Tuesday, May 8, 2012
It’s been referred to with numerous titles, depending on who it is you are talking to: Thelma & Louise on Rails, Amtrak will Never be the Same Trip, Seattle Here We Come, Let it Snow Excursion. “The Great Train Trip” seems to be how the travelers refer to it most of the time.
It began when, in September, 1994, I idly thought that I would like to see snow that winter, and didn’t want to drive in it or fly in it. Then a newspaper advertisement announced an Amtrak special that was too good to pass up. I checked with my two traveling buddies to see if they could go. Lilah was, so the plotting began.
Lilah can be credited with thrashing out a schedule, with the help of a travel agency, that maximized traveling time, and a few days in Seattle, where they have a mutual friend, Hal.
Travel began February 2 from Austin to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited in economy bedroom sleeping compartments. It’s a wonder we didn’t get thrown off the train before we hit El Paso! Overheard humming “Chattanooga Choo Choo” as we boarded at Austin, the sleeping car attendant chimed in with all the words! “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound,” was another appropriate song as we were quite often checking schdules, time zones, and lateness of the train, to determine where we were. Departure at 11:30 p.m. was a mere 2 and a half hours late; most of West Texas slipped by under cover of darkness.
Thursday dawned near Del Rio, Texas. San Antonio newspaper had been slipped under our compartment door, and one could trudge in your jammies to the coffee and juice bar at one end of our car.
A travel game, based on one for children(!), was adapted to keep the travelers alert to objects/scenery outside the train, using Carol’s imagination of what they would see on the trip. 160 items were paired with a line, so a check could be made when that particular thing was sighted. From cactus and roadrunners, beach and surfer, farm animals and silos, to snowstorm, snowplow and ice, interesting things unfolded before their eyes as the miles clickety-clicked under the train wheels.
At night, the car attendant would make down the beds in the sleeping compartments whenever you were ready for it, and made them up into daytime seating while you were at breakfast the next morning. Toilets and showers were located on the lower level of sleeping car, so they were very handy.
Meals in the dining car were included with the sleeping compartments. Travelers were seated to fill tables, so visiting and getting acquainted with new people was part of the charm. Passengers quickly adapted to the “siding technique” of traversing busy, narrow aisles!
We did get in trouble with one of the crew we dubbed “The Slipper Police” when we were caught going from car to car with only our Isotoner slippers on. Seems hard soled shoes were required, to ensure the sliding parts of the area between trains didn’t catch one’s soft slippers.
We crossed into New Mexico about Happy Hour. Two time zones had been crossed so evening came quickly. The Snack Bar in the lounge car had sandwiches, pizza, yogurt, danish rolls, etc., along with all sorts of drinks. One volatile alcoholic concoction was called “Censored on the Beach.” Good thing we weren’t driving.
Continental breakfast was served to bedrooms Friday morning, as the Dining Car did not have time to open before arrival at Los Angeles. Chilly rain was falling at the beautiful art deco station. Boarded the Coast Starlight, coach seating, and headed north. Beautiful coastal scenery for a good part of the day, followed by the rolling hills and valleys of Northern California.
Travelers opened their eyes Saturday to a spectacular snowscape crowned by a crescent moon, near the Oregon line. Breathtaking scenery all day; tunnels, mountains, valleys, snow! A covered bridge in Oregon was a delightful sight. Had to wait for drawbridge to lower in Portland, Oregon. Arrived in Seattle only 30 minutes late, friend Hal zooming up on his cart as we stepped from the train.
Next three and a half days were spent visiting Hal, sightseeing Seattle area, visiting Pike Place market, broiling fresh salmon, stopping at espresso stands every day for afternoon coffee fix, and making up to Hal’s two cats. After a rare snowfall, the sun came out, and an even more rare event occurred--it was clear enough to see Mt. Ranier. It is often obscured by clouds, even if it’s clear in Renton/Seattle.
Hal treated us to a day trip up to Stevens Pass, a ski resort with very frigid temperatures and ice and snow crunching underfoot. It was a vivid contrast with the relatively moderate weather in Seattle.
On Wednesday, Feb. 9, the trip hit the rails again at 4 p.m. on the Empire Builder, economy bedroom once more. Climbed through Eastern Washington; scrap of Idaho, and Western Montana mountains in what appeared to be a downright blizzard, from what we could see in the darkness, as lights from the train illuminated a bit of the scenery.
