Sunday, August 10, 2008


Yesterday morning, after an eventful trip home, we finally made it. We left Cape Cod around 8:30 a.m. on Friday, and got home around 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Needless to say, we were tired yesterday--and still are today. We drove to Boston, turned in the rental car, and caught our train from South Station. The trip to Albany was great--relaxing, comfortable, everything a good train trip should be.

From there, things went downhill. The Albany train station was blech. Only food available was this little coffee shop with sandwiches and lukewarm soup. But at least we got to get something to eat (it was around dinnertime). The train loaded up around 7pm, and wow--I felt like I was in a herd of cattle getting on the train. There were several groups traveling together (some seniors groups, a youth group), and for some reason, Amtrak thought it was good to load them up first, which left very few seats for the rest of us. But we made it on, and even got to sit together. Many of the travelers were going all the way to Chicago, so they had a long trip in front of them.

Things started to calm down on the train around 10:30 or 11:00. Remember--we had a sleeper car on the way out to DC. This trip we were coach all the way. It's a vast difference! I did get some sleep, but felt like I woke up at every stop (although the guys tell me I was always asleep every time they looked at me). What amazed me was the group of older women that got on around 5:00 a.m. somewhere in Ohio. They were so loud! Here's this train car full of sleeping people, and these women were hooting and talking like it was broad daylight. Sheesh.

Finally, we arrived back in Waterloo to a sad sight. Our old car was still parked in the parking lot, but with three windows shattered. Apparently, some vandal had had some fun in the train parking lot. Several other cars had been damaged as well. That poor Geo. When we lived in Pittsburgh, the rear window had been smashed out at least once by some vandal. This time, the windshield had at least four blows, the passenger front window was shattered, and the rear window was shattered. Sigh. The police came by right as we got off the train, and said that someone had gone through the parking lot, smashing car windows about three nights back. Nothing inside the car had been damaged (there isn't much to steal--a radio that barely works is about it).

So we called AAA, and made it back to Fort Wayne. We jammed in the cab of the tow truck with these two tow truck drivers. It actually reminded me of some outrageous scene from a movie like Little Miss Sunshine. We were totally smashed into this cab. Except for sending out the tow truck, AAA was useless--sending us to window replacement shops that don't exist. Dumb. Finally, we ended up at a Chevrolet dealer, where the body shop will take care of the windows. So, grrr...that is not fun, but the trip overall was great.

Here's the thing about train travel that I love. I love seeing the countryside zoom past the windows. It feels more natural to travel this way. Airplane travel is awful compared to the train. In a plane, you are jammed into these tiny seats, you have absolutely NO leg room unless you happen to be less than 4 feet tall, and it's all so stressful! Train travel (at its best) avoids all of this. You can walk around, have tons of leg room, you get to see things out the window. It's great. I read most of a novel on the way back from Boston. You can get something to eat in the dining car or snack car. This photo shows somewhere in New York state. The moon is in the corner of the photo. It was a beautiful sunset.

And then, here is this gorgeous shot of Ohio farm land. Isn't it pretty? That is sunrise--just before we arrived in Waterloo.

People used to travel by train, and that is sadly obvious in a lot of places. The tracks are old, and as cities built up and moved away from the tracks, the areas by the tracks decayed. So it's often like looking in a back alleyway of the city. You see old tenement houses, burned out, graffiti-covered rowhouses. An occasional oasis of urban redevelopment pops up, and then there's another long line of brick warehouses with the glass windows broken or filmed over with decades of grime. A billboard reads, "We buy ugly houses."

Our trip from DC to Boston was especially eventful outside the train. We went through Philly, NYC, Connecticut, and then trees filled up the windows again. We left the grime and noise and clamor of the city to the scrub brushes and clapboard houses of New England. We even got a glimpse of the ocean. And a white heron. Sail boats are nestled in blue sparkly harbors. Church steeples jut into the skyline.

Overall, I loved the train. The last leg of the journey was more trying, but by then I was also ready to be home, so somewhat cranky. But I highly recommend it for the adventure of it all. Jacob was at the perfect age to take the train. Much younger and he (and we) would've been miserable. As it was, we all discovered this wonderful mode of travel and got to see some fabulous sights!

More soon on my near-death experience at Cape Cod...

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