I am going to be 40 years old this year and somehow I've made it this far in life without ever having had the pleasure of being a passenger on a train until this past week. My sister, Meredith, and Mom were both shocked as we tried to comb through my memory banks to challenge the validity of this fact, but aside from amusement park trains and city monorails like the ones I've ridden in Pittsburgh and Seattle, I can't recall riding any distance on an actual train.
Meredith and I were hitting the rails to meet Mom in Delray and be spoiled with a bit of good food and a night of sleep with no morning alarm needing to be set. This was our lure and all Mom wanted from us was a little company on the drive back the next day. I felt that Meredith and I were coming out way ahead in this bargain.
I was excited about the Amtrak journey, but I was keenly aware that my imagination had been tainted by a romanticized version of what I thought train travel should include. My mind conjured something between the open carts of a kid's petting zoo transport and the Orient Express.
Meredith and I arrived at the Sebring station about 20 minutes early, which turned out to be almost an hour early because our departure time was delayed.
This was disappointing, but it gave me extra time to take pictures of the station and all the small details no one else seemed to care about, like the pay phone, which is something you don't see everywhere these days.
An attendant buzzed up on a golf cart and advised us that the train would pick us up by the chained fence area and not the covered bench area. When I asked if he was part of a conspiracy to send passengers to certain doom, he denied the accusation. I asked if I could take his picture, which he also denied, but then I asked in a nicer, less crazy voice and he finally said I could. Meredith did a lot of eye rolling.
The actual train was similar to an airplane only much roomier, especially around the legs. Meredith was incredibly generous and allowed me the window seat, which also happened to be the emergency exit.
I was confused by the instructions, which included three parts. The first was easy enough: remove the red handle at the top of the window. A baby could do that.
The second instruction involved using that red handle as a sort of scraper to wedge under the black rubber molding and strip it away.
If you can manage that in a timely manner, carry on to part three by pulling a second handle which would release the window and allow escape.
I looked at Meredith and told her there would be no escaping this particular window with me in that seat and we'd just have to hope for the best, though I would be abetter option than the guy sleeping across from us who had a ringtone on his phone that suggested illegal drug use. He never answered the phone, which went off at least a dozen times.
We slowed down over sketchy-looking bridges and construction areas, but the countryside was lovely, the trip was fast and mom was waiting at the end.
This satisfying first train trip means I'm already looking forward to my second. I can't wait.