Thursday arrived near Whitefish, Montana, with frozen snowy rivers, snow-covered trees and landscape. “Great Falls Tribune” was delivered by our car steward Erwin. Only a few steps to fresh-brewed coffee and orange juice, nearly the best part of the trip. Looking out the window at folks waiting at the station to pick up passengers was startling--they were bundled up so much they resembled rotund penguins.
First of several frozen water and sewer line episodes occurred around Cut Bank, Montana. When this happened, the train would stop, and crews would crawl under the train and thaw out the lines with heat blowers. The process would take 2 to 2 and a half hours each time. Travelers only had to sit back, warm and comfy, and the snack bar was always open. If meals were delayed, they were made available as soon as possible, no matter how late the hour.
Very cold across the top of the nation; lots of snowed-in little towns with high banks of snow along streets, driveways, and walks. Ice-covered rivers, lakes, sometimes the only indication it was a waterway was navigational markers sticking up through the ice and snow. Our car steward was a font of information on all things about the train, weather, and scenery, always ready to answer our queries. He reported the strange looking structures dotting a large lake were ice-fishing cabins.
St. Paul, Minnesota was approaching by Friday morning breakfast--sewer lines frozen again. Car attendant reported minus 20 degrees. “USA Today” was the newspaper of the day. A bald eagle was spotted flying alongside the train near Red Wing, Minnesota.
Arriving in Chicago two hours late, we were nervous about missing our connection on the Texas Eagle, but were reassured that late trains were a constant, and connecting trains would wait. What a concept! Trudging to the station, we had time to notice the condition of the outside of the train we had just arrived on--dirty snow and ice encrusted, dirt and debris all over, with icicles hanging everywhere! It certainly looked like it had had a rough road across the frozen north.
We had not even cleared Chicago on the Texas Eagle when equipment problems stalled us out. We were in coach seating this leg of the trip (just one night) and were in the last car on the train. Turned out the problem was with the car just in front of us. Only solution? They had to get rid of that car. How to do that? They moved everyone from that car to other cars for the time being; unhooked from our car, and chugged away to a place where they could leave it, and come back for us.
Think about this for a bit. From what we could see out the windows, we were in a distinctly bad-looking part of Chicago. One train car, alone. I queried our car attendant: “This car DOES lock securely?” He assured us it did, and that he was in radio contact with the rest of our train, and could call authorities if we had any trouble. It was a tense couple of hours before we saw our train chug-chugging backwards toward us, to hook up again and get on our way.
We awoke Saturday in a foggy national forest near Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Train really rocked and rolled all day as they tried to make up time. Arrived very late at Austin, 2:30 a.m., Sunday morning. Friends were nevertheless waiting to whisk we travelers home. Lilah had more travel Sunday, flying on home to Reedville, Virginia..
Consensus of opinion was that it IS the way to see the country--just don’t expect to get anywhere very fast! Several delightful observations I had not expected--since we were not following highways for the most part, we saw scenery we would not otherwise see; and there was not the roadside trash common along highways. No worrying about flat tires, traffic, stress of negotiating city freeways, or strain of driving long hours. One’s entire attention could be focused on the passing scenery. I hope to take more excursions on Amtrak.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Several years ago, after I purchased my mobile home on Baltimore Ave., I contracted with a local young man, looking for work, to do a roof renew with that tar process. This was after I got a price from him for the job, which I decided I could manage on my limited income. It was in the summer, so it was a beastly job, up there in the sun and heat! He took lots of breaks in the shade; I provided lots of water.
He finished after several days, and I wrote out a check for the amount he had told me. He refused it, and quoted an amount that was 3 times what he had said before. Unfortunately, I had not gotten it in writing, but I stood my ground, saying I wouldn’t have had the work done for this price, because I didn’t have that much money.
Right before my eyes, this friendly, nice young man trying to support his family turned into an ugly, scary hoodlum, yelling, screaming really, threatening he would be back the next day with his friends to tear off the roof he had just put on, and that I “needed to watch my back!”
