This past weekend, I took a trip to West Virginia to see my parents.
The trip down to see them on the train was great! Because I made this trip so many times before permanently moving to Virginia, I came prepared – lots of reading material, meal bars, a blanket, and fleece socks (the air runs constantly on trains in the summer, and I freeze). I had a seat all to myself until the last fifteen minutes – right before I was to detrain at Prince Depot, they seated a woman next to me who had a fussy little toddler. They wouldn’t have had I not been about to leave, thank goodness – but since I was off at the next stop, they had her hold the kid until my seat became free.
I was a little worried about going home to be honest. It had been almost two years since I’d been able to make the trip, and four since I quit smoking. Mom and Dad still smoke (Mom fairly heavily) so I wasn’t sure I could even stay there. Oddly enough, I didn’t even pay any attention. Unless they lit up, I didn’t notice an odor or have any reaction. And Mom was nice enough to do most of her smoking on the back porch (which is a minor miracle, because she has always been the most inconsiderate smoker I’ve ever known).
My mother isn’t doing well – each time she’s had to be hospitalized, she hasn’t quite bounced back one hundred percent. She looks really frail and thin. She was confused a lot of the time. I had several conversations with her where she lost her train of thought right in the middle of saying something and suddenly went off on another track. She wandered up to our neighbor’s at one point without telling anyone; Shadow generally keeps a pretty close eye on her, and raises absolute hell if she starts out either door, but the puppy was so excited to see me that she stuck to my side like glue and didn’t even notice. It wasn’t a huge deal, and Dad assured me that this isn’t something that happens ever, but still, it was concerning. I do think it’s funny that she couldn’t hold a coherent conversation, but she could make a perfect pan of cornbread.
I drove around Beckley for a bit looking at some of the changes. I didn’t go everywhere – for example, I didn’t drive by the University, though I meant to. I did see the new Olive Garden (which was a huge deal, let me tell you) and was sort of shocked at what they’ve done to Raleigh Mall. It had lost most of it’s business probably a decade ago, with the bankruptcy of Montgomery Ward and the defection of most of it’s popular stores. But it looks like they removed entire sections of the thing at some point after I left. Only Elder Beerman was still there and I honestly couldn’t tell you if it was a new building or if they’d just chopped off the ends of the mall and left it standing…
Sunday morning my phone rang well before seven a.m. It was a recorded message from Amtrak saying that my train was delayed. It didn’t tell me by how much, or give me any other details. So I got up, showered and packed as planned, just in case. At eight a.m., I called the Depot and was informed that the train was three hours behind because of “police activity” outside Indianapolis. Of course my assumption was a suicide…which would sadly turn out to be correct. Unfortunately, there was another incident outside of Cincinnati which caused another two hour delay. I heard this two ways – from the gentleman at the Depot I heard it was another suicide. From other passengers on the train, I heard that it was a freight train wreck. I should have been home by 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Instead, I didn’t even board the train until after six!
There were free sandwiches. Either Jimmy John’s donated them or Amtrak sprung for them. Huge boxes of them were stacked in the cafe car. So I was spared having to eat an overly processed and highly caloric train pizza or hamburger, or settle for a third meal bar.
Because trains never make up time and instead seem to get farther and farther behind, my projected ETA at home of midnight soon became 2:00 a.m. I emailed everyone at work and let them know I’d be late in on Monday; there was no way I was getting home that late and still managing to get to work by 8:30 a.m. I fell asleep at some point after nine, and when I awoke after midnight, my new ETA was 4:00 a.m.!
Sleeping on a train can be okay. If you have a double seat to yourself, you can get pretty comfortable, since the foot rests go completely horizontal and pillows are available for free (at least for now). The rocking motion can be really soothing, actually – I’ve had many people tell me that they can’t take a train trip without falling asleep! Unfortunately I was seated next to someone. So I had to scrunch up into a little ball. What sleep I did get wasn’t very good. When I finally left the train, my neck, shoulders, and both knees were stiff and sore.
I fell into bed after a hot shower, but of course, didn’t sleep very well. I awoke with such a horrible migraine that I wound up taking the entire day off work and just sitting around whining about how much I hurt! I did manage to get unpacked and everything laundered and washed to remove the cigarette smoke smell. And I think I might have half-assedly packed a box or two. But I surely didn’t accomplish much.
The good news is that Shelly was good while I was gone. She ate and took her medicine like a good girl for Alex. He did say that she was sullen and unhappy for most of the weekend, but I think that was due to having him giving her medicine (he’s generally the “good guy”) rather than because she missed me. The kitten was also fairly good while I was gone. She greeted me with purrs when I first walked in the door, but was soon “Daddy’s Girl” again.
I also managed to not derail my diet while I was gone. I’m not sure if it was the altitude, the cigarette smoke, or something else, but I just wasn’t hungry all weekend. I had zero urge to snack the whole time I was gone and no “out food” of any kind was consumed (unless you count the half of a condiment-free JJ’s ham and cheese sub I had on the train back).