Thursday, December 3, 2009

Back in Sunny Florida Via Auto-Train

The platforms to load the cars

Waiting to be loaded

My car arriving in Florida

Well, I just settled in my winter residence in beautiful South Florida. As usual, the first two days were dedicated to filling the fridge and taking care of the things that needed repair.

I am of the opinion that second homes are populated by goblins that lay dormant while the place is occupied, and awake the moment we close the residence. It is at this point that they take tiny equipment and destroy faucets, washers, water heaters, and any other convenience required to make modern man/woman happy.

South Florida has also another gift to empty residences: Salamanders that are able to penetrate walls, but only in one direction. Once they are in the apartment they starve and freeze to death. However, before departing for the great condominiums in the sky, they leave thousands of little things that resemble black rice. I was told it is shit. But I cannot believe that salamanders can crap four times their body weight before dying. Guess who has to remove the carcasses and the shit. Husbands, that's who.

This time the trip South was done by railroad using Auto Train. This was done so that I could transport my car without having to drive 1350 miles, with half of these miles looking at signs that advertise South of the Border in South Carolina.

Driving is exhausting. Taking the train is just extremely tiring. Make your choice as to what you prefer. However, there was one positive aspect to this trip. My wife and I were the "kids". Most passengers were veterans of the Civil War and World War I. And they all golf.

A phenomena that takes place aboard this train requires also intensive scrutiny by scientists. The moment the lights go out, the cell phones begin to ring. Dozens of old ladies begin to look though oversized handbags for a tiny cell phone. Once they find it, they have to look at the caller ID and attempt to remember how to answer. All this while the phone is playing The William Tell overture.

Children and grandchildren who have not spoken to grandma in decades wait for the passengers to close their eyes to call. And grandma has to give intensive details about the trip, grandpa and their bowel movements.

The train departs from the suburbs of Washington at 4 PM and arrives in the suburbs of Orlando at 8 AM. You can recognize those who have taken the train for the first time by the fact that they are waiting for the car in 80 degrees weather wearing heavy ski jackets. Veterans seem to have worn shorts underneath their winter clothes. The emerge from the train in white shorts and Hawaiian or pink T-shirts.

The train is 3/4 of a mile long, and the vehicles are placed in cars that form a long tunnel. Each car has a number which is placed on the door with a magnet. As the cars emerge from the train, a dispatcher calls the number of the car and old ladies are tempted to yell "bingo" until they realize that they are in a train station and not in a house of worship.

The cars emerge in no logical order. We were among the first to arrive at the station in Virginia, and we had to wait for almost an hour to get the car. and then had to drive over three hours to get home. But, it was worth it. With all the complaints, the people at Amtrak were nice and polite. Dinner included wine, and breakfast included fresh coffee. What else can you ask for.

The lounge was open throughout the trip with free beverage and snacks. Many passengers spent hours in the lounge. I think that they were reminiscing about their experiences in the Civil War.

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