No Golf in Massachusetts
Just before Thanksgiving, I received word that my son had been named an "alternate" to Iraq. This means he goes through all the training the designated hitter goes through, but if that fella gets an owie my son goes...for a second tour.
So, for about three months, he learns how to teach Iraqi soldiers how to drive armored Humvees. These are much heavier than normal ones, and have a high center of gravity. Thus, take too sharp a corner, and you're a statistic.
With that looming on the horizon, I dragged out the old checkbook and bought a roundtrip Amtrak ticket to Worcester, MA, leaving MSP on a Tuesday at 7a.m., and supposedly arriving on a Wednesday early evening at around 5.
If you check Amtrak's website, it can give you the train's status at the bottom of the front page. I saw it was running 55 minutes late from Seattle, and so got to the station an hour early as requested. Then I learned it was two hours late. So, away I went with my golf buds for an early breakfast, and back to the station, to sit and wait.
Sure enough, two hours late, we left MSP. St. Paul receded in the background as we followed the west bank of the Mississippi down towards the little river town of Winona. Almost there, the train stopped. A detector had gone off, signaling the engineer of a problem. We had a "hotbox" where the lubrication had failed on one of the wheel trucks. So, they had to take the lead engine down and leave it on a siding, then take the reversed second engine down to where they could turn it around, and come back to hook up again.
At 4p.m. (about four hours late now), we crossed over into Wisconsin and headed for Chicago.
Once in Chicago--where they had been waiting the train for the connection--we went east on the Lakeshore Limited, along the shores of the various lakes. It was nighttime, so no lakes were visible; after a little while, I realized no heat was either.
We plowed on through the night as the temperatures dropped and I burrowed deeper into my long wool coat. After a few hours, they got the heat to work again, but then the bathrooms started to freeze up. They were filthy from the first.
At 2p.m. the next afternoon, we pulled into Syracuse, NY. At that point, everything went bad. The heavy wire that carries 480V went bad, so we lost lights AND heat. For an hour, we sat there in the station while various workmen adjusted the offending item with sledgehammers and a 18" long screwdriver.
Next, they pulled us about a half-mile out of Syracuse so other trains could get through. And stopped.
*No information, despite the conductor's promise he'd update us every 15 minutes
This went on for three hours while the search went on for someone who could make a decision as to whether to bus us or not. (This was four days before Christmas, by now.) Apparently the crew had the authority to wring their hands and shake their heads. We needed someone who had the authority to nod their head.
At last, back to Syracuse we crawled, to detrain and sit in the station for another two hours while the stationmaster worked valiantly to get transport for us. At last we left for Albany via bus coach. There, another train awaited to take us toward Boston. And gee, to make it up to us, they fed us free sandwiches and soft drinks.
The final straw was to arrive at my stop at 3:30a.m.--10 hours late--and find the station sealed tight as a drum. We were on a level a flight above the entrance, where our rides waited, if we were lucky. I carried a bag down for an elderly priest, and saw him into his taxi. And as I drove away with my patient son, I thought "All we lacked on this trip was a tattooed number on our wrists."
(Update: In late Jan., Amtrak has given me a voucher for $200 to make up for the inconvenience. Let's see, where can I go now?)
However, I had a wonderful time with my son, his wife and my granddaughter over Christmas. The little girl has me practicing Grandparent's Yoga for flexibility, she has me wrapped around her 3-year-old little finger so easily. She must have gotten my height: 3'4" at 3 (85th percentile), but gangly at 50% percentile for weight. Her favorite picture book is Gray's Anatomy? She knows a lot of the bones already.
The train trip back was uneventful, except for a two-hour delay in Albany for the NY connection; then there was some sort of screaming bearing in the car I was in they were able to stop after four hours in the wee hours; and of course the door that had to be bludgeoned to slide open. I was only a few minutes late back to MSP.
Happy New Year. Let's get out there and beat our scores from last year.