California, here I come

Note:  this post is going to have a LOT of photos.  Choosing between the bazillion shots that I took while on the most scenic train ride of my life has proven to be more difficult than I thought.  So my apologies if this post takes forever to load on your computer or device!

Right as I was boarding the train in Denver early Saturday morning and sorting away my luggage , a jovial, 50-something-year-old African-American man in a baseball cap approached my seat.  “Well, it’s about time!” he cheerfully said to me.  “I had just been askin’ the Lord to give us some eye candy on this train, and he has answered my prayers!”  Not exactly sure how to respond to this gentleman caller (what do you say after being referred to as “eye candy”?),  I smiled, thanked him, and awkwardly returned his enthusiastic high-five.

If the population of the train from Chicago to Denver was mostly leisure travelers, the group from Denver to Emeryville, CA took that and raised it to the level of Full-Fledged Train Geeks.  Almost everyone that I met that first day, even if that person was traveling for work, was taking the train because they loved trains.  There were many conversations in the observation car – a hopping place on this scenic route- about previous long-distance journeys and future dream trips.

As the train left Denver, the course was flat, then started to slowly gain elevation, zigzagging its way toward the distant mountains.  Every one of us was chomping at the bit in the observation car, cameras in hand.

At the table, eating my oatmeal and coffee, I was seated across from a young woman.  Her name was Shelby, and she had recently made the decision to leave her small hometown in Iowa and start a life for herself somewhere out west. As we exchanged travel stories, she was impressed by the long list of places that I have seen, but I was even more amazed at the sheer gutsiness of this 20-year-old to just buy a one-way train ticket and head off on her own!  I would never have been brave enough to do that at her age!

Passing through consecutive tunnels, we watched as the landscape turned white with snow.

Passing through all of these quaint little ski towns made me want to get off the train and hit the slopes myself!

I’ve been to the desert through a town with no name. 😉

Soon we were seeing signs for “a place where the beer flows like wine. Where women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Assss-pennnn.”

Every so often, the train would make a 10-minute stop and allow the passengers off for a stretch of the legs and some “fresh air,” which contradictingly was thick with cigarette smoke.  Glenwood Springs was one of the most scenic stops.

The train continued along the Colorado River through mountain passes.  What I love about these routes is that there is really no other way to see them except by train.  There are no other roads.  Passing through is like discovering a hidden treasure.

(I really wanted to post a video here from Gore Canyon, but it is refusing to upload either from my home or from either of two different Paneras.  So I think this is a no-go.  Sorry).

Slowly the snow began to dissipate as we approached Colorado’s western edge.  The gray peaks became a  blend of oranges and reds.We stopped for about half an hour for a streching break in Grand Junction while the train restocked and had a staff change.  I took this as an opportunity to check out the old station nearby and wander around the block.  Across the street, I could see a Pawn and Loan with snowy peaks in the distance.  The dilapidated old station was a sad sight:  what was once a beautiful structure had fallen into severe disrepair over the last 40 years.  The art deco arches were crumbling, the old Pufferbelly Station sign was faded and chipping, and wooden boards had been nailed behind the jagged glass of the windows.  I overheard someone say that the property was $300,000 to buy but would cost over $1 million to renovate.  Although it seems doubtful now, I hope that someday the station can be restored to its historic grandeur.

The modern Grand Junction Amtrak station

Entrance to the historic station

Back aboard the train, we piled back into the observation car, where one of the Amtrak staff members was serving as a tour guide.  He knew the route like the back of his hand and pointed out all sorts of landmarks and interesting sites, from the hillside “graffitti” marking the border between Colorado and Utah to the rock formation known as the Three Sisters to the barely-visible rocky arch from Arches National Park in the distance. Also noted but not part of the official tour was a naked man hitting golf balls off a nearby plateau!

