Thursday, March 13, 2014

Train Spotting

photo credit: Jim Epler
I was sent an application for Amtrak's Writer's residency program from someone who knew I'd be interested in applying. I mean, who wouldn't? Ride a train. Watch parts of the mainland US pass by that you cannot see any other way except hiking (personal translation = cannot see any other way period). Get a sleeper to hang out in. Write about it. What can go wrong?

Well, ironically, when this opportunity was 'rolled out' in the current parlance, it was just about the same time that 250 passengers were "stranded without functioning bathrooms and power for more than four hours when their train broke down unexpectedly in Connecticut Tuesday afternoon." according to an article in the Boston Globe.

Hey, this sort of thing happens. Everything breaks. No one died. I'm sure there was discomfort, but four hours? Maybe the word 'stranded' was a bit strong. Did you know that the word stranded originally related to being beached, aground or ashore? Despite popular accepted usage, they weren't exactly in the middle of nowhere. Hey, I could have written about it. Where's your resident now, Amtrak?

Or maybe it's living on islands that makes four hours seem like an annoyance rather than a life changer. Unless, of course, you do die, in which case you don't have a good story to tell later on.

No trains for this trip. It was the first Culebra/Fajardo trip for these sailors. The ferry was full. The accumulated rain on the roof poured out on us as we got underway through its handy drainage hole. The entertainment never ends. (by the way, if you didn't get on the ferry to get over here, I'm really sorry...I saw the lines and they are insane - it's not my fault, obviously, but I still feel really bad for these people...we're barely into the first week without the private ferries and already back to chaos)
Okay, I just got seriously off track (prepare for many train referenced puns. Not really). I meant to write about the fact that to enter this scramble for free train travel, you have to be on Twitter. I've resisted. Until now. And I'd not been 'on Twitter' for more than five seconds when I had a follower. Then another. STOP IT!!!! I only joined because it was required! I'll train twitter if I get in but I won't be twittering. I can't even write that with a serious face. To do that requires a level of sanity or insanity I don't possess. There. Fair warning.

Or maybe you'd rather see a beautiful apple. The veggie guy not only brings us fruit and veg to add to our pantries, we get art as well.

Or a beautiful rooster. This fellow was waiting for me to leave so he could continue to court my egg bearers.
I can barely photo caption in twitter speak! I'm thinking I'll be buying my own train tickets. But I'll keep my twitter self around until I know that I am not one of the the Amtrak poster riders, observing the minutiae and visual largesse being passed through. Does it pass by my window or would my window pass by it? I'm betting on the latter, being the movable object.

Maybe we just need a train on Culebra. Think of the potential! Get rid of half the rental beasts...or more (Bermuda doesn't even allow rental cars. BERMUDA!) and those way too big for Culebra taxis. Take people at a lovely leisurely pace to some key spots on the island that they can return to later on their own. The train will always be breaking down, ensuring a steady employment for many fixers, but no one will be stranded because people can either walk back to where they are staying or someone will come by and give them a ride. Think about it. Thank you, Amtrak, for the inspiration.

In the meantime, we can hold contests guessing on which day the yearly hillside fire will occur. A lottery of sorts. As long as it is only this hillside, por favor. Thanks as ever to our wonderful Bomberos for taking care of business. To the uninitiated, this fire might have looked out of control,  but it wasn't.

From a wisp to a whisper to yes, it's on fire.

Even with only a bare breath of wind, the ashes covered the town and boat decks. A good rain would be very helpful about now. Rain dance, por favor!

Not a good photo, but you can see the backfires that stopped advancement of the flames.
There. I think I've managed to be slightly offensive to Amtrak, the rental car people, the taxi owners and the ferry overseers, a misnomer obviously, but I can't think of a nice word and as George knows way better than I, nice is good. In my own skewed way, I'm trying.

Have a thankful to be tensionless Thursday. Do something tranquil.


  1. Oh, I hope you do apply. As much as I enjoy your Culenra posts it is your travel musings I so look forward to. You share with us your unique perspective and you are very good at "discovering" the little things that might otherwise go unnoticed. Last year I was fortunate enough to do a West Coast road trip and we somewhat followed your footsteps in Northern California / Oregon. What a fantastic time we had! Amtrak would be lucky to have you on board : ) Karen - formerly of Culebra, currently outside of Zion National Park

    1. Hooray, it finally showed up! And thank you much for your kind words (Amtrak, are you listening?). I am so looking forward to a good road trip in the nearer than far-er future out on the West Coast...I've got lots more to explore!