05-08 Sep 2016: The Voyage Home
Monday morning - well, Labor Day, so not a proper Monday, even for those not currently on vacation - is time to depart the Nashville vicinity and make for some intermediate stop on the way to the train station. It's a seven-hour-or-so drive from the motel to the station in Galesburg, and we need to be there in time to return the car and catch a train at 1638, so all in one day seems like a bad idea.
Without much sightseeing, but not making great haste, we arrive in Peoria a bit after 1700 and get settled into a motel. Check the evening Internets, walk next door for dinner, run a load of laundry, and it gets to be time to zonk out. The Sunday-morning sore throat and sinus crud got worse earlier in the day, and maybe a little better by evening. A passing thing? We shall see.
A rumor floats up from the muddled memories of the last few days: some portions of East Tennessee are reportedly Fed Motels, going back at least to the 1930s. Revenooers check in, but they don't check out. Presumably they find enlightenment and change careers.
Tuesday: Spend most of the morning being lazy, what with the summer cold approaching its peak; vacate the lodgings just ahead of the 1100 deadline, and make for Galesburg. Stop to refuel people & car in... Knoxville? Yep. Then stop at a car wash to get the vehicle all nice and shiny, then off to the rental place to return it. What with it being so clean, no one notices the slight additional scuffing of a wheel or two. And, off to the station to await the westbound train.
Tuesday-Thursday: Another long train ride. Either the train is much shakier this time, or this cold has my balance messed up.
The transition sleeper car seems not in quite as good repair as the outbound one... and the crew seems rather less alert and professional and more, well, off in its own world and kind of goofy. It's not just the train crew; ground logistics seems to be off, too. No mushroom gravy for the signature steak dinner; no vegetable filling for the omelet.
One does meet some nice people on the train. And some Interesting Characters. There's a hillbilly couple moving from North Carolina to Colorado in search of opportunity, perhaps in the cannabis business. The man notes that people in Tennessee are so much more polite than anywhere else in his experience. (I'd noticed this too, and Heinlein's comment on a polite society is not a sufficient explanation, though I suspect it's a factor; I kept noticing obvious Rough Men being deliberately non-confrontational.) I probably would have been considerably more social had my voice been in proper working order.
When the train stops at Reno, there's a knock on the door of our roomette. It's a detective with some drug-interdiction thing. Seems that buying a one-way ticket at the last minute raises flags. But, other than the circumstances of the ticket, we don't fit the profile of the droids he's looking for, and we don't admit to having large quantities of cash (mostly spent on the trip, anyway) nor weapons (does a Swiss Army knife count?), though I do mention a partly-used retail box of pseudoephedrine, which matches the state of my voice. (Actually, we have quite a variety of drugs along, none of which have any known recreational value, aside from caffeine and dextromethorphan. Psst! Hey, dude! Wanna score some Losartan? 6-Mercaptopurine, maybe?)
As the train approaches the end of its run, the crew seems in a great hurry to get back to the barn - looks like we'll be reaching Emeryville about an hour ahead of schedule. Um. That'd be about 1510 or so, instead of 1610. I hadn't noticed when I booked the trip that there was a 6-hour wait for the 2215 bus to San Jose, which now becomes a 7-hour wait, all to arrive in San Jose just before midnight and try to get a taxi. Seven hours to kill, while dragging luggage around?
Out with the cellphone; ask if my father can rearrange his schedule to pick us up in Emeryville. He can, but has to retrieve the dog from the groomers first. Hurray!
Once we get to the station, an Amtrak chap comes looking for us to ask if we want to switch from the 2215 bus to the 1715 train, which maybe is what I should have booked in the first place, but I explain that we've made other arrangements, and that the bus driver shouldn't panic when he finds himself two passengers short.
Eventually (what with the dog and traffic - how had I managed to forget Bay Area traffic?) my father arrives at the station to transport us home.
Home! A place where a proper shower awaits! And a bed that isn't lurching in all directions! Also, cats.
Cats are in hiding. After a moment, Southmoon cautiously peers around the corner from the office, looking very much like a frightened little wild animal. Then Huckleberry appears, wanting to play. Eventually, Top Hat emerges from her hiding place behind the reclining chair.
By next morning, the cats are somewhat back to normal, though Southmoon seems determined not to let me out of her sight ever again.
Now I gotta sort through the mail. And rest, and get back on Pacific time. And rest.
Next week, many trips to electronics recycling. And a huddle with my banker (seems I have a new personal banker assigned; the old one left a while back). Also, work.
Hey! Despite all the southern-restaurant meals and the general lack of morning walkies, I seem to have lost five pounds! Another fifteen would put me back in my healthy range, and better able to cope with a warm and humid climate.