I was shocked to my core, extremely shaken. I’d not often been yelled at to my face (except by my ex-husband!), with what very much sounded like threats of physical damage. Thought a bit. I’d only been in Seadrift about 4 years, but I’d garnered a goodly number of fans, with my newsletter “Livin’ on the Bay,” and had immersed myself into county activities, as well as volunteering at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Sat down to my computer and fired off emails to every contact I had in the area: mayors of Seadrift, and Port Lavaca, and county commissioners that I’d worked with on community projects, realtors, advertisers in “Livin’ on the Bay,” Seadrift police, Calhoun County deputy that had been very helpful with a neighborhood dog abuse situation, community leaders in Port O’Connor I’d come to know, numerous friends. Got on the phone to those that didn’t do email. Explained the threat to me personally, and recommended no one else fall for that friendly “nice guy” image if he came around looking for work. At the very least, get things in writing!
I even took the initiative, and, accompanied by the best friends couple I followed to Seadrift, began driving around town, looking for my threatener
Well. I was amazingly rewarded with the response. My friends and fans charged to the forefront; I could scarcely make a move without stumbling over protectors in every direction! Several guys took turns staking out my house to be sure the hoodlum did not try to make good on his threat to tear off the new roof. Didn’t really think he would actually try to do that, but feared he would do damage of some sort.
Needless to say, never saw the guy again. However, after several weeks I did get an interesting tidbit relayed to me by a realtor friend. She said this guy with his wife came in to her office, inquiring about a house for sale he’d spotted. Hearing the price, he ranted that price was ridiculous, he needed someplace for his family, and Seadrift really needed to give him a deal.
My realtor friend calmly told him, “If you want a deal in Seadrift, you shouldn’t mess with CJ.”
I heard later he had moved out of town, because he couldn’t get work. Well darn.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
So, after a flurry of a first week, I've settled down into a more manageable schedule this week. The waxing moon, and then the full moon this week, spurred me to activity concerning getting my house back in order. The front bedroom had become a "staging area" for Christmas decorations and anything else I didn't know what to do with at the moment. One just about had to back out if one got in there. I'm happy to report that I've made tremendous progress! The trash pickup folks probably think I'm moving, I've packed so much into the garbage can.
Lions Club is tonight. I'm taking baked mozzarella bires and cream cheese wontons for my contribution to our potluck-style repast before we get down to business. Visitors are welcome to join us! We meet at 6:30 p.m. on the 2nd & 4th Thursdays, at First National Bank, Seadrift.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
My friend Alan Cantrell will be performing with Kitt Elliott and Jeff Inman!
Friday, September 30, 2011
Everyone asks: What am I going to do now? The all-important question. The answer was usually a variation of "I'm going to concentrate on my bucket list!" You know, the list of things you want to do and get done while you're still here. High in the list is publishing another book, which entails getting out and about locally and road trips not so locally, to take photos and get inspiration for more stories for said book. More immediately, I wanted to get regular with posting on this blog, and getting it promoted so folks will see it and read, and perhaps get some guidance for their own life.
I had thought of trying to find a website where I could create an online version of the newsletter I published for 11 years, "Livin' on the Bay." I'm still searching for such. I may have to clear some cobwebs out of the head before I can grasp the processes, which is not to say I can't do it.
More frequent and longer visits to my family and friends in Kansas is also high on the list. Then there are friends in Seattle, Washington, Alamagordo, NM, Oklahoma, as well as Texas, that I want to spend time with. I'm sure if I study on it, I can figure out how to do it, financially as well as physically.
Have you sat down and made a list of things you would like to accomplish? Actually made a list? I discovered years ago how it important it was to do that. And if you can put some projected date on it, it helps also. You may not get everything done, or by the specified time, but I guarantee you will get more finished than if you had not made the list! It's positively weird how it works. A favorite quote from somewhere went something like this: Make goals! You may not achieve all of them, but you'll get more done than if you had not made the goal.
Another quote I've always liked: "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else."--Yogi Berra. This resonates with me for sure. I think about road trips I've taken. If you want to get some particular place, you have to have a map or instructions about how to get there. You have to know where you are going. If you're just rambling around, sight-seeing, it's not so important to know the end destination, but I've never thought that was a good ploy for life.
