train to Chicago or visa versa. A 5 hour trip could become a 7 or 8 hour trip depending on how many freight trains were on the tracks. Our train would pull over on a side track and stop to let the freight trains use the tracks. Sometimes we’d sit for 45 minutes at a time.

No fair.

But I get that freight is king over poor little subsidized Amtrak. But that doesn’t stop AGMA from taking the train whenever she can.

And now I can get the senior fare. Cha-ching!

So for $25, my bottom and I can ride in grand comfort from Kansas City to St. Louis getting caught up on AGMA and my WordPress family, eating reheated White Castles from the cafe car, and letting the gentle rocking of the train and melodic engine whistle lull me into a serene hypnotic state.

Life is good on the train.

But I still haven’t seen a river.