I moped around for a while, banged some pots and pans for spite, then came around to his rational thinking.
Progress on our house was on schedule, so after about three weeks we decided to take a road trip to Philadelphia to see our family and escape the Florida heat. I was to stay for a couple of weeks and my husband, Gene, was to fly back to Florida once or twice to check on the house.
We hadn’t taken a road trip in years and were looking forward to the down time. So, with a neatly-packed car, snacks, drinks and litter bags, off we went.
The plan was to spend two nights on the road, to drive until dusk and to get an early start each day. Unfortunately, we had forgotten the adage, “Bad memories fade faster than good ones.” We had forgotten that we hated road trips. We had forgotten the aches and pains and boredom that set in. In short, we had forgotten the pain. However, by the time we got to Jacksonville, we remembered — and we had 900 miles to go.
This trip was not our finest moment. We had forgotten another detail: To drive until dusk in July meant driving until 9 p.m.
The first day seemed interminable. The instant the sun touched the horizon, we pulled into the closest decent motel. We extricated our overnight bags and checked in, looking forward to a restful evening.
We struggled through the night, had a cardboard bagel at the “breakfast bar” and hit the road for an Egg McMuffin to start our second day. As the mileage added up, the snacks got stale, the drinks spilled, the litter bags filled, and we were haphazardly tossing our McDonalds and Subway trash into the back seat. Our car smelled like a traveling hoagie shop.
When we arrived at our motel on the second night, we didn’t even bother taking our suitcases with us. We just jammed toiletries and fresh underwear into a plastic bag, dumped our garbage into the trash can at the entrance to the motel and checked in.
Philadelphia, here we come!
The third day we arrived at our destination, crawled out of the car, slowly unfolded our stiff joints and inhaled the hot, muggy air of Philadelphia.
We immediately booked our return trip on the Auto Train — there was no way we would drive all the way back to Florida.
The city of our births was experiencing a raging heat wave. During our three-week stay, daytime temperatures seldom dropped below 97 degrees. Although we loved seeing our family and friends, being trapped by the heat in our son’s home wasn’t the respite that we had anticipated .
Philadelphia, here we go! Our time was up and we were ready to exchange Philadelphia’s mugginess for Florida’s humidity. We set out for a pleasant three-hour drive to Lorton, Va. for the Auto Train.
The train was fantastic, efficient in every way. Our automobile was loaded onto a carrier car and we boarded the passenger car assigned to us. The compartment was a clean, comfortable small room and bath, with an easy chair and a sleep sofa. Our porter told us that once the train was underway, wine, snacks and cheese would be served in the club car, compliments of Amtrak.
The long, sold-out train started its journey promptly at 4 p.m.
We visited the club car, skipped the socializing crowd and brought some wine and snacks back to our compartment. There we munched, sipped, and read in the privacy of our quiet berth.
About an hour later we went to the dining car for our dinner. The maître’d welcomed us to a formal dining car similar to ones of our youth, with starched, white tablecloths and napkins and fresh flowers on every table. Our tablemates were a sanitation worker executive and his wife.
In other words, he owned his own garbage truck.
It turned out we had a lot in common when we told him how we had trashed our automobile on the ride north. Dinner was surprisingly good — a choice of appetizer, entree and dessert, accompanied by red or white wine, all included in the train fare.
So, what’s the hitch?
View More images >>When we returned to our compartment after dinner the porter had made the beds by pulling down the concealed top bed over the bottom one, bunk bed style. With barely room to squeeze into the compartment, we elbowed our way to the one easy chair. The loser had to semi-recline on the dimly-lit lower bed. The time was 7:15 p.m., and neither of us was tired. We took turns in the chair.
By 9 p.m. we gave up and decided to get into bed. Being the good guy that I am, I told Gene that I’d take the upper bunk. I climbed the narrow ladder, folded myself into a pretzel, and threw myself over the side and onto the top bed.
If you have ever been in an MRI machine, you know what the upper bunk felt like! I closed my eyes the minute I was settled so that I didn’t see the ceiling closing in on me. I willed myself to fall sleep. In the middle of the night, nature called. Down the ladder I went, into the bathroom and back up to my perch, in semi-darkness on a swaying train while trying not to fall on top of my sleeping husband. Spiderman would have been proud.
Miraculously, we both slept well and awoke in time for a lovely breakfast in the dining car. We opted not to shower in our phone booth-size bathroom, since sitting on the toilet while using the hand shower was not our style. It was better than using a bucket of water in the woods, but not by much.
Right on time at 9:30 a.m., the train arrived in Sanford, just outside of Orlando. Four hours later we were back in Boca Grande, enjoying the breeze from the Gulf and taking a dip in the calm sea.
Our house was finished slightly ahead of schedule and in about a week’s time we were back to normal in our newly-improved home.
From then on the summer progressed quickly. We took a couple of weekend trips, had some family guests for a while and enjoyed the beach, the warm Gulf, and the summer weather. We even did our part for Florida wildlife by feeding the mosquitoes and the no-see-ums.
All in all, we had a very enjoyable summer and are left with fond memories—once again proving the adage, “Bad memories fade faster than good ones.”
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