When was the last time you took a trip with your parents? The last one for me might have been a family camping trip in the early 1970’s that involved hot dogs getting dropped in the dirt, swear words getting muttered during the set-up of a canvas tent, and a whole lot of mosquito bites. Since my dad now states he’s “in the 4th quarter with no time outs remaining,” it was probably smart to not put off taking another trip together. This time, though, we decided on something that didn’t involve airplanes, uncomfortable beds, or hot dogs – things we dislike. So I booked an Amtrak train to Illinois to visit his 96-year old sister.
Since we were going to blow my inheritance on this adventure, we reserved a “luxury sleeper car” with two beds and a private bathroom. Compared to, say, a polyester sleeping bag on the ground, it was definitely luxury. Conveniently, with the bathroom set up, you could easily sit on the toilet and shower at the same time. Actually, you almost had to sit on the toilet to shower. To be completely honest, I have serious concerns about what happened to the people who were in the less than luxury cars.
Then, what should have been a 24-hour trip from San Antonio to Bloomington, turned into 36-hours of Uber, Trailways, Hertz, the train, and six hours of hard wooden benches in the Fort Worth station waiting for a little engine that actually could before we finally made it where we were going. You see, Amtrak is a wee bit loose on their schedule maintenance and it doesn’t take much to completely derail them. Figuratively speaking, of course.
But I loved every minute of it. I loved listening to my dad and my aunt tell the stories and tall tales and family legends from generations back. He taught me how to play cribbage (I won). I taught him how to take selfies (sort of). We learned to decipher train whistles (two long, one short, one long = crossing). And we shared an amazement at how you could get a really good steak and a really good night’s sleep on a train.
It was a little “Thelma and Louise” mixed with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” with a touch of “Grumpy Old Men” and it was the best trip ever!.