Lame working title: The Journey Begins

"Getting there is half the fun." they say. Does anyone who flies on a regular basis say that anymore? Surely not in this country? What is the point of getting to your destination quickly if you're miserable and steps away from a heart attack when you do arrive? The clearest demonstration of how much worse air travel is in this country than compared to, possibly, anywhere else -- The two companion television shows, Airline and Airline UK. Just look at the vast difference in civility, nature of problems, and resolutions. No yelling, screaming, beating on counters with fists on the UK version of that show.

When Eddie shoved train tickets in my face I was immediately intrigued. I live very near an Amtrak station and trains pass by my apartment so often I don't even notice them; much as Elwood pointed out to Jake in his run-down Chicago hotel, about the El. Also, I have always enjoyed images of train travel in old movies and have envied Europeans their ability to go most anywhere by train. I wondered what Amtrak travel was really like. I decided that Eddie's arrival was opportunity knocking.

Eddie had acquired two tickets on the California Zephyr for a roomette on a sleeper car - not quite a bedroom, but also not just a seat in Coach, either. We were going to travel in some modicum of style.

The train was leaving before eight in the morning so I immediately started packing. As usual, Eddie was traveling light.

Martinez Station
The next morning found us walking toward the train station; or actually, Eddie was riding on the suitcase being towed along on its little wheels, behind me. No one was about, and I could feel it already starting to get warm. I was glad to be getting away.

The Amtrak station was sparsely populated and I waited only a moment to get the tickets confirmed by a smiling, pleasant attendant. We then went out to wait on the platform.

The train pulled in, on time, and I found our car to be the second to last, in front of what appeared to be a private car. I was greeted by no soldiers and police with automatic weapons, no sniffing dogs, no snarling TSA agents, just a brisk car attendant and a smiling conductor with the traditional hat who posed for photographs with two squealing women.

I handed my ticket to the car attendant. Eddie looked over my shoulder. "What a charming negress!"



"Did you say something, sir?

"No, no, not a thing!"

Eddie and the pug
Mothball fleet
Outside Benicia
I hastened to my roomette, number 5, on the upper level of the car. Everything was a tight squeeze. The stairs, corridor, and my little space quite narrow. The designers of the train car had made excellent use of space, however. My roomette had two seats that could recline and also be laid out into a bed. Another bunk was folded and stowed up above. Stairs that served double duty as shelves were alongside one chair, to be used for climbing into the top bed. There was a thin little closet with two hangers, a strip of mirror on one wall, towels, little bottles of water, curtains and a door for privacy. We soon learned that meals in the dining car were included in the price of our tickets.

The train started up so quietly and smoothly that neither of us were aware that the train was moving until we saw the scenery starting to pass by behind the conductor as he took our tickets. Very soon we were on the railroad bridge, passing over Carquinez Strait, and then we were rolling through Benecia, the mothball fleet rusting a bit more each day, out in Suisun Bay.

We were on our way!
Where are you going? You must say. I don't know the CA area and I am much too lazy to read a map. N