Sunday, June 5, 2011

Long Train Runnin'

Well, I am on my way to ICC’s National Convention in Virginia Beach, VA….and you know what that means.  Fun and adventure on the high rails of Amtrak with Jill!

Some of you may know that I hate to fly.  That is a gross understatement.  I mean I REALLY hate to fly.  So this year, as something “fun”, I decided taking the train would be a better travel choice.  I love to travel by train.  I have done it several times, including a long trip through Canada.  And it has been fun.

Well, if you consider Hell fun, that is.
Oh yes, did you know that is an actual Amtrak stop?  It is!  I have been there.  But perhaps I better back up a bit.

Angi, KK, Joss and I began our adventure back in Denver.  Amtrak spares no expense at keeping things rip-roaring from the very beginning.
I have been so excited to travel from the historic Union Station in Denver and became quite disappointed to find out that it is being overhauled and we had to leave from a temporary station.

Which also happens to be invisible.

Yeah, I know….what?  But after following direction from both Mapquest, and Angi’s iPhone’s GPS app AND my husband’s surprisingly good sense of direction, we drove all around Coors Field yesterday (or the day before, I don’t remember, it has been a long haul….it was Thursday, if that helps) without being able to find the train station.  After wandering aimlessly, we finally happened upon the station.  The station with parking for Mini Coopers only.
After 15 minutes of trying to maneuver our Durango into VW Clown Parking Only, we were able to park and get our luggage out and check in just in time to be late!  And to find out that the GIGANTIC suitcases we packed for checked baggage, could not be checked! 
The fun continued as we had to run, wheeling our GIGANTO-BAGS and lugging ALL of our carry on luggage (which consisted of at least 2 twenty-five pound bags of snacks) ACROSS THE STREET (because what sense does it make to build a temporary train station NEAR the train itself?), up the stairs to the platform and then onto the second story of the train.  (I am just saying….workout for the week is done)

As we stowed our luggage and found our seats, we settled in and SAT on the track for an hour.  Sure am glad we rushed to get to that train!

Finally we got moving, made some PB&J sandwiches, washed up and went to sleep.  Thankfully, we slept through Kansas and awoke to a beautiful sunrise in Nebraska with sights set on getting to Chicago that afternoon where we would endure a FOUR hour lay-over before hopping our next train, the Capitol Limited, to Washington, DC.
Our first night of sleep was a little restless, but we were having fun.  REAL fun this time.  On the California Zephyr (the first train we were on), the snack bar is run by a phenomenal guy named, Frank!  He kept things light and funny.  He also used to do hair, and couldn’t keep his hands off Jocelyn’s “GREAT hair cut”.  For those of you who know how humongous Jocelyn’s person space is….you can imagine how this was NOT a fun part of the trip for her!

We traveled on, enjoying Frank’s antics and the ride, but slowly, we became acutely aware of “the smell”.  Oh yes, it was not pleasant for any of us, but Angi sprayed a whole bottle of Bath and Body Works Sanitizer Spray all over the train car to try to get rid of it.  She even threatened to throw up…but I am still not clear if it was because of the putrid bathroom smell, or the overdose of Brown Sugar Vanilla spray she was inundating us with!  

No matter, we would be in Chicago soon and onto a different train.

But, see, that is where more Amtrak fun comes in…..
Unbeknownst to us, but apparently known to everyone else, including Amtrak employees, there had been a DERAILMENT involving an Amtrak train in Chicago’s Union Station that morning.  This is not fun.  Not for the train involved or any other trains trying to get in and out of Chicago that day.  The rail authorities were not letting any trains depart of arrive at Union Station.  Our Zephyr staff actually suggested we get off BEFORE Chicago since we didn’t know when in the world they would actually let us into the station.

As it turned out, we got right into the station.  Union Station in Chicago is actually a stop in Hell.  Once you get off your train, you get boxed into a small space between two fire breathing engines and stand.  And Stand.  AND STAND!  Sweating, stinking, parching and STANDING!  Hot, sulfurous…I am telling you…dark and steamy….it was HELL! Finally, they let us out and into the Big Mess in the Great Hall of historic Chicago Union Station, where we got some FAB pictures. The Big Mess took a lot of sorting and we stood in line for a long time waiting for boarding instructions.  But, Amtrak must have a Disney mindset.  You know…make sure your visitors have something fun to watch/do so they won’t notice the wait.

Our in station entertainment included, but was not limited to the following events:
*The Mad Dash – This event consists of Amtrak employees telling you that you have to get out of the boarding area because you will not be boarding for a looooong time.  And then waiting for you to hear through the grapevine that, indeed, you now need to be in the boarding area because you will be boarding at any moment.  The Mad Dash ensues.
*The Great Wait – This event follows the Mad Dash and is what you do for the next  two hours while you wait to board the train.
*The Strip-Tease – This entertainment seemed to be just for the stripper, as I didn’t see anyone else enjoying it, especially the sweet little Amish women who had a front row a seat.  The Stripper danced a jaunty jig, while unbuttoning his leopard-print shirt and then REMOVING his pants and slowly (way too slowly for me and the Amish gals) putting on a new pair.  He continued with his dancing for the next hour, much to the bonnet clad women’s horror.
*Pot Stumping – During the Great Wait and after the Strip Tease came the Pot Stumping.  This involved a very small, little, “different” (think Deliverance) man eyeing our girls up and down and expounding on the benefits of marijuana while showing us the lovely tattoo of the pot leaf on his arm.  He freaked us out a bit.

After all the lively entertainment, we finally boarded the train.  And this train is GREAT!  Lots of leg room…no invasive, offending odors, just a comfy, cozy ride. 
And good thing too.  It is good to be relaxed when Amtrak tells you that they have brake problems on your train and you will not make your connecting train but will be in Washington DC possibly overnight.
Fun. (still beats driving a roundabout any day!)


Zia said...

And I was thinking how fun it would be to take the train......somewhere. I think I'll fly:-)

So glad you made it okay. Have a wonderful time!

Yuenster said...

Carli: Haha! sounds like fun! can't wait to see you guys!
i wonder what the train coming back is gonna be like...

Alice said...

hahahahaha! only you, jill! sounds like a fun, eventful trip - with lots of laughs - in between the "being scared"s :)

da halls said...

Now that was an adventure, wasn't it?