I got on a train last Saturday to head to Florida. The auto train no less, from Lorton Va to Sanford Fla for a 2 week vacation with my mother. Now that doesn't sound weird at all to anyone that doesn't know me. So here is why that is a bit odd.
I hate to fly, and won't do it unless a lot of money is involved. Free trip, free hotel and I am paid to risk my life sitting in a tiny seat with hundreds of strangers trusting several people I have never met; to not be drunk, to not have stayed up all night, and to have studied for their final exam in order to pass the test to become a pilot of a commercial airplane. That's a lot of trust.
(I know the person driving the train, conductor? Pilot? I don't even know what you call them, they could be drunk, they could have stayed up all night and who knows if they have a test. Actually they do I had a friend that worked on trains a few years ago, studied his butt off.
I drove an hour to my mom's then we drove the hour and a half to Lorton, got there about noon, and sat around until they let us board the train at 2:30. Did I mention we were in coach? yea... The train pulled out of the station about 4:00 - heading to Florida a 17 and a half hour trip. Started out pretty excited...
It was great to know I wasn't the youngest person on the trip, 2 families had their small children with them. The average age of all aboard was a bout 82. So we thought if these spry youngesters can take the coach seats for this long trip - GREAT!
Dinner was at 7:00, we went to the lounge car around 5:30 - 6 since that was the only car where we could get WiFi and my mom is as connected to her Ipad as I am. She is the one that got me hooked on Candy Crush... any way - the long and short of it is that the WiFi was working - only for some odd reason only if you had a windows or android product - all Apple products could not connect. So of course we sat there for the rest of the time until dinner and I think she gave up trying to sign on sometime after the Amtrak employee told us it wouldn't work. I tried another 15 times before dinner.
At least my phone worked.
At dinner we sat with 2 strangers, that's Amtrak's way of making sure everyone can have something to eat. Had to fit everyone in. Nice people going to their winter home in Florida for the next 3 months. Dinner was included in the price, and wasn't too bad.
Then it was back to the seats. oh those seats, the first 4 hours they were fine, as soon as you tried to recline, get comfortable and stretch out, since part of Amtrak's marketing is stretch out in the comfortable seats... Well I don't know who was comfortable, I think they made the seats for people over 6' tall. As soon as you recline it you slid down, and your feet still can not reach the foot rest. Weird. And then I realized I would be trying to sleep in a train car with about 60 people over the age of 70, I wonder how many snore? Luckily the answer was only 2, my mom being one of them. (just kidding mom)
I think I got an hour of sleep, maybe.... Then the alarm started. The restrooms were located in our car on the lower level, about 4 am the alarm in one of the restrooms started. Around 5 am the smell started. At first I thought a few people must have been farting in their sleep, that would have been bad but no, one of the toilets had something wrong with a hose, and they couldn't get it fixed. So for the next 4 and half hours, we had the alarm and the smell. Luckily breakfast was served in another car.
We arrived on time at 9:30 am and we left the station about 10:30 - watching them unload the cars was pretty wild. They had it down to a science, and as long as the owner of the car heard their car number being announced it worked great -
Then we drove another 3 hours to Cedar Key Florida on the Gulf Coast side. Will write about that later, and the flea markets and the thrift stores - Yea excited to see what vintage finds I can turn up in Florida!