Saturday, June 21, 2008

all aboard amtrak

To get a good dose of summer fun, I booked a myself & my 3 boys on the train from Providence, RI to Richmond, VA. I opted for one with checked baggage, no transfers, and a red eye (thinking I could get my kids to sleep most of the way). I am notoriously cheap (oh wait the PC term is thrifty) so I went for coach (much to my grandmothers chagrin who doesn't believe in associating with the "hoi polloi" and believes only in going 1st class).
I realized the baggage checker at Providence must be crazy because as I went to check my 4 suitcases for my 3 week trip he suggested I just carry them on with me? Yes, in addition to my 3 kids, 3 backpacks, 1 stroller and two car seats! As I saw him pushing the cart with 4 bags down to the baggage car, I decide his argument was not based on craziness but rather laziness- if he had managed to convince me to bring my own 4 bags he could have continued to sit at his desk all evening. We made it down to the platform right on time. As the train pulled in I carried my baby and my 2 boys followed behind me with backpacks. My husband brought on the stroller. I was finishing situating everyone as the train pulled out of the station. To my surprise a my husband was behind me. He informed me that the second he went to step off the train the doors closed in his face and the train pulled out.
In somewhat panic, I explained our predicament to the conductor, who said the next station was Kingston about 20 min down the line! I asked what his options were going to be there at 11:00 pm on a weeknight. He said one last train might pass but only if it was running late or else a 40 min cab ride back to Providence. As luck would have it the last train was late and spry smart daddy-o ran a do or die mission up and over to the reverse direction track to hitch himself a ride back to or else face a $60 cab fare (he's cheap like me).
Once we really got underway, my night was a filled with the constant rearrangement of two half sleeping boys thrashing each other for somatic control of 2 seats they were sharing, which frequently resulted in someone being kicked in the face or being tumbled to the floor. Despite my seats generous 6 inch recline function. I did NOT partake of blissful recumbent slumber because:
1. my 7 year old exercised squatters rights over my neck pillow
2. my paranoid delusions that if I fell asleep someone might make off with one of my sleeping children at some stop between Mystic and Philadelphia.
3. the off and on of the lights and off and on needs of a nursing baby
4. the mother in the row in front of me whose idea of good parenting was allowing her 5 yr old to playing a Nintendo DS for 4 hours straight at full volume while she gabbed on cell phone
5. Or because I was carrying a check for $7 Gs in my wallet that I was transferring to another bank , I mean cmon I get nervous carrying $50!) (seeing as I am still ISO evil henchmen for smart momfia- I am left toting the dough)
After hours of replaying my husbands unfortunate train entrapment scenario, i took advantage of an engine change stop in DC to move my troops to a 4 spot in the front of the car, calculating for a faster break at the Richmond station. I feared being forced to drive to Newport News to reclaim one of my children who remained on board, orphaned, for 2 hours because he couldn't jump clear during the "30 second door open" window. In our new location we enjoyed the company of two grandmotherly southern women who ate fruit cups from their lunch box and praised and "amen"ed me for my consistent parenting as I negotiated whose turn it was for the window seat.
The train does have some amenities. I contemplated the cafe car, but the thought of carrying a baby and herding 2 kids through the 4 jostling cars ahead to get there left me to chose in favor of self starvation. I did manage to bum 3 dry corn pops off one of the boys, the backwash remants of a fruit fall drink pouch, and a sugar free lifesaver. And yes folks, a spacious family bathroom on board means forced potty time- everyone in, everyone goes! (and for your bonus enjoyment the flush water is blue!)
All in all, my boys found the ride very amusing. I think they rate it high because there are no seat belts. Also there are great sights out the window. The empire state building glowing at night, the majestic capitol building, helicopters taking off from quantico, the sun glistening off of coastal waters, as well as the backsides of warehouses, backyard filled with rusted out cars, and many burnout buildings. Ahhh a melange of Americana.
Really the train is not that bad-- I wouldn't put it quite on the level of commercial airline travel but definitely a step above greyhound! I am a firm believer in adventuresome travel- luxury is way overrated (and yields far less interesting blog fodder). I have travelled enough that I am pretty numb to travel inconveniences and philosphically I am a firm believer in adventuresome travel. Luxury is way overrated (and yields far less interesting blog fodder). Truely by the 11th hr of the trip you start to become part of the train, unfortunately that means when you exit you smell something like new jersey armpit and baltimore gym shoe.
Have no fear I arrived and was safely ushered into my my parents minivan to be hustled home for prompt showering. Let the summer fun begin.
1.seeing the sights
2.eating ukrops chocolate covered donuts
3.sleeping in late


Chel said...

Love it. Hope your 3 weeks is magical.

Courtney said...

Glad you made it and that Smart Daddy was able to catch the train back. I am afraid to attempt any travel other than my own car alone with my 5 kids!

LL said...

what an adventure! I love your enthusiastic and positive outlook on's so fun!
Keep us posted on the rest of your trip.

Suzie Soda said...

Well for all that trauma, you looked great today at church. It is fun to have you in the audience...just like the good old days. I hope I have a chance to catch up with you sometime while you are here.
I know you always have so much planned. Hope you have a blast and enjoy being home. Chelsea is coming next week before the 4th....I am babysitiing for a few days while they go on a anniversary get-a-way. Then she will be here for a little visit afterwards. Welcome Home....your true home and true ward:)

sweetpea said...

I loved reading this--what an adventure! You are definitely creating memories...
Enjoy your trip!!

Sonja said...

Wow, what an adventure! I'd be crazy if my husband were left at the station, you sound like you handled it well. I hope you enjoy your time.

Amber said...

Wow, you are ambitious. Though I'm a traveling mama, I'd never do that via a train. I had too many sleepless nights on the trains traveling through Europe to do that to my family.

Can't wait to live vicariously through you!

Trueman twins said...

What a trip! You are put such a fun spin on the difficulties. It is all in the attitude! I hope you guys have a wonderful trip.

Nettie said...

Okay, that made my driving my kids home from the Cape alone seem like a piece of cake. Even though it took 14 hrs instead of 10. I've often been tempted to travel cross country via train. Maybe just with the dh, though!

Christy said...

You will always remember these adventures, it is great that you record them. The boys probably remember is as a fabulous time.

swimmingmom said...

Woe! What a trip. You are much beter than I as I NEVER would have even attempted that. In those situations, I tend to not be thrify ;-) Good for you!

Gilbert Family said...

You're new name..."Brave Mama"! I envy your courage. I get nervous taking my TWO girls on a PLANE by myself, I couldn't imagine a train (although I have always wanted to try to travel that way) What an adventure!