Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Night 19: Our Travel Luck Returns

When we went to the dining car for our 6:45 reservation, shortly after our train left San Luis Obispo, our mood, particularly Lisa's, was extremely gloomy. In an attempt to try and make it less bad for the people in the coaches, Amtrak staff announced that meals for coach passengers would be complimentary (beverages and desserts were extra).

The talk in the dining car was full of what people would be doing in the way of managing the buses, whether they would put us in hotels, and so forth. We sat with a mother and her child from LA going to visit relatives in Oakland. We tried to talk of things other than the impending Doom of Buses. Explaining as we often have that we had been at the World Science Fiction Convention, I asked the girl whether she had seen Coraline or read The Graveyard Book. At the mention of the latter, she lit up and got animated, saying that she did have the book and was reading it. I explained that the author of that book had been a guest of honor at our convention and that the book had won our field's highest honor to go along with the Newbury Award from earlier this year. I was happy to say what a nice person the author was, too.

We ate our crab cakes and watched passengers board at the train's Salinas stop, feeling sympathy for them having to wait so long to have to ride but one stop before the Dreaded Buses. Because of the comp meals, there was a higher-than-usual demand for food, and the crew had asked us not to tarry. We helped by asking for a couple of ice creams to go. Just as we were getting up to trudge back to our compartment, the conductor made an announcement that changed everything: The latest word from the site of the burned area was that the trestle appeared sufficiently sound to allow our train to pass after all, albeit at reduced speed, and that we would not be forced off the train, into buses, and dumped into Sacramento station for an all-night vigil there waiting for #11.

The passengers in the dining car burst into applause. An echo of cheers came drifting in from the parlor and observation cars ahead of and behind us. Lisa led the cheers, and skipped down the center aisle, singing, "We ain't gonna ride no buses! We ain't gonna ride no buses!" I'm not sure her feet actually touched the ground as we went back to our compartment.

To say Lisa was happy was an understatement. Ever since we first got word of the bridge burn and impending "Substitute Motor Coach Transportation," Lisa had been growing spines and developing a large black cloud over her head. I was concerned. Even Kuma Bear looked worried. Now, while we were three hours behind schedule and apt to get further behind due to the additional delay at the burned bridge, we could spend the delay time in our sleeping car, sleeping, rather than on a stupid bus. Lisa restored some of the emergency re-packing to a more comfortable configuration.

We gave Lisa's father a call to try and let him know that things are much better than originally reported; however, we couldn't raise him – he'd probably gone to bed, so we planned to call him tomorrow.

At King City our train slowed to reduced speed. At first I thought we might be at the Troubled Trestle, but that was reportedly near Watsonville, north of Salinas, and still seventy miles ahead of us. The radio crackled to life: the hold-up was red signals on the King City siding. The train ground to a halt and the engineer radioed Omaha and got "permission to pass the signal displaying Stop indication at King City." This sort of thing seems to happen on the railroad a lot. When a misfiring signal shows red, the dispatcher can allow a train to pass at reduced speed, which means we move slowly enough to stop in time to see another train, other equipment, or a mis-aligned switch, but in no event faster than 20 mph. Given that this section of track has a speed limit of 70 mph under normal conditions, this slows us down quite badly, and there appeared to be several consecutive false-red signals. (Signals are set to fail safe, and operating rules require that defective signals be treated as their most-restricting aspect, just like how a broken traffic light must be treated as an all-way stop.) In light of what we were expecting was going to happen to us at Salinas though, it's small beer indeed. Shortly after 9 PM, after about twenty minutes picking our way along, we finally got a green signal and resumed normal speed at milepost 155.5 – I know because a lineside detector went off just at we started speeding up again.

Lisa was vastly more cheerful knowing that she didn't have to get off the train and get on icky old buses. She happily started up her computer and went back to work building amusement parks in Roller Coaster Tycoon 2.

Leaving Salinas, our engine crew took down a slow order for what apparently was the potentially-damaged bridge. I was rather surprised that the slow order was 25 mph, as I would have expected an even slower speed restriction. We dutifully slowed and picked our way across the bridge in the dark. There wasn't much for us to see from on board the train, and it was nearing 11 PM and time to get to bed as the train neared San Jose.

We were running hours late, but we're happy. Lisa convinced our car attendant to leave us be, and told me not to wake her up tomorrow morning, so if I want to go to breakfast, I have to get up and about quietly. To be honest, the idea of sleeping late appeals to me, too. I turned the alarm clock off and fell asleep shortly after our train cleared Newark Junction, heading for Oakland and points north.
Tags: amtrak, lisa, trains, travel

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