Entering Utah

Our “tour guide”

Along this river were several canoes and kayaks, who know to expect the train at this hour. It is customary for the boaters to either wave to or moon the train. 😉

Zoom-in of the Three Sisters

During the time between the “tour’s” end and dinner, I sat in a single seat in the observation car, listening to my ChooChoo! Mix on shuffle and recording the song titles for a later blog post.  This looked somewhat obsessive-compulsive, I’m sure (What, me?  With OCD?  Never!) and piqued the interest of two of my fellow passengers.  Justin lives in Brooklyn but was traveling to a conference in Salt Lake City;  James lives in the southeast and was heading to San Jose for a work meeting but had decided to take the train.  He was one of the few passengers I met who had splurged on a roommette.  We were all green with envy, notably Shelby, who had grown so disgusted with her overnight-from-Iowa-train-hair that she had given up and washed it with considerable effort in the sink of the moving train.  The guys were excellent company, and they joined me and Shelby for a incredibly fun meal in the dining car.

The following morning, I woke up bleary-eyed to the sight of the Nevada desert.  Within minutes,  my Gentleman Caller approached me from down the aisle.  “Has anyone ever told you that God made you perfection? You are just perfect.”  I was half asleep and still wearing my mouthguard, with matted overnight train hair and the remnants of eye crusties still behind my glasses.  To each his own, I guess.

We were not far from Reno, where a large number of passengers disembarked and an even greater number boarded.  The route between Reno and Californbia is quite popular as a short trip, as was evidenced by the several groups of friends who boarded after their Reno getaway, including a gaggle (I call them this because they were as collectively noisy as a bunch of geese and complained just as much) of well-dressed gray-haired ladies.  I did not get to see much of Reno as the train travels beneath the city.

Back in the observation car, I enjoyed my last oatmeal-and-coffee breakfast.  The cafe car attendant had for some reason grown to dislike me.  The day before, when I had asked for a cup of hot water (free, but after which I always tipped him), he had accused, “You know, you’re going to have to stop using so many cups!  There won’t be enough for the other people on the train!  Once we’re out, we’re out!”  (I had used two).  Not wanting to incur his wrath again, I saved my cup for reuse throughout the day, still tipping every time. That morning, when I offered him my cup and asked for a water, he scowled and shook his head in irritation as he returned it to me. It’s a cup of water, for crying out loud!

This second and final train day was a real treat, as volunteers boarded the train to serve as docents and read information about key points along the routes.  As we curled through another mountain pass, a gray pall was cast over the entire landscape.  Through the gloom, the bleak, colorless vegetation was covered in frost that looked like a fine layer of ash.  It felt like rolling through a graveyard.

Truckee, California: another pit stop

Our first view of the infamous Donner Pass. Almost as impressive as my nonexistent view of Vesuvius last year.

The mist cleared *just* before we left the pass, giving us a brief glimpse of Donner Lake.  The area is named after the Donner Party, a group of settlers from the Midwest who became stranded here in 1846 and were forced to resort to cannibalism in order to survive.  (Whether or not they ate Robin’s minstrels and subsequently rejoiced has yet to be determined).

The cute little town of Colfax. I would love to come back here and look around someday.

And to see The Goonies on the big screen!

Shelby was beside herself with excitement at seeing her first palm trees.

As we continued deeper into California, the mountains tapered down annd we entered a lush green agricultural area.  I learned that much of the country’s produce comes from this region.  Among others, we passed farms for California raisins, almonds, oranges, as well as fields of dairy cows.  Because you know, the best cheese comes from happy cows ;).

It’s log! It’s log! It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood! It’s log! It’s log! It’s better than bad; it’s good!

The fields soon became logged (haha, see what I did there?) with water, and entire roads alongside the tracks looked impassable.  A house made of wooden planks with a sign saying “BANJO LESSONS HERE” stood on stilts over the marshy ground outside of Davis, CA.

Before too long, the first glimpses of the coast came into view.  The tracks abutted the shoreline, and we crossed the bridge into Martinez, the last major stop before Emeryville.

And then in the far distance came the sight which meant that my transcontinental journey had come to an end:

At 3:05 pm, over an hour early, our train arrived in Emeryville, CA.  I had made it coast to coast.

James helped me take some celebratory photos at the station.  (Excellent camera work, James!) Both of us would be taking a later train, the Capitol Corridor, further south, but we had over an hour until the next scheduled train. James checked his luggage, and we explored the neighborhood looking for a bite to eat and a beer.  Sadly, this place wouldn’t be opening until 4pm:

James, looking thoughtful over Italian beer and Indian takeout.

