Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Disgruntled Traveler's Guide to a Successful Trip.

While I LOVE getting away from the piles of laundry and endless cleaning home and seeing new places, the whole traveling bit is not my favorite. It's not that I'm afraid to fly, drive, boat or even bike, it's just that traveling, while an essential part of "vacation", can be rather stressful.

The expense is taxing.
The organization it requires is just one more thing that I don't have time for.
The dictated precise timing of it all is enough to make me lose sleep.

Yet, the absolute worst part of an excursion is that expectation to follow rules, and there is nothing I hate more than being told what to do by someone in a poly-blend uniform.

In fact, I'm not big on authority in general. Don't tell my kids.

Aside from sex and martinis, the lack of people telling me what to do is possibly the best part of my adult life. Sure, my children and pets demand things like food and water and I attempt to obey the speed limit, but other than that, I pretty much do what I want. Call it what you will; I call it my gift.

This distaste for authority is only one of the reasons why I hate to fly.

I don't mind the actual plane ride. I'm not bothered by turbulence. I can tolerate the cramped seats. Crying babies have no effect on me.

The airports and airport security are another story.

So is the whole process of "getting there".

Once you have spent three days packing and unpacking, trying to take all that you need while keeping your suitcase the proper weight and dimensions, you next have to travel to travel.

After leaving home three hours before your scheduled flight and driving an hour in six lanes of heavy traffic, you enter the perimeter of the airport. Navigating the roads, traffic and signs at DIA is like sprinting barefoot through a living room full of bowling balls, legos and air horns while trying to read an instruction manual. To park, you have to possess either stellar luck or well-honed aggressive, whippy-driver skills. It doesn't help when the vehicle you are attempting to park is a pick-up truck, which is often like cramming an entire watermelon into a wormhole.

Once parked for $11 per day in Siberia, thus dragging my 49 pounds of shit that I may or may not need for 14 miles through the seedy parking garage, the last thing I need is to be instructed to remove my shoes, interrogated and x-rayed. But, if you are lucky enough to get through your check point successfully, that is precisely what happens next. The last time I booked a flight, I was pulled aside and scolded because I had too many skin and hair care products. Apparently the airlines don't give a rat's ass how much shit this albino needs to look presentable for society.

Then you are herded onto escalators, trains and more escalators, where you are finally deposited to a place where you can buy the formerly forbidden water and snacks for approximately half a day's wages. You next will find your gate, where you get to cozy up with a stranger and try not to think about how much you have to pee because you will need to drag all that crap that was absolutely imperative to your trip survival into the bathroom. "Hurry up and wait" seems to be one of America's favorite past times, and the airport is a prime location for that game.

Once on the plane, you just pray that your seat mate isn't that one particularly odoriferous man that kept hacking up phlegm and talking to himself.

All of this, and the sky high (excuse the pun) flight rate, is why I chose to take a train back to Iowa last weekend for my cousin's wedding. I know what you are thinking... "The TRAIN? Really? Isn't that just a long bus?"

Not if you do it right, my friend. Not if you do it right.

I arrived unnecessarily early (25 minutes before the train arrived) and parked for free. I decided to go into the train station to use the facilities. I locked my bags in my truck and walked the entire 20 feet to the station. Upon entering, I saw a man rushing his crying and coughing young daughter to the bathroom. His shirt was completely covered in her vomit, which was very unfortunate for him, but no problem for me! There were other bathrooms to be discovered. I simply turned around, walked out the door and went to the gas station across the tracks, where I bought a bottle of water and a pack of gum for a total of $3.00. Then I returned to the platform and waited for my locomotive.

The train arrived, I handed a man in a hat my ticket, and he showed me to my room. I sat in silence and typed a story into my computer for an hour before deciding I was tired. A pleasant attendant then made up my bed. Later, while the railcar zoomed through Nebraska in the middle of the night, I locked the door, adjusted the custom temperature settings, plugged in my phone and was lulled to sleep by the clickety clack of the tracks. I slept like a log on the bed in my roomette. It was awesome. AWESOME.

In a leisurely fashion the next morning, I woke up, showered, dressed and had a tasty breakfast with a charming older couple before I reached my destination.

No lines. No x-rays. No product whoring accusations. No one stealing my shit while I slept. No problem.

Any and all shoe removal was entirely voluntary.

The train is old-fashioned and comfortable. It is neither stressful nor imposing. If you buy a sleeper room, you can bring your own drinks and snacks, even wine, if you desire. The travel is low key, the people are mostly friendly and you get to go through the entire state of Nebraska with your head on a pillow. (Sorry, Nebraska, but I've seen plenty of you in my life.) Aside from my broom, my horse, my hoover craft or my jet pack, the train is my favorite way to travel.

My only advice is to upgrade to the sleeper. It's totally worth it.

Oh, and to leave your kids at home with your husband. That really helps make the travel more relaxing, too.

Peace, Love and Choo Choos,

P.S. When I returned home, Thing 2 asked, "DID YOU RIDE GORDON OR PERCY?" I told him it was Spencer, and then I ate him with a spoon.

P.P.S. I also arrived home to this:

Happy Spring.
I duped you idiots again.
Love, Colorado


  1. I've always wanted to travel on the train, but every time I've checked it out it always seems to be super expensive.

    I'm jealous!

  2. It wasn't bad. I have AAA, which helps. It was less expensive than the flight, for sure.

  3. We took the train from VA to FL when my oldest was 2 and we got one of the big rooms. There were bunk type beds and JUST enough room to squeeze in a pack and play. It was fine, but I couldn't sleep. I stayed up most the night reading. When I did try to sleep, we apparently went through a VERY rough patch of tracks, and it was impossible. But I agree about the lack of hassle. It was super expensive, though. It's good if you get a discount for sure.

    1. I sleep like a rock when I am getting jarred about. I think it has something to do with so many long road trips in rough riding trucks.

      The late booked train was cheaper than the late booked flight. I think it just depends...

  4. The TRAIN!! Of COURSE! I haaaate to fly for the same reasons as you PLUS even a slight bump of turbulence sends my heart through the seat in front of me. You've sold me. I want to drink wine and have my own sleeper car and be lulled to sleep!
    Glad you had a great trip - so sorry about the welcome home party the weather threw. :(

    1. I did once meet a circus performer on a train. I forgot to work that into my post.

      The weather is stupid. We need the moisture but COME ON ALREADY, SPRING!

  5. I've never been on a train for more than 3 hours, but I'm up for trying it if you say so!

  6. ooh, I LOVE trains. My only problem with then is that the seem like they should be significantly cheaper. Since I live in the Twin Cities, which is a Delta hub, flights are just too cheap and fast to pass up in favor of a train 99% of the time. It's too bad, because I can't sleep on a plane to save my life, but I can sleep like a baby on a train.