Here are additional quotes that have helped me think more clearly about what I wanted to achieve, what I wanted to BE, in my life:
"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." - Zig Zigler
"You don't get to choose how you're going to die, or when. You can decide how you're going to live now." - Joan Baez
"Picture yourself vividly as winning and that alone will contribute immeasurably to success. Great living starts with a picture, held in your imagination, of what you would like to do or be." - Harry Emerson Fosdick.
In the above quote is the essence of visualization I learned about years ago. The trick is to make your subconscious believe what you wish to be or achieve. If your subconscious believes you live by the sea with palm trees, that must become the reality. You most likely will not realize at the time that what is happening is guiding you to that goal!
Living by the sea with palm trees was my desire all those years ago when, as a divorced lady working for a living, I decided to try out the visualization thing. There was absolutely no way, I thought, that I would ever be able to afford living by "big water." But what the heck, it certainly did not hurt to try out the technique. As instructed, every day when I got up, I would look in the bathroom mirror (plastered with photos & depictions of palm trees, as were the fridge, my cubicle at work, in the car) and say with emotion and conviction, "I live by the sea with palm trees." Co-workers kidded me about my obsession with palm trees! They gave me presents of mugs, suncatchers, and so on, with palm trees. Little did they know they were adding to the fuel!
Along those 15 or so years, things happened that, at the time, seemed to not be good, such as a repossessed mobile home. A murder in front of the apartment I lived in. Being attacked as I was returning to my home in the country from the night shift. Looking back, I can see how these and other events steered me in directions that ultimately paved the way, 13 years ago, to retire from 29 years as a typesetter and move to Seadrift, Texas with life-long friends. As most of you know, I now live two blocks from San Antonio Bay, with two gigantic palm trees in my front yard.
Of course all this is triggered by retiring, once again, and the need to plot my course is upon me. I took up a series of part-time jobs to pay for a home with a four-year mortgage (only in Seadrift!) which led to the position at the Seadrift Library. It's been a rewarding eight and a half years, but time to concentrate on other things. I sincerely hope I've got you thinking about your own course of life! Let's get together and share ideas, and support each other in whatever it is we decide to do. That's the pertinent phrase: WE DECIDE! See you around. CJ
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The four years at the Art Department were certainly a ride. In addition to dealing with everything required by the charismatic Head of the Art Department (from his correspondence, monitoring his schedule, to promotion and arranging shipment of his art shows), I supervised all manner of correspondence, schedules and reports for 12 faculty members, all creative creatures requiring various sorts of handling. On-campus paper work could be done by student interns, but anything going off-campus was to be done by me. After four years at this high-maintenance job, I discovered the "cap" to my Clerk-Typist I salary was an astonishing half of what it was for Printer! I visited the printing department to see what they did for so much money, and discovered it was primarily typing. Since I have typed like the wind since high school, I campaigned to transfer. The personnel director tried everything he could to keep me from doing so--said he had never had anyone score 100 on the Clerk-Typist test before! I persevered, however, telling him, "But it doesn't pay!" Thus I became a typesetter, which was my career for the next 29 years.
When I retired at 64 in November, 1998, from G&S Typesetters in Austin after 23 years, and moved to Seadrift, I spent the whole of 1999 actually "retired," struggling a bit with the concept that my time was my own. It was an adjustment for sure, as I had the disquieting feeling that surely vacation was over, and I should be returning to the job!
In 2000, I worked 6 months with the Census. In 2001 and 2002 I held down a couple of part time jobs (not enough money, not much work) followed by 9 months co-managing a Port O'Connor motel (good money, too much work!). When the bloom was off the rose with that last job, it coincided with the Seadrift librarian being ready to retire, and the job at the library was, as Goldilocks says, just right.
Now, after eight years and 6 months as librarian, manager and chief cook and bottle-washer at the Seadrift library, it's time to put finita to what is surely my last stint as an employee. I fully intend to pursue my writing in numerous online venues. I've neglected my photography in the last couple of years also; road trips around Texas will get my camera in high gear once again. I will be able to make more trips to Yoakum to visit my friend in the nursing home. I look forward to longer visits to Kansas and family, and my own version of Sleepless in Seattle will be enabled.
