Departure. Departure last Thursday morning was almost-but-not quite normal at the home end (someone other than me forgot his driver's license and thus we had to come home again, to ensure that when he drove back from the train station, the "I don't have my license with me" vibes would not cause him to be pulled over.) Got up early, had breakfast, dressed, put a last few things (the toothbrush) in the bags, and off we went. We hit unexpected (by us) construction on the way, but were at the train station in plenty of time, more than an hour before the train was to depart. Goodbyes were said, and away he went. I pulled out my knitting.
Time passed. Other people arrived at the train station. The time for the train to arrive grew close. But...it wasn't coming for another thirty minutes, we were told. OK. Another thirty minutes went by. As it turned out (to spare you the repeated questions and the increasingly harried look of the stationmaster) the train's locomotive was not able to supply electricity to the cars, so (among other things) there was no air conditioning on the train and the windows do not open. The train had been sitting in Taylor (miles and miles away) while repairs were attempted (why at Taylor I don't know) but the repairs failed, and the train finally arrived in Temple (where I was) around, oh, one-ish I think (A-Kon in between has blurred my memory.) We had been told that it would stop, disgorge all the passengers it had (lots, as this was the northbound train that had picked up passengers from Los Angeles in San Antonio, plus others along the way from San Antonio to Temple) and buses would then take us all north to Fort Worth. The train would proceed with minimal crew and the baggage in the baggage car (Temple having no facilities for checked luggage--like someone to lug it) and in Fort Worth would be hitched to a spare locomotive.
The people on the train were herded into the main part of the old station (now a train museum) and we happy few stayed in the current train station (a single room off to one end.) "Happy" is probably not the right word. I met a charming pecan farmer and we chatted about farming, ranching, pecans, wild hogs (they eat tons of pecans that should make it to market) and so on. Meanwhile...lunchtime on the train didn't happen (for any of us) and time went on and people were hungry and thirsty (there's no water fountain in the train station) and some were snarly and so on. This is what knitting is for. I got several inches on a sock., and I'm not a fast knitter. A couple of hours later, the buses arrived--first one, then another well after the first bus took off. By this time, of course, I was thinking "I should've just driven up, much as I hate I-35" but once in the bus and on I-35, I reverted to "No, I shouldn't have." Especially not with the cataracts giving me ever more trouble. I was supposed to have dinner with friends at the hotel at 7, but...would I make it? IF we got to Fort Worth in time, and IF the train could then leave...probably. If not, not.
Traffic was...well, I-35 with one lane closed, construction, and the usual heavy traffic. I knitted. I chatted a little. I knitted some more. We got to the train station in Fort Worth and were ejected onto the station grounds with no direction from anyone--the train crew members who'd been on our bus took off for points unknown. We wandered around, not sure when the train would leave (or if it would). More local trains came and went. I considered taking one, except I knew nothing about the routes or schedules. Time passed. Slowly. Gossip trickled around. Our train was there, a new locomotive was on it, it was "cooling down." That sounded good, but when could we leave? Not yet. First the Heartland Flyer had to leave. Then our train sat awhile longer, far down the track. Then it moved around in some unspecified dance, to get onto the track nearest the platform. Another local came and went. Finally we were allowed to cross some tracks to its platform and I got aboard.
As it happened, one half of one car had no air conditioning. And it was HOT. It was stifling hot. My compartment was...there. Those in the hot spots were allowed up in the dining car to cool off (YAY!) so up I went. Time passed. Faster now, because there was a chance that if we left right this minute, I might be able to make dinner only a little late. But we didn't leave. We sat. And sat. Finally we moved...hurray! But not so fast...we inched out of the Fort Worth station, out past the switches where the N/S and E-W lines intersect, under the overpasses of the highways that do the same thing, and then...into some backwater (we were moving backward...) And we sat. And sat. And sat. And sat some more.
But it was cool, and the dining car staff had started serving dinner (that I didn't eat, save for salad, still hoping for hotel food at the end...) and eventually we were on our way. The actual trip from Fort Worth to Dallas didn't take that long. I made another call to my Guest Relations contact, and linked up with the person supposed to pick me up. Ducked into my hot compartment to grab my stuff and was ready to hop down on the platform in Dallas, where I spotted Brett right away. Got to the hotel about 8:30, and the wonderful Guest Relations staff found out my friends were still eating and would see that I got some supper. Double YAY! Left my stuff with those upstairs, dashed down...all's well that ends well. Steak. Medium rare. Potato. I'd had my salad already. Got my stuff, found my room (lovely room!) put things away, showered, face-planted in the bed. More later...