Right on time, we boarded the Capitol Corridor and headed south through Oakland toward San Jose.  My ultimate train journey was now complete, but more fun awaited.  My friend Jill would be picking me up at the Santa Clara University stop, and next few days would be spent exploring Silicon Valley and San Francisco.  I couldn’t wait.

Categories: amtrak, california, colorado, emeryville, nevada, san francisco, Train, utah | 4 Comments

On a Plain: Chicago to Denver

After meeting for lunch nearby with my friend Pete (who declined to be photographed for this blog), I made my way back to Chicago Union Station to catch my train, the California Zephyr, which terminates just outside of San Francisco.  This would be my second overnighter, arriving in Denver early the next morning.  I took a spot in line behind a young Asian man with a remarkably minimalist backpack.  “This is to Denver?” he asked me.  “Yup, that’s where I’m headed, too,” I replied.  “Where are you from?”

“Japan,” he answered, “but my English not very good.”

“Ooh, Japan!” I responded.  “I would LOVE to go to Japan.  I was traveling around Asia a few months ago, but Japan was much too expensive to include in my plan.  Maybe next time!”

“Excuse me, where have you traveled in Asia?” asked the man in front of us in line as he shuffled his snowboard bag forward.  He wore a patterned wool hat and carried a large backpack.  It looked as if he was bound for Colorado as well.  I described my trip itinerary to him, and it turned out that he had also traveled to Hong Kong and much of Southeast Asia.  As we boarded the train, we sat in seats across the aisle from each other so that we could continue our conversation.  I learned that his name was Jim, and even though he lives and works in the New York City area, he is originally from outside of Boston.  Go figure.

I was excited to be on the Zephyr because this train has a bit of a different layout than the Lake Shore Limited that I had taken between Chicago and the East Coast.  The Zephyr is a double-decker train with the majority of passenger seating on the upper level. In addition to a cafe car and a permanent dining car (unlike the LSL’s dining car which splits off from the Boston-bound train in Albany), it also has an observation car, which includes both tables and a large area of single seats which face the high windows. Excellent sightseeing opportunities!

Hangin' out in the table section of the observation car

Hangin’ out in the table section of the observation car

I was immediately impressed with the frequent updates (unfortunately in regards to delays, but appreciated all the same) by the train staff.  Maybe it was because the Chicago-East Coast route is populated more by commuters rather than leisure travelers, but I noticed that everyone on this route – staff included – was a bit more relaxed and convivial.  We also noted the presence of mostly older couples wearing red America by Rail tour nametags on lanyards around their necks.  What a fun vacation to take!

Jim and I spent the next several hours talking and watching the flat and snowy landscape go by.

I was one of those little girls who really really really loved dolphins.

I was one of those little girls who really really really loved dolphins.

Flat and snowy and peaceful

Flat and snowy and peaceful

I loved rolling through little towns and seeing the local shops and restaurants.

I loved rolling through little towns and seeing the local shops and restaurants.

Wind turbines in the distance

Wind turbines in the distance


Galesburg, Illinois

Galesburg, Illinois

An Illinois sunset

An Illinois sunset

After dark, we passed an exciting milestone by crossing over the Mississippi River.  Sadly, my photos were so blurry and underwhelming that they do not warrant a spot in this blog.

A train attendant had come by earlier to take reservations for dinner in the dining car.  Since I had been keeping to a pretty low food budget with my oatmeals, Easy Macs, and snacks, I decided to treat myself to an actual cooked meal.  Jim and I signed up for a 7:15 dinner time and were seated at a table with another passenger, Marla, who works in the publishing industry.  My meal was…okay, but the company in the dining car (including conversations between all of the tables about which celebrity we would most like to take on a date) more than made up for it.



Me with Jim (in his Boston Strong shirt, haha)

Me with Jim (in his Boston Strong shirt, haha)

After dark, we passed an excitiing milestone when we crossed over the Mississippi River.  Sadly, my photos are so blurry and underwhelming that they do not warrant a spot on this blog.

