My husband is a ferroequinologist, which basically means that he is a rail fan…AKA, train nut. When he helped our daughter move to Wisconsin, he was thrilled to return home via Amtrak. So when it was my turn to visit her, I thought I would drive. He — tactfully — showed me photos of the train. What finally sold me was the observation car and the promise of reading uninterrupted for eight hours.
So it was that we were on the road at 3:30 a.m., heading to the Toledo Amtrak station, where we found a lot of equally bleary-eyed travelers. Kind of like this…except he was sad not to be joining me.
Amtrak is notoriously late, but we left only 40 minutes after the scheduled time. The hubs instructed me on the boarding process so I quickly found my seat on the upper level of the car. Lulled by the gentle movement, I conked out almost immediately and woke up two hours later. Two hours later, we reached Chicago, where I was met by my brother- and sister-in-law, who entertained me with a stop at a thrift store and lunch at Whole Foods.
Boarded a new train at 3:30, but had to wait for a train from New York that had just arrived 6 hours late. Eeeeesh. More reading, but mostly sleeping off and on, with one eye open for the person taking reservations for dinner. My husband had made me promise to experience the dining car despite the fact that I’d be seated with three strangers. This is when my innate snoopy nature pays off — I have NO qualms about making conversation.
Just before 5 p.m. I made my way unsteadily toward the dining car, where I was seated with a 73-year-old divorced man traveling from Cleveland to North Dakota to see the daughter he hadn’t seen in 8 years, and a 50-something woman traveling with four friends, all of whom were seated together across the aisle. They’d been on the road for 10 days, traveling by train from Minneapolis to Buffalo, where they rented a van to drive to Bar Harbor, Maine, and Stowe, VT, then back to the Twin Cities by train.
The fourth seat was taken by a gregarious guy in his mid- to late 40s. The two of us generally monopolized the conversation, mostly because I kept asking him questions and he was game to answer. He’d first attended college in Thailand, where he met and married his first wife, a “spoiled brat,” with whom he has two children now in their early 20s. He owns 10 semis and contracts with auto dealers to transport cars. He was returning from having driven a new Volvo to the new owner in VA. Curious, I asked where he lives…he owns a house in the Philippines, where his pregnant wife and their six-year-old stepson live. He hoped to return in a few months. Neither of the other two seemed at all interested in learning our conversation and they took off as soon as they’d eaten.
As for the food….suffice to say that I’d choose differently next time.
Soon after we ordered dinner, Martin the Talker pointed out the window. We were heading into a DARK storm. My only thought was to wonder what happens to a train in a twister.
That brought a very quick storm of driving rain before the sun returned. Martin and I shook hands and went our separate ways. Still trying to recover from two hours of sleep the previous night, I conked out again and woke up a few minutes before we reached my final stop — La Crosse, WI.