Monday, October 12, 2009
Leaving on a slow train, don't know when I'll be back again
When I wrote the above lines last May, I was inebriated by the anticipation that always preceeds travel. I am rarely able to sleep the night before a trip, no matter how small.
This adventure did not go as I planned.
What I hoped would be a slow, almost romantic roll up the eastern seaboard, became pure misery after five or six hours of sitting. The seats seemed soft enough in the beginning, there was plenty of leg room, the tray table allowed me to easily open my huge 17" laptop and type. But, I did not enjoy walking the aisles. We misunderstood the hours of the dining car, didn't make a reservation and ended up scarfing down a hot dog while standing in the icy cold club car. We watched as one family's members emerged from the washroom dressed in pajamas for the night, cuddled down in their comforters and pillows and slept soundly.
We enjoyed dining car service like I remembered from childhood. The tablecloth was not linen, but a thick paper replica and the small free bottle of wine was served in plastic stemware. Mine cracked and saturated the tablecloth. A major annoyance to our assigned table-mates. They were cordial however. Breakfast was delicious too, a full menu and piping hot.
The next day we put the kids on their plane back to Florida and headed for Wisconsin by train. Penn Station was a blur of people talking on their cell phones as they whisked by us. I was really slowing down by this time and it was hard to enjoy even the beautiful scenery along the Hudson River as the train chugged north from New York City, close to the shore, past West Point and the towering cliffs on the west side of the river. I was too burnt out to check the tourist maps to find out what we were seeing and what was coming up next. I found out later we were very close to Niagara Falls at one point during the night.
Chicago's Union Station is amazingly beautiful, and we had an hour to kill there. But I was too dazed to pull out my camera and photograph the beautiful architecture and the beautiful faces of the people. When we went down to the AmTrak area I remembered from a past visit, the monotone canned voices annoucing what track you are standing on. That is the most unworldly sound in the world. Really bizaar.
We were in Wisconsin at last, and I had admitted to myself by this time that I was truly sick, but to no one else! My cousin (a dear friend) and her husband had made wonderful plans for our visit and I could not let on that I didn't feel like doing anything but wrap up in a blanket and sip hot tea. We had an amazing tour of the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, Wisconsin and enjoyed a sumptous feast there at the American Club a AAA Five Diamond Resort. I'm not sure which was the most amazing, the Design Center or the food and service at the American Club. Both were a peek into the lives of the ultra-rich.
By next day, it was apparent that I needed medical care and since it was Sunday I was at the mercy of a Walgreens Nurse Practitioner. Her care turned out to be more than adequate in the long run as my illness was gone within ten days with antibiotics and inhalers as she predicted. Meanwhile, we had all paid for a wonderful concert (in Chicago?) with operatic arias (I think) and could NOT miss that. I performed one of my best acting gigs to date. Meanwhile, we gave up the idea of taking the train back (another three day journey) and made airplane reservations home for the next day. We had planned to be in Washington DC for Memorial Day which would have been spectacular if we had been up to enjoying it.
One of the highlights of our trip (for me) was at the airport in Wisconsin. The main concourse had huge circular mosaics in the floor depicting points of history and topics of interest in the area. After going through security (a serious major undertaking at our home airport in Orlando) I nearly doubled over laughing at a sign placed above the area where you can sit to put on your shoes and gather carry-on luggage. The sign read "Recombobulation Area"
Home at last. I was never so happy to fall into my own bed. Ever the optimist, I would still like to take AmTrak up to Washington DC and see the city. But no more overnight trips. I want to get OFF and spend the night in a bed unless... maybe if we got a sleeping compartment.