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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Hopefully Montana

Your blogista reports on her journeys.

Risa ordered her return tickets on a Saturday, and they had to come in the mail as the local station has no ticket office. So she checked the mail every day as she began her walk around the neighborhood -- to the "Do not feed the alligators: sign and back. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, no tickets. Friday, tickets! A near thing, as there would be no mail Saturday (Christmas) or Sunday, and departure was set for Monday.

She was dropped off at the station and the train came an hour late, but it was not a terribly cold day. The train was very crowded, and the attendant walked her from car to car looking for a seat, which was found next to a morose, non-communicative and fidgety young man on his way to New York. As Risa would be with this train to Washington, that set the tone for the next seventeen hours. She did not attempt to do computer work or much of anything else but eat (discreetly) and sleep. This train runs at night, so sightseeing was also -- well -- not on the menu.

From time to time she awoke, to see the train stopped in front of some dimly lit sign -- Savannah, Petersburg, Alexandria -- and she found herself in the most closely guarded train station in America, with videos of our brave bomb-sniffing dogs running the clock around on all the monitors. Now for a nice, easy (if jittery) ten-hour layover.

Here, at least, there was both power (but not near the seats) and wi-fi, and by sitting on her luggage next to a concrete column for hours on end, Risa was able to complete a chapter of her novel and post it to its blog.

As soon as it became pitch black outside, it was time for the next train, and again, dimly lit signage told of the train's progress: Harper's Ferry, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Toledo crawled by in the semi-darkness of snow under a quarter moon. Sunrise founf the Capitol Limited pushing through Gary, Indiana en route to Chicago.Her seatmate was a nice, youinger Chicagoan who likes to sleep and so Risa slept too and missed her phone date with Beloved -- which would have happened anyway, as the appointed hour came with the train wandering through the deep canyons of the Appalachians, with not a cell tower at hand.

Risa did not much like Union Station on her way to Florida and did not much like it better on her return journey. There seems to be twice the train traffic of Washington and half the terminal seating. There is no evident access to power, so computing was limited to a few quick emails. Not that Amtrak seems to have any wi-fi here -- but a bakery in the food court does!

Once again the train would not depart until late in the day -- and when its time came, it blew a power unit and this had to be replaced before the train could back in and take on passengers. Two-and-a-half hours late, Another ten hours of downtime. But Risa's fellow passengers were, for once, a patient and even jolly bunch -- and that always helps a lot. So she's on the Empire Builder at last, with some prospects of doing some sightseeing somewhere -- hopefully Montana.

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