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w November 21, 2003

Texan Odyssey Part I

Bean and I have returned from our mad foray into the former Republic of Texas, and in the interest of boring the socks off of everyone who reads this, I present a three-part series of anecdotes and travelogue. Feel free to close this window at any point :)

Sunday, November 9: Begin checking the Amtrak website for the status of the Coast Starlight train (Seattle to Los Angeles, all intermediary stations). It's running 45, 50, 60, 75 minutes late as it gets closer and closer to San Jose. I start imagining the horror of running through L.A.'s Union Station with baby, car seat, stroller, shoulder bag, enormous camping backpack...with ten minutes, maybe, to spare. Not a pretty picture. Gene had a few Southwest flight coupons, so we decided to cut my losses and just wing it down south and avoid the whole potential catastrophe...Bean was also able to have a fairly normal day at home, which in the long run was best.

Hopped on a 7:30 flight from San Jose to Burbank, and was amazed at how kind and solicitious people are when you're travelling alone with a small one. There are benefits to Bean looking younger than her age, and this is definitely one of them! We were able to preboard, so I got seats in the second row, tucked her into her carseat, and took a relieved, deep breath. Started talking to the family in front of us who had a little boy a few months older than Bean; we did the parent thing and swapped goldfish crackers for honey wheat pretzels, etc. Mom was really nice, but she just sounded exactly like Mike Myer's character Linda Richman, on Saturday Night Live. Or Barbra Streisand, or a combination therein. I just kept expecting her to break into "People" or something.

Short but bumpy flight, got a cab easily (in passing, I have to highly recommend the Burbank airport. It's so much less insane than LAX and you are probably just as close to downtown), and $35 later, we were at Union Station. Only problem was, I couldn't get on the train for 40 minutes, and Bean was starting to completely melt down. So we sang umpteen million songs and did laps around the bank of chairs we were sitting in, hopefully amusing other waiting passengers. Union Station is quite lovely, still retaining a good deal of mid-century railroad glamour, and easy to navigate.
Oh, and how's this for irony? The Coast Starlight showed up only half an hour behind schedule, easily allowing its passengers to make the connection to the Sunset Limited. Grr.
Our train was called at 10 pm, and we were asked to line up according to sleeper or coach. This proved to be a little difficult for some people, and it was monumentally chaotic for about fifteen minutes until things got sorted out. I was in line with a mom and her two kids who were also going to Texas, to finalize her divorce. I heard more than I think I ever wanted to hear about what a jackass her ex-husband was. It was an interesting start to the trip.

Finally we were shunted down the corridor to the tracks, at which point the cattle herders stopped us again to try and sort out where people should go...again, this was a little complex for many, and they just breezed right past the Amtrak employees, even as they were shouting, "Ma'am! Sir! You need to stop! Ma'am! Sir!" I was trying to be all polite and Canadian about queuing up, but eventually gave up and shoved the stroller in front of the mob and got the go-ahead to board. We were in the last car of the train, as it would be taken off at San Antonio to hook up with the Texas Eagle, so I didn't have to schlep too far. Had the sense to fold the stroller up and leave it in the baggage area, but hauled everything else up those teeny-weeny little stairs, and heaved it into our closet...I mean berth. Those things are SMALL. Fortunately, Bean can still tuck into bed with me, so I left all our bags on the top bunk and tried to get her situated for bed. We left promptly at 10:30, but neither one of us fell asleep until probably midnight. Sigh. The good news is, those compartments are amazingly soundproof if you have the door closed, so I don't think we annoyed too many people. I finally discovered that if I put her at the head of the bed, and I laid down at the foot of the bed, it worked out much better. I didn't get much in the way of covers or room, but I thought, you know, I'm not paying to get a good night's sleep, I'm paying to not be the parent of the miserable howling baby in coach. I can sleep in Texas.

But first we had to get through the vast deserts of the Southwest. Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment...Arizona! New Mexico! West Texas! More West Texas! And even MORE West Texas!

by at November 21, 2003 10:51 AM | TrackBack Comments
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