Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The train ride derails

"Trouble ahead, trouble behind, and you know that notion just crossed my mind."

On our last day at Glacier National Park, our plan was to take the 10 am train heading east to Chicago via North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Train novices that we are, we booked our flight home 4 hours after our scheduled arrival in Chi-town.

Only there was a little hitch, that turned into a big honking hitch, by degree. Our train was delayed. Ultimately by 8 hours.

Normally, having an extra day at a national park would be like cake and ice cream when it isn't even your birthday. Unfortunately the good folks at Amtrak gradually ratcheted our departure time hour by hour. So we were captives at the lodge until we could hear that metaphorical train whistle blowing. The lodge would only extend checkout time by one hour, until noon. I used that hour to take a nice nap.

The one redeeming thing about being stuck at the lodge all day is that the day was overcast and cool, cool enough for a blazing fire in the huge great room fireplace. It rained lightly and would not have been a particularly pleasant day for hiking. Or for a Red Bus tour, for that matter. We had glorious sunshine and comfortable temperatures for our tour. I've said it before, I'll say it again, I'm lucky with weather.

By the time our train was four hours late it didn't take a math genius (not to say Neil isn't one) to predict that making our air connection in Chicago would be highly unlikely. Despite talk of making up time, we thought of a brilliant solution. Debark the train in Minneapolis and fly home from there. God bless America and frequent flyer miles. A call to United let us know that we could change our itinerary for a $50 per person fee.

I walked over to the Amtrak station, a stone's throw from the lodge, and changed our tickets. Getting a $225 refund for cutting 7 hours out of our train ride was the candle on that unbirthday cake. Our train rolled into East Glacier at 6 pm and rolled out soon after.

We got the back story on the delay. The original train derailed before departing Seattle. Passengers were bused to Spokane where a substitute train was put into service. Passengers and employees spent part of the night in a train station in Spokane instead of their (relatively) comfortable roomettes. Our car attendant assured us that no further delays were likely, so we pulled the trigger and changed our plane reservations.

Dinner was served in the dining car and the big disappointment was that there was only vanilla ice cream for dessert. Things went downhill from there. We had the beds made up in our roomette but it was a long night. The car was stuffy and I kept waking up and noticing that the train was moving very slowly or not at all. By morning we had lost more time and the chances of catching our flight home that night were slim to none.

The day was more of the same. At breakfast we were seated with a veteran train traveler who explained that as long as Amtrak ran on time it was king of the rails. Once a train got behind schedule, it had to yield to every freight train along the way. So we made tedious progress across North Dakota. The one bright spot was stepping off the train in Minot and snapping a photo of Neil touching down in State 48.

Breakfast was totally fine. We weren't hungry when lunch rolled around but I have anxiety about getting hungry and the prospect of no dinner. Lunch was a mistake though. The dining car was out of almost everything. Even vanilla ice cream. We had salad and lukewarm soup and I had an orange that was the most delicious thing I ate all day. I wish I had asked for two.

At some point we called United again and the agent was compassionate enough to change our flight to the following morning without charging a second change fee.

I'll skim over the rest of the trip. We were 13 hours behind schedule when we detrained in Minneapolis. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the wrong Hampton Inn. Who knew there were two Hampton Inns close to the airport. I saw the Mall of America on the cab ride. The hotel airport shuttle driver took us to the right Hampton with ill grace. We had a perfectly nice room, a lovely Hampton breakfast and an uneventful flight home. I slept through most of it.

I woke up the next morning, Sunday, with a raging sore throat and body aches. Because I am a lunatic, I made beads in the hot garage. My baby came home for her birthday and got her new wheels from her dad, which was possibly the most significant financial contribution he has ever made to our children's health and welfare. We had a $40 cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes and a nice time considering I was battling the URI from hell.

I have no idea where I got the bright idea to let my immune system fight this one out, but when we got back on an airplane on Friday to Philly for a coin show and a baseball game and on to New Jersey for a visit with Neil's mom and Neil's dad (respectively) I was coughing and generally miserable. I slept in the hotel while Neil went to the coin show. I struggled though 8 and a half innings at Citizen's Bank Park, a shame because it was a lovely night for a ballgame.

I slept at Neil's mom's house while he visited with her. I dragged myself around to visit with Neil's dad and sister and nephews and niece. I spent a lot of time on the sofa and the ipad. I seriously considered going home early. I alternately ran a low fever and no fever. I welcomed any fever as an ally in my fight against the alien strain resolutely stationed in my respiratory system.

The saddest part is, I tried and failed to use the time to dream about new bead designs. I always amuse myself when away from the torch by making beads in my mind. Except this time. My creativity was as useless as my immune system. We got home on Thursday night and on Friday I went to the doctor and got a scrip for Amoxycillin. I bow to the gods of antibiotics. Within 24 hours I felt human again. I was born at the right time. I have no doubts that I'd have had a much shorter lifespan without bacteriolytics.

Plus, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than sleeping in my own bed.

Creativity returned with health. Ideas began to flow again. I'm working on a new design and I'm excited about it.

"I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains,
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains,
There's more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in crooked line,
And the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine."
(Amy Ray, Emily Saliers)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz