Grace and Sara’s Epic Train Trip (with pictures!)

Hey folks!

First off, let me apologize for being MIA for so long. I’ve started back to school! It’s a bit daunting at my age, but I’m also excited too. I love to learn and I’m looking forward to all that new learning—and where I might stuff it into a book. 😉

I’ve also managed a bit of a vacation! My bestie, Sara Testarossa and I had an (almost) epic adventure! Most hobbits, at least, would think it rather epic and Sara and I certainly had a blast. We took a train from Baltimore almost all the way to Dallas, which took over two days.

Trip Route with stops

We didn’t quite make it to Dallas, but I’ll talk about that bit of the trip a little later.

We had a cozy private room for the trip between Washington, D.C. and Texas. Amtrak calls it a “roomette” which has two seats, a private door, and converts to single bunks at night.

Amtrak Roomette

It was surprisingly comfortable and roomy, considering how little space it really was (the seats get made into a bed and come out to 2’ 4” by 6’3”!). In Devotion, Finley gets a cheap upgrade to one of these after he’s on board. This actually happens quite a bit and once upon a time when I travelled with my two younger boys, I had the opportunity to do that. The trip is really so much nicer with a roomette!

The first long distance part of our trip, from Washington, D.C. to Chicago was on the Capitol Limited line. They’re trying out a new food service instead of the dining cars they have on the regular routes. Neither Sara nor I were particularly impressed. The meat options were very few and they weren’t set up to deal with substitutions and food issues. I can just imagine Finley’s face when he sees salad, salad, more salad, and, oh yes… salad! …on the menu. There were a few other things, and the one I was able to eat was quite good—beef short rib!—but I much prefer the dining cars. It did come in a pretty balsa-wood box with nice silver-plasticware, but I’m not sure that makes up for the lack of choice on the menu.

Pittsburgh Stop

Probably my favorite of the pictures I took on the trip. I used to live in Pittsburgh and I miss it some days so much it isn’t funny. In the book, Finley had time to leave the train—and station—to go get some local food and come back. I didn’t, much to my sadness. Finely went down to Sammy’s Famous Corned Beef (https://www.yelp.com/biz/sammys-famous-corned-beef-pittsburgh-5) which is one of my favorite places in downtown. If you’re ever in the ‘burgh, go. 😉

Overnight was fairly quiet and (thankfully) uneventful. I slept pretty well, though I tend to have iffy sleep when I’m not home. That makes me sound so old. But the bed, though narrow, was quite comfortable and Brains helped keep me company despite the lack of human heater (Mr. Grace says: Me. She means me. 😛 ) I was used to having next to me.

Brains let me cuddle

Willis Tower

The next morning saw us two hours late getting into Chicago, which is certainly not unusual (it’s more unusual if you’re on time around Chicago!). But we figured we still had plenty of time, so we didn’t sweat it too much. In fact, we still managed to get some walking in and a few pictures from Finley’s layover in Chicago, as well. I may have had a bit too much fun with this part.

The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). Finley briefly considers taking the elevator up before he decides his wolf would be none too happy with him for that.

The Starbucks Finley finally stops at for breakfast and coffee. He might just be a bit of a coffee snob. 😉

The Dunkin’ Donuts Finley stopped to take a picture of… then promptly remembered he wasn’t on speaking terms with his mate.

Finley’s breakfast spot! There are a few trees off to one direction where he “smelled” the rabbit. I tried to imagine the people around where we stood reacting to Finley shifting there and I somehow had the feeling they’d just keep walking as if it wasn’t anything weird.

Buckingham Fountain, which Finley photographed for his sister Beth.

After managing pictures at the fountain, Sara and I were both exhausted. We’d walked several blocks at a pretty fast pace—not an easy feat with mobility issues!—and I was seriously considering finding a cab. Well, lo and behold, there to the right was this guy:

We didn’t even hesitate and the trip back through downtown from the waterfront was so much fun! We could tell he’d been doing that for a good long while because he was very experienced at dodging manhole covers and potholes and traffic. We couldn’t resist commenting to ourselves just how… fit… he was. I can’t help but think he’s going to end up in a book one day…

From Chicago, we went south through Springfield to St. Louis, Little Rock, and on. Outside Springfield, we got stopped for some two hours while eating our dinner. I had the yummy Land and Sea (prime rib and crab cake!). We had lovely conversation with an older couple while we waited. Turned out there’d been a suspicious package left on the tracks. They’d called out the FBI, the bomb squad and a whole mess of other people before they could safely move it and let us on our way.

I was disappointed in St. Louis that I couldn’t see the Arch. I’ve seen it so many times in movies and pictures, I really wanted to, at least from the train, but alas. It was not to be.

By the next morning, we discovered we were running later even than the two hour delay from before! They were swapping out the railroad ties and we got stuck behind the maintenance crews. That wasn’t the worst of it, though. We had a lovely breakfast with two other passengers (one who has become a new friend. I love when that happens!), then we watched scenery until lunch. The new couple was fun to talk to (and, it seems, mistook Sara and I as wives!), but this is where the not-quite-epic turns epic.

The train sat here next to this car graveyard for quite a long time. By this point, Sara and I had both been used to delays and stopping, so it didn’t occur to us how long we’d been sitting. (In fact, I’m not even sure how long.) But just as I was finishing up my root beer, the servers came through shuffling us out of the dining car and back toward the rest of the cars (in this case, coach). They prompted us all to get seats, then went through and closed all the curtains. That didn’t stop some of us (*cough me cough*) from peeking through and seeing an ever-increasing line of emergency vehicles on the road leading toward the tracks.

Apparently, this happened. A pick-up truck had been left on the tracks and the train hit it. We had no idea, hadn’t felt any sort of impact. It was actually kinda surreal. We couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t at least let us back into our rooms. Turns out they were afraid—justifiably—that the engine might explode and the sleeper cars are right near the engine.

It took several hours for everything to get figured out. Eventually, the got us off the train and onto school buses, then to a church in the tiny town of Hallsville. The whole thing was miserable, but I have to give kudos to this tiny town that was likely never expecting to have to handle something like that. They sure stepped up, though, and had volunteers and water and food (and coffee which I smelled from across the hall!) and everything they could. It was kind of amazing.

Amtrak arranged for charter buses to take us the rest of the way in Texas, but neither I nor Sara wanted to ride one (we’d taken a train for a reason!). We were only a couple of hours from my home by this point, though, so Mr. Grace got in the car and drove those hours to pick us up.

Epic is pretty accurate, in my opinion. We had a ton of fun and despite the crash, I’d do it again, if I got the chance. I love riding the train and the scenery and people were fantastic. Despite now being able to fly (thanks to the tea Miles can make), I’m pretty sure Finley would agree with me.

Grace & Sara

Here’s the trip album!

* * *

I am still hoping to continue writing, even while I am going to school. It’s a bit of a challenge, but I like challenges and I hope to rise to this one. I have my Omegaverse that is in edits (waiting on me!) but should be done before too long. Matt and Adam want their story out there and I’d like to get it out there for them.

Hope you enjoyed the trip. Ever taken a train trip? Was it as epic as ours was?

 

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