So far, my choo-choo train experience has been quite a bit less than I had hoped for. As I have mentioned, my enthusiasm got shot in the head almost immediately. But I kept believing that things would get better and they did not.

I looked around at others near by to see how they were handling our common situation. Honestly, quite a few seemed as bored and challenged as I was. A few seemed able to read or knit or even write. Some hand eye coordinated activity has always been there for me, but for some reason – possibly my less than optimum experience so far – these standard distractions were ineffective for me. Add to this dilemma the compulsive talkers, squeaking children and cell phone assholes close by and you can fairly taste the comfort of a roomette.

Sitting in an airline type of seat without an effective foot brace made getting really comfortable impossible. Translation: my butt was sore and then numb. I was told to walk. I did walk. Where are you going to go? What was near by was the bar. Even that demanded some imagination. One brand of everything. The woman running it was possessed of a quiick sense of humor and that made purchasing a $7 bottlette of gin kind of fun. I asked what kind of gin she had. Beefeaters, she said. How about Tanqueray, or Bombay or Boodles I said. Beefeaters, she replied. I said, I believe I’d like a Beefeaters. I figured, “What the hell, I’ll just ‘buzz’ through the night.

The bar closed at 11 PM. I was not settling into my nest well at all so I made a 9-1-1 trip to the bar just before closing and found 20 people lined up with the same thought. The inhospitable attitudes I had encountered at dinner were not present in the bar line. It was more social and lively with the prospect of some liquid reward at the end of the wait. There was laughter and camaraderie in the line. I am sorry I didn’t suggest to everyone that we all meet up in the club car and sing songs and tell jokes and perhaps do a little line dancing .

I did bring along my laptop, which has always been a comfort to me. It was almost impossible to use it in my seat so I took it to what was euphemistically called the Club Car. There was no discernible “club”. Just some formica tables extending out from the walls with plastic bench seats and extremely bright lights. A little indirect lighting and more comfortable seating and I could have almost imagined “club”.

On this long leg of my trip there was no wi-fi. I had to remind myself that this was the 21st century where driving down the street with your phone or laptop on would reveal one after another wifi signals, but on this 80 mile an hour wonder of the rails, there is no wifi? It would have helped. Anything would have helped. Actually, the gin helped, but that, as we all know, has it’s limitations.

I have always been a huge supporter of the trains. In the “commuter” sense, it seems that the trains work. You go to an overnight leg and the system only works if you can afford some kind of sleeping arrangement. I could have had that for more than three times the cost of my ticket. I could stay at the Ritz for that. I thought several times that night how nice it would be at the Ritz.

All long sleepless nights end. ( I always wanted to say that ) As the sun rose and we approached Orlando I began to perk up in the expectation of seeing my old friend, Bruce. The station there is a throwback to a bygone era of stucco, palms and tile roofs. It is indeed an old but elegant building. It looks like a train station. And there was my friend waiting to help me to his car – the final and best of the upsides of this journey. I think I did look as though I could use some help. He said my eyes looked really red. They felt red.

Sitting down in the comfort of his new sedan that did everything but hand out neck massages, was just like coming home after my 30+ hour rail ride. From here on out my vacation was absolutely wonderful, restful and bathed in warmth moved along by a gentle Gulf breeze. That’s what I’ll remember.

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