I was finally getting the hang of overnighters on the train and slept without a problem.  When I awoke just before dawn, I blearily looked out the window, expecting to see the outlines of the Rockies in the distance, since our train was due to arrive in Denver at 7:15 am.  In my myopia, the skyline was a block of orange sitting upon a sea of black, but as I fumbled for and donned my glasses, I saw… an orange sky over a dark plain.  Um, weren’t we supposed to be in Colorado?  A thought came to mind (note:  some objectionable language in this clip):

[from Dumb and Dumber, New Line Cinema, 1994]

I soon heard rumblings from other passengers that our train had managed to fall behind by four hours during the night.  Sigh:  oh well.  It’s one of the joys of leisurely train travel that a delay might simply mean that you have more time to enjoy the scenery.  Which is what I did, popping my ChooChoo! Mix on my iPod and quietly watching the shadow of our train pass over the golden fields and small towns of Nebraska.


I feel like this could be on the cover of a copy of Atlas Shrugged.

I feel like this could be the cover of a copy of Atlas Shrugged.


Once Jim woke up, we headed back over to the observation car for breakfast in the hopes of catching our first glimpses of the mountains.

A popular spot.  People had already staked out seats and were playing cards.

A popular spot. People had already staked out seats and were playing cards.

The Rockies!  Yay!

The Rockies! Yay!

So pretty.  Having grown up in Ohio, the sight of mountains in the distance always gets to me.

So pretty. Having grown up in Ohio, the sight of mountains in the distance always gets to me.

Our train finally rolled into Denver Union Station around 11:15 am.  We stepped off the train into -what? Warm weather???  Just two days earlier, I was wearing two pairs of pants in the snow, and now a long-sleeved shirt would suffice.  Union Station is gorgeous, having been recently restored.  I strolled around, taking photos and drooling.  All I know is that someday I will spend a night at the historic hotel (I know, I know, me and my historic hotels) within the station, the Crawford, which is both a) super swanky, and b) completely out of my budget right now.  But someday….

Blue skies and warm weather at Union Station

Blue skies and warm weather at Union Station


Inside the station/Crawford Hotel.  Drool.

Inside the station/Crawford Hotel. Drool.

Such a cool sign.  I love it.

Such a cool sign. I love it.

Jim and I said our goodbyes.  He was off to rent a car to meet up with friends for a ski vacation.  I headed in the other direction to find my Guatemala friend Megan and start our fun-filled weekend in nearby Boulder.

Categories: amtrak, chicago, denver, Train | Leave a comment

All aboard! Boston to Chicago by train

No sooner had Boston cleared away some of the snow from Blizzard #1 did predictions for another heavy snowfall show up on the weather reports.  My train was supposed to be leaving shortly before noon on Monday, after the snow had started.

I realized just how quickly the snow was accumulating when I left Jane’s house:

This sidewalk was so clear the day before!

This sidewalk was so clear the day before!

I had no trouble getting downtown because the T was running normally.  The snow was plummeting from the sky and gusts of wind blew everything about, but because I was in the middle of a busy financial district with plenty of pedestrians, the sidewalks were mostly salted and clear.

I'd hate to be driving in this!

I’d hate to be driving in this!

Post Office Square, Boston

Post Office Square, Boston

CYA signs all over downtown

CYA signs all over downtown

Surprisingly, the problems came when it was time to cross the street. The roads were nearly devoid of cars, but the plows couldn’t keep up with the onslaught of snow. It felt like I was walking in quicksand while my wheeled suitcase gathered heaps of snow behind me. It was so slow going that I began laughing hysterically:  I had to stop and take a photo of the craziness of it all.


My bag in the middle of the street. CRAZY!

I was able to make it to South Station with plenty of time to spare.  My friend Lynnette works nearby and was sweet enough to brave the snow in order to see me off.  I was so relieved that I had not brought a car to Boston;  otherwise, it would have been buried under several feet of snow by the time I came back!