At 76, nostalgia is, of course, a big part of my days. So much to look back on and relive, MOST of it positive and rewarding. A movie I watched on TV recently had our heroine musing at the end: "You can't go back to who you were before what happens to you." It's true. You either grow stronger, wiser, OR you spiral off into disaster. What makes the difference? If I knew that, I'd be the author of a best-selling book and rich to boot. The trick is, of course, to not let the spiraling off into disaster happen. I don't know how I escaped it myself.
Most of my trials, some of which involved life-threatening events, left me mad as hell and I wasn't going to take it any more! (again?) Wherever I worked and lived, I always developed a network of loyal, supportive friends, that leapt unfailingly and unflinchingly to my defense and aid whenever needed. If one does not have that, I'm not sure how one would cope.
Now, with this new era of my life beginning the first day of October, 2011, I'll just gear down a tad, and see what mischief I can get myself into, without the structure of a job to rein me in. Look out, World!
CJ, who's still Livin' on the Bay
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I wonder where I would be today if I had married the Farmer from my hometown, instead of the Big City Boy from the next metropolis? Seventeen years later when I was divorcing the Big City Boy and leaving Kansas, what if I had taken the office management job in Oklahoma City instead of the typesetting one in Austin, Texas? What if I had stayed with the husband and pursued a career in professional bowling? (Right: Champion Bowler in the white skirt) Did life with the husband who told me "you can't do that" on uncountable occasions during those 17 years play a large part in my becoming the determined woman that is seemingly unstoppable when I put my mind to something?
Of course, we'll never know what the difference would have been. All those choices were made with my best judgment at the time and I have to think they were the correct ones.
I see now I was competitive from high school days on, as top honors in typing contests and typing class grades went back and forth between myself and another fast typist. The fact that in grade school she used to kick me on the shins in the girls' bathroom had nothing to do with the desire to best her. Right.
Secretarial and executive assistant jobs eventually led me to typesetting, as it paid about double for basically the same skills. During the 30 years in typesetting, my creativity expressed itself in various ways. I attempted to organize the union at one shop. The boss found us out just as we were on the brink of getting everyone signed up, so some employees backed off, and I had to move on to another company. That resulted in 23 years at G&S Typesetters in Austin, Texas, where I was assured there would be no need for my union organizing skills (and there wasn’t). Along with the enjoyment of gaining skills and learning new technology, the years at G&S provided life-long friends.
Retirement in 1998 was a revelation in several aspects, in particular as it impacted my creativity. I’d always thought of myself as a creative person, in problem-solving on the job as well as my personal life, where I created calendars and greeting cards using my photographs, and a nifty 4-page Christmas greeting I’m still proud of. What I hadn’t expected, once the career was behind me, and my entire time was my own, was the explosion in artistic and imaginative projects! The head was freed up to write more and more, being inspired by scenery, birds, and wildlife on my travels, people and events I encountered. Even though I’ve added in some part-time jobs to facilitate home and auto purchases, the stress is gone and in its place is a contentment and enjoyment of life in my little coastal town.
I had thought that moving to the “end of the road” would mean not much going on, but that would be OK, as there were also no freeways, traffic, or bothersome hustle and bustle. To my amazement I discovered that within a mere 50-mile-radius, there was an abundance of museums, small-town fairs, celebrations, market days, musical venues, and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. With Houston 140 miles one way and Rockport and Corpus Christi 50 and 80 miles the other, big city shopping and activities were easily available as well.
I noticed there was no one publication that attempted to promote all this, certainly nothing at all for this endearing shrimping village. Thus was born an 8-page monthly newsletter, “Livin’ on the Bay,” that I started in 2000. "A Coffee Chat with CJ" is my personal column, and seems to be everyone's favorite part. I have great fun with this project, it remains totally my forum, and is well received. I’ve taken a (hopefully) brief respite from publication, to get myself through some personal challenges. I’m hoping this blog will keep my fans supplied for their “CJ fix” for the time being.
I have posted my stories and reminiscences on http://www.ourecho.com/, a website created by Scott Lupo, specifically for such, to preserve the past for future generations. When asked to submit a piece for the “In The Spotlight,” this was my submission. Mr. Lupo introduced me thus: “Carol J. Garriott often delights OurEcho readers with stories and essays that speak to her love of the water. Please check out her ‘In The Spotlight’ piece to know her better.’