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Friday, March 28, 2008

Our Train Ride Across the U.S. and How I Almost Got Kicked Off the Train

On our long haul to New Zealand, we planned on making it to be quite the excursion in itself. “By plans, trains, and automobiles”, perhaps, became our wanderlust motto. Why do the easy task of hopping on a plane and landing in the prolonged blink of an eye when you can forestall your trip by a week and take a more substantial, authentic journey? This is what Tyler and I decided and this is why now as I write this, we are bouncing through arroyos and the rugged wilderness of southwestern Texas. We boarded the train 2 nights ago and have had the cog wheels chugging ever since, with here and there a lengthy stop…and all is silent and motionless…until this great steel beast lunged across this desert on towards our destination of Los Angeles.

2 nights ago, I was determined for some comfortable sleeping space. We had only paid for a coach car. That meant 38 hours of sitting without the nice nocturnal accoutrement of a bed. Long, long time to rely on one’s reclining chair. A misery that we foresaw when we bought the tickets, but a traveler’s challenge. At about 11 pm when all the cars’ lights shut off and every one makes vicious combat with the seat their imprisoned to, all for a few hours of slumber, I resolved on my own scheming course for an exemplary rest. Earlier I had explored the cars and took mental notes of everything of interest. Our coach car was behind the lounge car, the lounge car was attached behind the dining car, the dining car was attached behind the deluxe sleeping car, and the deluxe sleeping car was attached behind the transitional sleeping car. And this transitional sleeping car is the point of interest in this story. The chairs in this transitional sleeping car transform into beds. And each has its own cabin. So the possibility of sleep was ever before me as I sat in this irritating, cumbersome position in my coach chair trying to start counting those sheep. The problem is getting from our couch car to this transitional sleeping car 4 cars ahead. This proved a difficulty which really bore that enticing degree of challenge and intrigue which gives me stories to write of. So very quietly and stealthily I crept into the next adjoining car. No problem there it was allowed. But on past the dining car, that’s where the danger lurked. For no lowly coach passengers were allowed to go beyond the dining car into the more luxurious sleeping cars. Even Amtrak is smitten with a very staunch degree of segregation. Separating the tiresome, groggy passengers with empty pockets from those quaint, highly fortunate individuals with beds of their own. When I entered the sleeping car minding my footsteps very carefully, there stood a train attendant like a gargoyle blocking my path, but before she could get the words to form out of her mouth to inquire about me, whom she hadn’t noticed among the richer travelers, I acted. It was at this instance that I had to choose which excuse to take, and the best route was to play the part of a person that lacks the ability to really communicate in English. So I pretended to be a foreigner and completely dumbfounded about something. She got confused as I uttered out a few sentences mixed with Russian and pure gibberish. Then I said, articulating the best that I could, “Toilet?”

She said “Oh” and pointed at the restroom. I nodded and entered and letting her pass, I walked back out to an empty car. I was in the clear. Only one more car to go, and I entered my promised land of transitional sleeping cars. There was hardly evidence of anybody and a wide selection of cabins where I could shut my self off for the night. I entered shutting the door behind me. Transformed the chairs into a bed, and pulled the curtains across the door window. And stayed up and read a little bit and then turned out the lights. The train jostled about in the desert darkness. And all too frequent the train whistle would howl into the night. I would’ve gone and fetched Tyler who was trying to make Zzzzs in the coach, but I feared that the venture back through the cars would prove to dangerous. I could be discovered and lose my prized find. I would wait until the next night and show Tyler this awesome discovery. Finally, finally I got to sleep only to be awoken by incessant knocking. It was still dark outside. The door opened and this tall, stern man ducked his head inside demanding to know who I was and what I was doing. He reminded me of Joseph Stalin. Dark and with this large moustache. Another conductor came on the scene who was a bit nicer and it was decided that I was going to have to pay for this cabin. The fee from Houston to San Antonio (about where we were when I was discovered.) So I was fiercely charged 88 bucks for that little escapade. Later, I heard that Stalin wanted me thrown off the train for my attempt at a peaceful sleep. So as I write this I am being sternly watched by the entire train staff.

Just awhile ago. A crusty man in cowboy boots and missing teeth, began talking to us on board this train. Somehow our conversation turned to my sleeping car excursion and this story was told to him. He listened as much as his drunken self could. And then he coughed, “You know, I tried that one time. But I got away with it. I thought about doing it last night. Glad I didn’t. But you’re lucky. You’re very lucky they didn’t throw your ass off the train for trying something like that.” he squinted his eyes at me and repeated this phrase, then sauntered off to get another drink. The train whirled across the expanse that we call America.


Blogger Mark said...

You're in prime form my friend. Carry on and keep in touch!

5:32 PM  
Blogger ПАПА said...

Well, I guess I'm just happy that you didnt "borrow" a jacket and name tag and decide to run the locomotive! You can get in a heap of trouble with stunts like that!

8:27 PM  

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