Once aboard the train, I settled into my seat.  It looked like there were quite a few people who were taking the train because their flights had been cancelled or they didn’t think it would be safe to drive.  The fact that our vehicle was on a track was mighty reassuring in the storm :).  The jovial conductor made his way down the aisle scanning tickets.  “Ooooh!  Rebecca… Za-KEL-juh!” he proclaimed when he read my ticket.  “That’s an unusual name!  Where’s that from?”  “Slovenia,” I answered.  “Yeeahhhh, ” he joked.  “I been there.  Hung out with some VAMPIRES!”  I laughed.  Probably 75% of people I meet don’t know a thing about Slovenia, so I am used to questions and misconceptions, but being confused with Transylvania was a first.  That said, this was a much more interesting and funny comment than the typical, “Oh!  I have a good friend from Czechoslovakia!”

It felt good to be warm and cozy on the train as it chugged through the snow and left Boston.  In western Massachusetts, I gained my first and only seatmate for the entire ride: a young woman with dyed blue hair and awesome green cowboy boots.  She would only be riding as far as Rochester, New York and immediately pulled out a small piece of colored lace that she was tatting.  I then spent the next hour trying to figure out why I had the line, “And when she has got them lined up on the mat-ting/ She teaches them music, crocheting, and tat-ting” stuck in my head.  (Note:  it’s a line from “The Old Gumbie Cat” from Cats.  I have not listened to Cats in approximately 20 years.  This is how deeply this stuff gets embedded in my brain.  Sad but true).

Later in the evening, we were stalled for quite some time.  The power went off temporarily, and the cafe car had to be closed until we started again.  Hungry passengers were starting to get impatient and cranky, especially since it we weren’t getting many updates as to what was happening.  At long last, the train lurched forward again, and the cafe car attendant (a very nice lady, by the way) announced that it was happy hour.  Anyone loitering in the aisle soon moved or risked being flattenend by the stampede of people who made a beeline to the cafe car.  It was quite the line.

Discounts on wine, you say?

Discounts on wine, you say?

I prepared myself for my first overnighter on the train.  Although sleeper compartments and smaller roomettes are both available on the Lake Shore Limited, neither was in my budget for this trip, so I figured I’d suck it up and sleep in my seat overnight.  The seats are spacious and recline 40 degrees, so between that, a footrest, and a panel that swings up from beneath the seat, it feels like being in a living room recliner.  I could do alot worse.

I noticed two things fairly soon: 1) it was very cold, so even though I had brought a blanket and sleep sack, my feet were freezing.  I think I ended up taking off my boots, putting on a second pair of socks, then wrapping my lower legs in my winter coat.  This was better.  2) The recliner can provide adequate rest if and only if you do not have a seatmate.  I squirmed in my seat for hours trying to find a comfortable position without slugging my blue-haired neighbor.  When we reached Rochester in the middle of the night and she disembarked, I said a silent prayer of thanks and stretched out between the two seats.  Then tried to lie down on my right side.  Then woke up with a cramp and tried to curl up on my left.  Then stretched out diagonally.

This must have worked, because when I next awoke, I felt well-rested and the bright morning sun flooded over the lakeshore.  Yay!  We had made it all the way to- wait, what?  We’re only in Sandusky?  The train goblins had made their mischief overnight, and we were now four hours behind.  At least the weather was beautiful.image

Cedar Point from across the lake.  High five, optical zoom!

Cedar Point from across the lake. High five, optical zoom!

Thin ice

Thin ice


As I packed away my blankets, I saw a familiar face walking down the aisle.  It was Jacob, the Amtrak conductor I had met on my previous ride to Boston, though I couldn’t quite remember his name in my morning fog.  “Hi!” I called out as I waved to him.  His face brightened in recognition.  “Hey!  You’re the traveling dentist!” he remarked.  “And you’re the elephant man!  Oh. Wait. That came out wrong,” I stuttered.  (Please refer to my Blizzard Bound post where it was established that Jacob hails from the Ohio town where the circus used to unload the animals -in particular the elephants- for a parade down the streets.  Now hopefully interpret my comment to him not as a sign of clinical insanity but of signal transmission gone haywire in a brain which direly needed caffeine).  He laughed, thank God.  🙂

In the cafe car, I enjoyed another one of my oatmeal cup breakfasts while Jacob did some work.  I had been treated to a coffee by Tom, a retiree from California whom I met while waiting in line.  Soon after, I was joined at my table by Judy, a homemaker and nature volunteer from Missouri. We talked for a good hour.  I love the variety of people that you find on trains.  It never gets boring.

