Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Speaking of Trains

This summer we took a big trip, and experienced many adventures for posting.  I must begin with the train.  Yes, we took the train.  We took the train to Philadelphia, and back here to Los Angeles, with a lot of stuff in between.

We had often talked about taking a long trip by train for many years now.  When I was invited to preach in Wilmington, DE, and then appointed as a commissioner to General Assembly, we decided this was the time to put the two events together and travel by the good old iron horse.  Actually I think the iron horse reference means the old fashioned steam locomotive.  And how that would have been a blast!  But no, this was standard AMTRAK diesel.

But it was still adventurous.  We had a great time, and will probably take another trek by train, one of these days.  It's delightful to see the scenery in such a relaxed atmosphere.  There was a sort of adventurous thrill I experienced when the train first began to move.  It was diminished, but still fun every time the train began to move again.

But there were some modifications to my somewhat romantic notion of travel by rail.  I had anticipated night travel to gently rock me to sleep as the mesmerizing clickety-clack of rail seams created the perfect white noise.  Well, not so much.  To be sure there were many stretches that almost fulfilled that fantasy.  But for the most part we had to get used to violent jerking that would challenge agile young people to keep their feet--and we are neither agile nor are we young.  The compartment was small enough that we could hold on to something or other whenever we needed to move around.  The hallway leading to the dining car was narrow enough that instead of throwing us to the floor, we merely bumped our shoulders first on one wall then on the other.  Yes, it was a challenge, but I thought it was fun.

When the conductor adjusts our couch to become a bunk bed, we discovered another challenge.  Climbing up to that upper bunk was designed for a contortionist.  Okay, I'm no contortionist, and I did make it up there, but I assure you it was not without pain.  During one leg of our journey we had a less spacious compartment.  This one not only required a contortionist of sorts, but I learned something about myself.  I have a mild case of claustrophobia.  I was sure I could not get to the top bunk, but I did.  And then the ceiling began to creep down upon me.  I panicked.  I even cried out.  I couldn't get down, and yet I did--rather rapidly in fact.

Believe it or not, we learned to use this narrow bunk as a double bed.  It's so wonderful being married to a tolerant spouse.  That bunk was so narrow (and we are NOT narrow) that I slept with my feet near my wife's face, and she the opposite.  That was just one night.  The rest of the time we had the deluxe accommodations in which the bed was a more believable double.  Again I thank God for a tolerant companion.

I made it sound as though we didn't sleep, but we did.  We learned to adjust, and any hours we missed at night we could always make up during nap time.

The meals were worth a blog post of their own.  When one buys the deluxe accommodations the meals are included in the price.  The food was good and very well prepared.  Though the menu provided variety, it did become rather limited when we spent six days on the train.  A seasoned traveler warned us to order the steak dinner the first night because they sometimes run out.  We did so, and it was not disappointing.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Spooky Train Ride

My great grandfather (or was it my great, great?) was some exec with the Swiss railroad.  I think this story came down from him.  At least my mother told me this story, and attributed it to him.  The line of transmission for some old family stories becomes blurred with time.  Anyway, here is what my mother told me.

On a dark and foggy night the train chugged along the mountainside when the engineer began to notice an ominous image in the fog ahead.  It appeared to be an angel beckoning him to stop the train. He called to his fireman to see if he had the same view.  These two men rubbed their eyes and stared into the foggy night, they concurred that there was a definite image of an angel, persistently urging them to stop the train.

It seemed irresponsible to stop the loaded train halfway up the mountain, but the more they talked it over, the more they began to spook one another.  Finally the engineer brought the iron horse to a stop. The image was still looming ahead of them in the fog.  With its wings spread wide, the angel was demanding that they halt their progress.  Just then the conductor came up the tracks from several cars behind the engine.  "Hey, we're not scheduled to stop for several miles.  What are you doing?"

"Don't you see that angel in the fog, there ahead of the train?" answered the engineer.  "I'll take the responsibility for an unscheduled stop, but I just felt I had to stop."

"Oh, yeah.  I see what you mean.  Let me look up ahead along the tracks and see if I can find anything." agreed the conductor.  He strode ahead along the tracks for a hundred or more feet when he suddenly stopped and let him mouth fall open.  He ran back to tell the engineer what had happened.

As he approached the halted train, the engineer called out, "Hey Fritz, get back on the train.  It was nothing.  We found a dead moth was caught right inside the headlamp with its wings spread apart.  In the fog it gave the eery appearance of an angel.  You can tell your grandchildren how silly your engineer friend was when he saw that image in the fog."

"I will tell my grandchildren, alright, but it won't be about a silly engineer.  Barely a hundred yards ahead of us the bridge is washed away!"