Saturday, December 27, 2008

Journey to Indiana

The car is on its last legs. The plan for Christmas was: take it on one last trip back to Indiana, sell it back (for parts) to Dawn's old mechanic, and take Amtrak back.

There were two problems with the first part of that plan. First problem: we haven't used the car in months, so it's stuck in a bunker of snow and ice (see previous post). We failed to dig it out, and ended up borrowing a shovel from one of the nearby construction sites. Conveniently, the shovel came with a construction worker attached, who was very efficient. Merry Christmas to construction workers! Second problem: the car's battery and / or alternator is shot. But we jump start it, and we're on our way. About eight blocks away, we stop at a traffic light, and the car dies. We give it another jump, park it, and decide driving is a bad idea.

This is a really disheartening moment: getting the car out felt like such a triumph.

Anyway, we go back home and look up Amtrak. Amtrak in Chicago had just suffered massive delays, due to the weather (see previous post), and so there were no spaces left on any trains going out.

So we end up arranging to take a commuter train which can get us about half-way to our destination, with Dawn's mom driving us the rest of the way. The train is SRO (with the normal commuter crowd, plus a big holiday crowd), which is probably illegal, but there's no room for the conductors to walk through, and they never bother getting us to buy tickets. So we get a free ride.

The trip back from Indiana on Amtrak was comparatively uneventful. Of course, the trip took longer than scheduled--what's an Amtrak trip without some sort of delay? Our delay was due to problems with a whistle. Yes, a whistle. Apparently, a train has to whistle at every road crossing, or else it has to stop at every road crossing. This makes it really important to have a working whistle, but ours got frozen shut by the freezing rain which was pouring down at the time. A maintenance crew tried to get it working again, but they failed, and we ended up hooking up to the back end of another Amtrak train (with a working whistle) which had come along while we were sitting there. This took nearly two hours, I think. But, all things considered, it wasn't a big deal at all, since the freezing rain was doing much worse things to the roads. At one point, as we were coming into Gary, we saw a cluster of overpasses and whatnot decorated by stopped cars, some vehicles going backwards, a several-car pile-up, and a busted guardrail (no sign of what had happened to the car which had done the guardrail busting). We heard later from Dawn's mom that a bunch of the main roads along our usual Indiana route had been shut down; if we'd been driving, we would have been forced down a bunch of side roads (which probably would have been in even worse shape). Hurray for rail travel (and see previous post).

No comments: