Bits of Life

Go West Young Ladies or at least Southwest

Posted on: April 16, 2014

My sister and I went to Texas on a train.  March 31, I drove to Indy so my sister’s hubby could drive us to Bloomington IL to catch the 4 pm Amtrak to San Antonio.

It was a 28 hour trip equipped with spacious seating including a foot rest and LazyBoy style lounging.  One could get comfy.  We spent a great deal of the trip in the observation car.  It was spacious and with all the glass, you could see so much more above as well as on the sides.  Dining car was OK except for community seating which I wasn’t very keen about.  Talking to people on moving vehicles is not my strong suit.  It was better than a plane where you can’t get away from anyone for the duration.  At least this was only for dinner.  Did meet interesting people.  On our return trip, 2 guys got on in Austin and one was going to New Jersey and the other was going to Greenville, SC!  He will have the experience of riding 3 different trains.  I wonder how it went!

The train was a bit late leaving Bloomington/Normal, IL but we got into San Antonio an hour early which was great for the hotel shuttle wouldn’t pick us up if we arrived past 10:30. We got there at nine, but it took awhile for the bags to be unloaded so we got to the hotel at 10.

Through IL we saw about 10 deer in a field and one coyote.

Split a steak in the dining car, even there the portions were large. We were in one of the last dinner seating so we ate by ourselves.

Spent most of the time in the observation car working on puzzles and talking. Judy was doing the Jumble and I had a couple crosswords. We both had journals to record our trip.

Met a group of young adults who had become fast friends since getting on the train in Chicago. 3 guys and a gal. One just left the Army and was heading home. One was heading to California to work in his families restaurant. The girl was going to Dallas after visiting in Michigan. Forgot what the other guy was doing.

We were able to get off in Dallas to stretch our legs and for the smokers. They can’t smoke on the train thankfully. Most of the stops were very short for getting off and getting on.

Once it got dark, Judy found a free set of seats so she could stretch out and I did the same. But it was a bit difficult to fall asleep. I know my body finally gave out and I went to sleep and woke up about 8 I guess. We had passed through Little Rock over night.

Didn’t eat breakfast, had snacks to tide us over and then went back to the observation car.

When we got to San Antonio, we had a good nights rest and headed out in the morning. Got to Aunt Mouse and Uncle Dave’s about 3 in the afternoon. It was good to see them. It had been 10 years for me and I think lots longer for Judy. Uncle Dave is suffering from Parkinson, but stayed up talking to us for several hours. Aunt Mouse said he hadn’t talked like that in years. We left their place around 8 each night. Didn’t want to tire them out.

Had breakfast with them and did a little sight seeing at 2 nature centers. Went to the airport to find souvenirs. It isn’t a tourist place as such, you have to go to the beach for that. Had WhataBurgers, a family run hamburger place. Pretty good!

They had reserved a guest room for us at the main part of the facility. They live in a nice little house with a patio. Funny thing is that they’ve been collecting orchids, just like Mom.

Uncle Dave showed us a big scrap book of his pictures from his time in Germany in 1944-45. It was fascinating. He had kept a note book of his time over there and he would take it when they had their military reunions. Quite amazing book. He talked a lot about it.

Skyped with their two sons and their families. That was fun to do. Apparently they talk often with them.

Now the trip back – Found out that the car had to be back to San Antonio by noon on April 6. I thought the place would be open or at least have a drop box. But no. And we didn’t want to leave that early. It would have meant heading out before 8 am and we wanted to spend some of the day at their house. So Judy called and found out we could return it to the airport. That was OK. But forgot to get gas and had to pay an exorbitant price but by that time we were a bit frazzled. It was about 6:30. After dropping off the car, we called the hotel about picking us up and it turns out our hotel doesn’t service the airport, only downtown San Antonio. Judy was on the phone and I wish I had taken her picture, the look on her face was priceless!! The Avis man drove us to the Taxi stand at the airport and after discussing prices with the bus guy ($30 each) or the taxi ($25 total that we could split) we chose the taxi. I was beginning to think we were practicing for the Amazing Race!

Got to hotel and in 5 minutes we took a shuttle to the Riverwalk for dinner. It was 7:30. Sat outside along the walk and a Mariachi Band serenaded us and others.

Had a good meal. We were taking pictures of each other and a couple walked up and asked if they could take some of us with my camera. I thought if this guy makes a move to walk away with my camera, then I’m tackling him. Turns out Judy was thinking the same thing. But they were real nice and talked all about San Antonio and how they loved it and she works as a flight attendant. We should have taken their picture for our album.

Train left at 7 am on Monday the 7th. No problem getting to and on the train. Then a rather noisy lady sat down across from us and she was a bit mouthy and not very nice. We went to the observation car. Weather was sunny going back.

The dining car is community seating which means you are paired up with people. I wasn’t that crazy about it, but Judy loved it. She talked and asked all kinds of questions of the two guys we sat with. Both got on in Austin. One was on his way to visit relatives in NJ and the other guy was headed for Greenville SC. They would both get off in Chicago and catch another train. The SC bound guy would be on yet another train.

We came back to our seats for bed and discovered my pillow had been taken. So I had a bit of trouble getting comfy. In the middle of the night I made a bathroom trip and happened to see a familiar looking pillow with the noisy woman across from us. In the morning she left her seat and I looked at the pillow and sure enough it was ours. I took it back and she never said a word!! The other bad thing about her was talking on the phone and swearing to whomever she was talking to. We could have asked for another seat but it was too late for that. Also, it’s difficult to make an enemy in such close quarters. I know Judy was making notes of pluses and minuses to write Amtrak about. But because of the lady, Judy didn’t want to move from our seats afraid she’d take something else. I doubted it, but I always took my camera and purse.

The crew on the outbound train was exceptionally nice, funny and charming. The return train crew were at the other end of the spectrum. I know Judy was making note of that also. They were a bit surly and as if they were doing us favors. Not a good impression.

Countryside was beautiful but we went through Little Rock and all of Arkansas in the dark again.

There was a mechanical problem when we reached St. Louis so we were delayed leaving there. In addition, our train had to wait a few times on a siding track while the freight trains went by. They have priority, Amtrak is just borrowing the track! Consequently we got to Bloomington, IL 3 hours late. I really felt sorry for the guys changing trains in Chicago. They had lots of time at the beginning, but I wonder how it went from there.

Dick picked us up with all smiles and we found a neat, old Italian place to eat. By that time we were pretty hungry. We were supposed to be in around 11.

So it was a fun trip and I’m glad we went. Next time I’ll probably fly down right to Harlingen. I hope to visit again in about 6 months. Should have done this before, but there were family issues that got in the way. Unfortunately!

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