If six hours late last night seemed ominous, I woke up in Sacramento this morning and after consulting my watch discovered that we were now nine hours late. During the night, in Oakland, the Union Pacific Railroad lent us another locomotive which attached on to the one AMTRAK engine that couldn’t and the one that could. In addition, in Oakland we added three more cars to the rear of the train which are “Private Cars” chartered by people with more money than God. Sacramento which was scheduled as a twenty-five minute stop took an hour and we just get later and later. Tim’s flight home tomorrow from Seattle is at 830am and we are to arrive in Seattle, if we are lucky which God knows we have not been so far, at 300am. I am once again more worried about my brother than the ill locomotives.
There is a good side of what has happened to us in that we are seeing some of the most spectacular scenery in the West which normally would be traversed at night and in total darkness. As I type this I am looking at gorgeous Mt. Shasta and there is more awesome scenery to come as we journey through Klamath Falls and the Pacific Cascade mountains.
Tim and I slept well in our respective cubicles, oblivious to anything happening to or on the train. At breakfast we sat with a couple who should have boarded the train in Emeryville (San Francisco but across the Bay Bridge) at 954pm last night but instead boarded at 550am this morning. All night long in a train station in Oakland with little information about when their train would arrive. So I guess Tim and I were lucky and he seems to be feeling better each hour which is something of a relief to me because I am now concerned about putting him on the plane tomorrow with no sleep.
He continues to “shine” in the dining car with his stories about the railroads of the past and he is a great story teller. I think our Dad would be proud of him because of his love of trains. He detests Republicans because they want to eliminate AMTRAK (among other things) so I hold my breath when he begins to venture into politics. Sometimes I have to kick him, under the table, of course. When a tablemate mentioned FOX News and their slogan, “fair and balanced”, Tim retorted “We deceive, you decide!” Such are the risks of traveling with Tim.
From what I can tell, the passengers don’t seem too concerned about the delay. Most people just shrug it off and say something like, “It’s AMTRAK, what do you expect?” A long time ago I purchased a scanner which allows me to eavesdrop on conversations on trains between the crew and between the engineer and the dispatcher. On this trip, I have to say that the host railroad, the Union Pacific, has handled this train very well and we have yet to be delayed by pulling into a passing siding to await a freight. The serious part of the delay on this trip is owing to AMTRAK not maintaining their motive power to reliable standards. Because we were so late last night and arrived at major station stops like San Jose, California, Oakland’s two AMTRAK stops, the car attendants have had little time to sleep but they seem to be maintaining their sense of good cheer and that might translate into passenger behavior being more passive. We will see what happens later tonight when they run out of food and beverage.
This morning I read the editorial in THE TAMPA BAY TIMES which picks up on my recent blog about the children of Central America who are being shipped across the border by their parents. I am grateful to the editorial board of the TIMES for their support of my call for a humanitarian response to this situation.
We arrived in Klamath Falls, Oregon at about 445pm and I made my first decision in consultation with Tim. We are going to “bale” on the Coast Starlight in Tacoma rather than ride it all the way into Seattle. The airport lies half way between the two cities so why go all the way into Seattle at 3am only to backtrack halfway. I called the airport hotel where we had reservations and they gave me the number for Yellow Cab who assured me a driver would be awaiting our arrival. Both of us will try to get four hours of sleep on the train prior to arriving in Tacoma and then his plane to Fort Lauderdale is at 830am – poor guy.
At five-thirty, AMTRAK is feeding all the coach passengers with a free “conscience” meal, apologizing in doing so for the incredible tardiness of the train. I must find out what they gave them. They do have a version of the military’s “Ready to Eat” meals but I hope that is not what they are getting. A refund would be much more appreciated!
The on-board crew is slowly beginning to show some times of too much work and too little rest. Amazingly, if they get into Seattle as predicted around 300am, they report back on duty at 700am and work the southbound train back to Los Angeles which is their home base. Tim and I both have an affection for railroad people, since we were both one of them at sometime in our lives.
We bailed in Tacoma where it was 422am when the Sunset Limited came to a stop. The taxi I had ordered to take us to the airport motel for what should have been a full night’s sleep but for Tim ended up being two hours was waiting and by five we were in our rooms. Tim left the hotel on the 7am shuttle bus and we parted.
Both of us are certain that our long-distance train ride days ended early this morning and neither of us are sad about that. As two brothers who seemed to have grown in love for one another much too late in life and with Jim who faces back surgery next Friday, we are aware that our final journey looms closer and closer. For that there will be no broken down locomotive, but only our sins and virtues to determine speed and final stop. I did not think Tim and I would ever try a long trip again after the last one and today we are both certain that there will indeed be no more. It’s not AMTRAK’s doing, it is our advancing years and infirmities.
Most of you who read this do not need my advice but don’t take those you love the most for granted. Even a long life is limited. Blessings and thanks, Tim.
P.S. On Monday afternoon, Tim went to see his primary VA physician who promptly placed him in an ambulance and sent him to Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital where he is presently in the Emergency Room undergoing tests focusing on his heart. They will likely keep him tonight for observation. It is reported that his spirits are good, the earlier CAT scan revealed non return of the previous lung cancer but his EKG is off the charts. What a week that was, has been and hopefully will be! Prayers, please, for both Tim and Jim.