Chicago Bound!

Courtesy of my wonderful husband (and despite a very hard blow to my left knee from a fall during PT on April 2nd) , I am presently on the way to checking a large item off of my bucket list! We’re bound for Chicago, Illinois, to attend the renowned annual Tom Bishop International Miniatures Show & Sale! (Google Tom Bishop for more info.) To lessen the hassle of travel (long security lines at the airport with too much baggage, or really long hours of driving ) and to add to the adventure, we decided to reserve space on the Amtrak Texas Eagle from San Antonio to Chicago. Said train left the Sunset/Amtrak Station, San Antonio at precisely 7AM this morning for the 30 hour trip.

Assuring that our cats and plants were properly readied for care by others, completing the last minute packing of electronics/meds/snacks (and wine!) was accomplished and confirming that both of us were appropriately clothed at our designated departure time from Casa Blackburn required setting the alarm for 4:30 AM. (Why can’t you board in your pajamas?! It would be so much easier!) 4:30 AM is not “morning”; not in my lexicon! 6AM is morning, 7 AM is an even better translation. 4:30 AM is “0-dark 30″, and arrives much too soon after 11:30 PM! Still, we got everything accomplished and were comfortably settled into our roomette ‘nest’ on the Eagle; necessities close at hand and the rest of our luggage easily accessible as it pulled out of the station. Tom had to handle all of our luggage & gadget transfers; I’m hobbled by two Ace-bandage wrapped knees and my cane!

First call for breakfast was at 7:35 AM. If you travel by Coach, the diner car is definitely going to eat into your budget;  the food is very good,  but expensive. If you are ticketed in Roomette or above, all meals are included in your fare – it is well worth the difference between Coach and Room rate! Bluebonnets, wild mustard, rose mallows (and other wildflowers which I shall have to identify later) carpeted many of the fields we passed. Around 11:30 AM, we made a “brief” stop to pick up new train personnel. The replacement crew was MIA for an hour, so ‘brief’ became 60 minutes That’s alright; ensconced in our own private roomette with no scheduled connections to be concerned about, it was a comfy non-problem. Between Buffalo and Palestine, TX the view changed considerably. In amongst tall pine trees, marsh grasses and many leafy green ‘unknowns’, large stretches of our view began filling with a wealth of small trees totally covered in small white blossoms. The flowers were more separate (and larger) than crepe myrtle blooms; Tom described them (mind you, the scenery is passing by at roughly 60-80 mph) as “almost like a small dogwood”. Somewhat later, a fellow passenger of Car 2220 identified them as exactly that; they are, indeed, dogwoods, and they are welcoming spring with a fine display!

2:51PM. . . . .Our trusty steed (um, bird?) has suddenly stopped in the middle of a attractively green, leafy, totally unidentifiable area (with a lush pasture outside the opposite window). Having checked the color of the sky outside both the east & west windows (trust me; it’s important – it’s nearing tornado season), we assume that our earlier delay means that we now need to avoid sharing tracks with other trains which are still running on schedule.  We were rolling again a bit after 4PM and back to enjoying the scenery. Apparently, “there was an incident in Ft. Worth” early this morning. Whatever happened, It probably was the cause of our delayed replacement crew; it definitely is the reason we will be skipping several of the scheduled stops (Temple, Fort Worth and Dallas, among them) and heading straight for Longview. It was a surprisingly slow journey to Longview; I’m not complaining, as we had much more time to watch the varied scenery pass by. We were enjoying our dinner when the train pulled into the Longview station; several chartered buses and a hoard of somewhat disgruntled, luggage laden travelers on the station platform explained our slow pace. . . the conductor obviously had been biding his time, allowing all of the missed passengers to catch up with us! We got ready for bed fairly early; when it gets dark outside, the porter appears to make up your beds. Everything (except the train horn!) gets very quiet. . . and we’d been up since 4:30AM! Goodnight, all!

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