Before too long, the sights of Chicago came into view.  It’s probably a little strange that I, a Midwesterner, have visited something like 40 foreign countries but have never been to Chicago!  Our train finally pulled into Union Station, and Tom gave me big hug goodbye as we went inside.

I was really looking forward to the next three days!

image image

Categories: amtrak, blizzard, boston, chicago | 6 Comments

Blizzard bound on Amtrak

It was not planning ahead but falling behind that caused me to travel to Boston by train.  My original intention was to drive to Boston just to use my time more efficiently while visiting friends in different parts of town.  As mentioned in my last post, I ran into some issues with transfering all of my auto paperwork from Massachusetts to Ohio.  Unsure whether everything would be done in time, I decided just to play it safe and book with Amtrak.  It would be a long ride, but at least I could read or take naps along the way.  Plus, I found a $6 frequent flyer flight fromo SFO back to Cleveland.  Decision made.

This proved to be the best thing that could have happened.  Several days later, I started reading forecasts for The Big Storm that would be hitting the East Coast.  When the news developed on Sunday that blizzard conditions were to start on Monday night hours before my scheduled arrival into Boston, my small-scale freakout began.  I was relieved that I wouldn’t be driving, but in the superstorm conditions that were anticipated, would train travel even be safe?  I didn’t sleep well on Sunday night.

At 3:45 Monday morning when I woke up, the Amtrak website stated that my train was neither cancelled nor  delayed.  Looks like I would be Boston bound in two hours’ time.

My dad drove me downtown to the Amtrak station, which neither of us had visited before.  I mistook the nearby glowing, white-framed RTA station for the Amtrak station, then was disappointed to return across the snowy parking lot to the actual station, which was underwhelming in comparison.  I later read that this smaller edifice was built in the late seventies to replace the original central rail station at present-day Tower City, which explains its very utilitarian appearance.  The station was clean and felt safe, which I know are the most important things, but the train geek in me had greater expectations for a train station in a mid-sized city.

Clean and functional.  But South Station it ain't.

Clean and functional. But South Station it ain’t.

As I soon found that my train was running about 40 minutes late, I asked my dad to wait with me a little while. We were seated across from a grandmother and mother of a young girl of about three.  She wore a magenta jacket with a thick grey fleece scarf coiled so high around her neck that she resembled Randy from A Christmas Story. A sock monkey hat peeked out from under the pink hood of her coat.  Obviously getting impatient with our late train, she turned her attention to me.

“Hi!  I see you!” “Do you like my hair?” “I like your glasses!”  We were comparing the qualities and colors of our winter boots when the train arrived. We all exited the station into the snowy darkness to check our tickets.

Fun times in Cleveland, yeah!  Still Cleveland!

Fun times in Cleveland, yeah! Cleveland! Come on down to Clevelandtown, everyone!

Trudging through the snow to board

Trudging through the snow to board

Once aboard, I carefully stepped down the aisle of the dimly-lit train, trying not to jostle and awaken the many sleeping passengers.  I settled into my seat as the train rolled through Euclid.  It is a bizarre experience to see your hometown (I lived in Euclid until I left for college) from the vantage point of a moving pre-dawn train when you have only previoulsy seen it by car.  Snuggled beneath my coat and fleece blanket, I promptly fell asleep.

When I awoke over two hours later, it was light outside and we were in Pennsylvania.  I bypassed the frozen car ahead (the electricity had gone out overnight but was later fixed) to reach the cafe car, which was empty save for a number of Amtrak employees.  A younger attendant, Jacob, was originally from Peninsula, Ohio, which I recognized as the town where the Ringling Bros. circus used to unload the animals and parade them down the street.  We all chatted about everything from Eva Peron to Andre the Giant as the fragrance of my coffee and oatmeal filled the car.  Budget travel breakfast tip #1:  Quaker oatmeal cups, particularly the ones that are on sale for $1.50 at CVS.  Add hot water, stir, and become the envy of everyone in the dining car who brought a granola bar or is shelling out the big bucks for a mediocre danish or croissant.  As the train crawled past barren, snow-covered vineyards, a mother and her two young sons, both clad in Spiderman pajamas, passed through the cafe car.  The cafe attendant enthusiastically began singing the old cartoon theme song (“Spiderman! Spiderman! Does whatever a spider can!”), causing the boys to cling wide-eyed to their mother’s legs and make a quick exit to the other side of the car.

