One must have a sense of humor while traveling. Since I don’t fly, I miss the traumas of the usual sort, but trains and buses aren’t far behind in interesting moments. And then there are hotels…
For the most part, I like Amtrak. The railroad staff is great, and many have good stories about their experiences. They are also incredibly knowledgeable about historical and geographic details of the train routes. Dining car food has improved from unrecognizable to quite edible, and arrival times are now pretty close to schedule, instead of sometime within a twenty-four hour range.
But the quality and design of the cars are a bad joke. Toilets have been known to go out at high elevations. Decisions based on funding cutbacks can also be exciting. As an economy measure on one trip, only one attendant was allowed for two cars. That meant I had to toss my luggage from the door (after someone figured out how to open it), get down on my rear, and leap out at my stop, a drop of a few feet. Thank heavens I left the days of high heels and gloves behind!
I have also taken the bus. That has provided a unique education. Want to know about ex-cons who drive big trucks and take a variety of drugs? I have a story. Fancy sitting behind a guy weighing about 300 lbs, mostly muscle, who talks to himself and gets increasingly belligerent while the bus travels the desert between Barstow and Bakersfield? What warmed my heart was the driver saying he got one of these a week. I felt so lucky.
So, you say, that is just what you get for not flying. Agreed, except I might have outrun the 300 pound guy in the desert, or found a rattlesnake to throw at him, but I don’t see many options 36,000 miles up.
Off to hotel stories. Food can be interesting. I once ordered Tuscan chicken for dinner. It turned out to be a greasier version of that famous national fast food brand. Southern Mediterranean perhaps? At one hotel I was told how lucky I was that they served real Columbian coffee. Made me wonder if other hotels just dyed the water?
But my favorite hotel tale was the time I arrived several hours late due to a little conflict between freight train and Amtrak priority. “No problem!” I was told and “you will be thrilled with the room”. When I walked in, I looked around and wondered if I had been given a meeting room by mistake. No, there was a bed in the middle of the floor: a cot with a seat belt wrapped around it. At least there was a bathroom with shower. The only problem was that it took 20 minutes for the hot water to rise 26 floors. Thrilled?
None of this keeps me from traveling. I have gotten to see interesting parts of the country, talked to fascinating people, and even sold a few books in the dining car. What is life without an adventure or two?