Tuesday, September 5, 2017

There and Back Again – Return Train Trip to New Jersey - Dispatch #1

Today’s train was due to depart at 9:54 AM from Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Text messages began dinging me early, letting me know the train was delayed, and delayed and delayed. It finally arrived at the station at 12:10 PM. The fortunate thing is that Mount Pleasant is a tiny town, my son’s house was about 5 minutes away, and I got to spend the morning with my family. I was able to see the older one off  to here first day of pre-school, and then pick her up and bring her to the train station to hang out for a while as I waited.
The Mount Pleasant train station is a simple one room building. Once there was an active ticket window but no more. The waiting area was full of uncomfortable wooden benches with severe armrests that prevented even a thought of stretching out or slumping. Tough stock, these Iowans.
Luckily, right next to the train station was the coffee depot with a large, comfortable living-room area with a soft couch and armchairs, other tables and chairs for eating, restrooms and snacks and other food. The chocolate chip muffin was a hit with my granddaughter. Eventually, even the delay notices stopped, and it was time to bid farewell to my son and his daughter. We didn’t wait until the train arrived; remembering his daughter sobbing and clinging to me at the airport on my previous visit. Of course, there was no guarantee that I would not be the one sobbing and clinging. I know that other mothers endure children living at all ends of the earth, and sometimes go very long periods of time without seeing them. I know that sometimes it is because of horrible circumstances in the world. So, in that I am lucky that it has only been a year, that we can employ the miracle of video chat often, and other social media outlets keep us connected. Yet, there is nothing that makes up for the touch, the sound, the smell and the comfort of being in close proximity to family. At least, for me.

The California Zephyr is now sweeping me away; we are within 2 hours of Chicago. I spent some time in the wonderful Observation car, feeling sunlight on me, taking snapshots as we crossed the Mississippi River, watching the farmlands go by, and enjoying the fried chicken I had brought with me. Evidently, after comparing train travel notes with my daughter-in-law’s grandmother, I found out that bringing fried chicken was considered mandatory for train trips for several generations.This train car is pretty chilly, something I wouldn’t ordinarily mind, however the air is blowing out of the under window vent at blizzard speed and there is pretty much no way to block or redirect it. It is blowing directly on my shoulder and the side of my head. I am glad this is not the train I will be sleeping on because that would be just miserable. I am realizing that, for whatever cost saving reasons, these long distance trains suffer from age. They are clean and mostly comfortable, but each car seems to have its own environmental quirks. I’ve noticed quite a few people wear hooded sweatshirts that end up being cinched up around their faces, and there are plenty of big, bed-sized blankets in tow. I am seriously thinking of going shopping in Union Station for another blanket for myself, as the towel-sized one that comes in the “comfort kit” just wasn’t enough. I’ve been thinking wistfully about all the blankets I’ve crocheted and how I wish I had one right now! I am also not sure of when I will get to post this, as there isn’t even a hint of wi-fi on this train right now.

The next leg of my trip, back on the Lakeshore Limited doesn’t start until 9:30 PM with an anticipated arrival time in NYC at 6:30 PM. Considering that this train ran 2 hours late coming out here, I am anticipating not getting to Penn Station until more like 8:30 PM. So, I may not be seeing Jamesburg until more like 10:30 pm. But I am looking at that possible delay as just more quiet time for me. The purpose of this train trip was twofold – first it was much less expensive than the never-discounted airfare to Iowa, and second, a chance for me spend some reflective, restful time, away from all the daily obligations, catastrophes, worries and drama we all deal with. And that part has been very successful.

No comments:

Post a Comment