Monday, September 22, 2008

the tale of the train trip

I hope I can remember all the details about our train trip for you. Number One, taking the train is great. It is fun and not stressful and the countryside is beautiful and they give you champagne! We had a little roomette with two seats/two bunks for our adventure on the Coast Starlight Express. We got settled into our little roomette with help from Gran/Sue/Mumand after a sad goodbye
we were on our way chugging past lots of industrial land and diggers and the whole bit. Gran had given us a "care package" of things to open up as we went along and I was able to dole those out along the way. The first and most important toy of the trip and perhaps of our time since we received it was the inflatable BCFerry. (Just so's you know, it is a spirit ship) We loved the new little crane truck and sign truck and it was these things that provided the mini catalogue of other little metal toys that caught Ami's eye and subsequently resulted in Panos sending/gifting us the famed "red excavator on the low-bed!" We also really loved the Olivia Owl pop-up book. Ginger Shaw also sent a bunch of travelling "aids" like cute little flashlights for the kids,an old Sesame Street magazine, and stickers (old address labels). We had cookies from Semlin Street (thank you Louise) which were wonderful and I was very glad that I had managed to find some real food to bring on the train that morning because we really needed it when we first got on (especially me!). Miriam was such a cute sight downing fancy salad at 9:30 AM.

Our porter was particularly wonderful. His name was Julio and he really took care of us. He brought me champagne not long after we departed and he was introducing himself to the various passengers in our car. We were on the lower level of a two level car and I think that was the best. In order to travel through the train one must walk on the upper level. Being on the lower level meant much more privacy.
We played A LOT in our little room. The Bed above just had to be lowered and both kids loved going up there and fooling around while i could sit on the chair below. Ami proudly figured out how he could go up and down by himself. We ate in the dining car and we signed up for the earliest possible lunch time so that nap time would be facilitated better. It is fun to go to the dining car and order from the menu. It is included in your accommodations charge for having the roomette. Ami had his first Kraft Macaroni and Cheese which he ate but didn't totally love, i don't think. That's my boy. I can't remember what i had!
After lunch we put the "bonk" beds (so named for what they kept doing to my head) down and i was able to put Mimi down for a shortish nap. The afternoon was spent playing with our new toys, reading books and looking out the window. The scenery was really lovely and Mt Rainier particularly magnificent. We went to the wonderful observation car but Ami preferred the fun of our "cabin". We had dinner in the dining car and we shared our table with a man who we had almost shared a table at lunch with (he was leaving when we were arriving). He was interesting and very kind to the kids. They, of course, were on their best behavior and Ami even ordered "water, please" when asked what he would like to drink! I think the waiter and the guy were amazed. I wish i could remember his name... We stopped at a rather rural station when we were dining and he told me about his delight in making up/guessing the life stories of the people he sees in public places. He was imagining all the tales of the people waiting at the station and who they were meeting and how they felt about it etc etc. Quite hilarious. After we left the station he asked me something about myself and I asked him if he would like to guess my life story. He obliged and he was remarkable accurate! He said that he thought that i was from a family of 2 or 3 sisters but I wasn't the youngest, that I worked in the arts- maybe in a sheet music store and I think there was one other thing but i can't remember. I hadn't told him anything about myself so i was intrigued by his perception of me.
After dinner we went back to our cabin and then had a shower on board the train! Who knew you could do such a thing. It was a bit nerve wracking with the moving train, the slippery floor, the cramped space, the water everywhere, the adventurous kids etc etc.
When we were in Seattle I noticed that the train went to San Francisco and this was something that I hadn't realised before. I had bought a train ticket on-line and the routing that I requested was Seattle to Berkeley. The computer booked me a ticket to Sacramento and then one on a commuter train to Berkeley. It meant that I would have to get the kids organized at 6 am to get off the train, pick up my checked baggage as well as the baggage i had in our car and cart it all over to the commuter train. I found out that the train we were on already had a stop in Emeryville which was a name i had come across when doing internet research about preschools and craigslist postings. I figured that it was close to Berkeley and then tried to find out just how close and if i could just stay on the train to Emeryville. With a bit of sleuthing, Julio found something that indicated that Emeryville was 1 mile from Berkeley. I now set in motion the idea that i would stay on the train to Emeryville and hope that somehow it would all work out with Martin picking me up at the Berkeley Train station. I had to talk to and cajole quite a few people to see if this plan would work. In the end after a rather fitful night of wondering if i was making the right decision and also sharing a mini bed with 2 other (mini) people (!) [I slept diagonally and they slept at either corner] i got off the train at Sacramento (6 AM) [I warned Ami that I was getting off the train and Mimi was still asleep] to pick out my checked baggage at the baggage car and begged the baggage guy to let them stay on until Emeryville. He agreed and Julio allowed us to stay in our cabin which was so great. Now I still had to worry because my travel plans had changed and now Martin would be picking me up at the wrong place. I knew that my little phone had the capability to text Panos' phone from Greece. However, I figured that it was out of range after the US +border as it kept telling me that my text messaging failed. I just kept trying in the morning as i really needed to know that they were warned. Then, a text message was successfully sent! I rapidly sent another with details of my change of plan which was sent successfully too. I could breathe a little again. Of course, this was very early in the morning and would Panos get this message if he were sleeping? Would they check the messages before Martin headed out to pick me up? We got off the train in Emeryville about 45 minutes before our scheduled arrival at the Berkeley Train Station. I didn't see anyone there to meet us. I didn't have any phone numbers of anyone at the housing complex. I had money for a cab to take to -where? home? Berk train station?
We wandered out to find our checked baggage and who should be standing there but MARTIN!! I was beside myself with happiness and relief and delight and exhaustion. I said "YOU GOT MY MESSAGE!!!!" he said, "no"... turns out he searched for the closest Amtrak station on the GPS, came early in case he needed to go elsewhere and VOILA! found us!
I don't know how it would have worked out if i had stuck with the original plan of transferring in Sacramento and going on the commuter train to Berkeley. All I can say is for once it was a good thing our plans were just verbal and not too well laid out!

We made it safely and Martin and Panos made their massive drive safely and I was the most overjoyed person in Berkeley!


Mum said...

How terrific to read about the train journey. I was wondering and wondering how it went, that little roomette looked so tiny when I left you there. The story of the man in the dining car was intriguing too. And of course, the fabled arrival at the train station astonishing. That GPS system is intuitive for sure.
Thanks for the summary Phoebsie. love Mum

Liz said...

Phoebe!!! I have been reading your blog. Lemon trees, hills, expensive food, and a TRAIN TRIP! Where did you go? I love the train, but what a great mom you are to take your two little children for such an adventure, especially the leaving-them-on-the-train-while-you-take-care-of-the-luggage-then-run-back. Sounds like a screen play to me. Like MacGyver, but "Macelfert!" I think of you often, and I too am proud of Ami for not taking to Kraft dinner. It must be genetic. Please pass along my love to yourself and Martin and Ami and Miriam.