And then this was stuck in my head for the next two hours:

(copyright 20th Century Fox)

Blurry vineyards.  My bad.

Blurry vineyards. My bad.

After breakfast, I spent the rest of the morning doing “work” stuff: catching up on my JADAs (that’s ten months’ worth of missed Journals of the American Dental Association from 2014) and doing my daily Spanish and German language apps.  Here’s where many people find train travel boring.  I actually love being on a train for hours on end.  I can get up, move around, eat, nap, read a book, talk to other people, or just sit and stare out the window.  I always say that if you give me my music to listen to and drive me around somewhere, I could be indefinitely happy.  Even if the scenery is somewhat dreary and snow-covered.

image image image

For most of the day, I would obsessively check the weather reports around the east coast.  I read that Boston was instituting a driving ban after midnight and that all public transportation would also be shut down.  The train was scheduled to arrive in Boston just after 9pm, but at the time we left Albany, we were already an hour behind.  If anything happened to delay the train’s arrival until after midnight, I might not be able to get to my friends’ house.  The idea of being stuck in Back Bay station overnight in a blizzard was not appealing.

In the meantime, there were some technical issues with the train.  The heat on the train had definitely been fixed, but now there was the opposite problem.  I had stripped down to my t-shirt and yoga pants and was still burning up.  Also, the toilets weren’t flushing anymore and the sink in our car was clogged, with the turbulence of the train sending large waves of murky sink water splashing onto the floor.  Ew.   Fortunately, they were able to repair this while we were halted in Albany, at which point the New York City-bound cars of the train separated from our Boston cars.


The arrival of snow

The arrival of snow

Other passengers were beginning to worry as about whether they would reach their destination in the storm.  One woman from Massachusetts was particularly vocal about her complaints.  “I mean, WHY are we just SITTING so long here in Albany?  They told me that they are working on the New York-bound train.” [Note: they were also fixing our toilets at this time.  Well worth the delay, if you ask me].  She continued, “I told them, I don’t CARE about the New York car, I care about ME!  What about ME?”  At least she was totally up-front about her shallowness.  Another MA father nearby was trying desperately to silence his young son, who, as 7-year-olds are wont to do, was both excited and antsy to be stuck on a train.  The dad griped to the boy in a thick Boston accent, “Ya know, you’ve been askin’ all aftahnoon, ‘When ah we goin’ on the train?’ And now we’re heah : cantcha just SIT theah and take a NAP?”  He then returned to an argument he was having with his girlfriend over the phone regarding comments made by other women on his Facebook page: “You know I doan know who half of them ah!  So freakin retahded. I love you so much.  Ahm sahry, baby girl.” It was like being on reality TV.

The snow became progressively thicker as night fell, but I noticed that we were catching up on time.  Soon, the familiar sights of Boston began to appear, and I knew that making it “home” that night wouldn’t be a problem. By the time we arrived at Boston Back Bay station, we miraculously were only about 13 minutes off schedule.  Not bad at all!  I bought a 7-day transit pass (a steal at $19) and jumped on the Orange Line.  Ten minutes later,  I was in my old neighborhood and a quick walk away from my friend Jane’s house, where I would be staying for the next week.

Blizzard conditions, but still very walkable

Blizzard conditions, but still very walkable

The neighborhood liquor store stayed open until midnight for those last-minute blizzard supplies :)

The neighborhood liquor store stayed open until midnight for those last-minute blizzard supplies 🙂

Once at Jane’s, I took my spot on the couch and joined the rest of the family (including her husband, baby daughter, two sisters, and soon-to-be brother-in-law) in hunkering down under comfy blankets for the storm. Tomorrow, Tuesday, would be a snow day.   And we weren’t going anywhere.

Categories: amtrak, blizzard, boston | 6 Comments

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