Travel

Trip training run

We were taking our upcoming vacation for a test drive, and the people around us were bemused, amused and laughing at us. A lot.

We, however, were having a blast. We were taking a train trek to nowhere in particular — complete with a pricey little sleeper room — just to see how we liked it, how tiny the room really was and if there’d be enough space for us and our stuff.

Some things you just can’t learn from a brochure or a virtual Web tour.

For instance, would the ladder to the upper bunk make it impossible for 6-foot-tall Husband Richard to get out of the lower one? Would we really want to take a shower over a toilet? Would I get motion sick?

We didn’t want to wait for the answers until we were already on our way to somewhere that’s 27 hours and 900 miles away. So, we dedicated an afternoon toward figuring it all out ahead of time.

Speaking of time, there wasn’t much in this dry-run dress rehearsal, because it took us all the way from Paso Robles to (drum roll, please) San Luis Obispo and back. About 30 miles each way, give or take a few.

From the get-go, the test-trip’s “and back” portion was laced with time-sensitive angst. There was a 23-minute gap between the scheduled arrival time of our southbound “Coast Starlight” train and the scheduled departure of the northbound one that would take us back to Paso and our car.

The operative word, in case you haven’t traveled lately, is “scheduled.”

Unfortunately, our southbound train arrived nearly an hour late, putting our return-trip connection in severe jeopardy before we even left the Paso station.

And then there were our 100-yard dashes.

We’d tried estimating where best to stand to board the late train. We guessed wrong. When the train came to a stop, we were standing about three-quarters of the way back toward the end, where the caboose would have been if trains still had cabeese (that should be the plural).

On the 1,000-foot-long train, our “sleeper” was three cars behind the locomotive, a loooonnnng way away.

Haul it, Kathe. The train’s getting ready to leave and you’ve got baggage to carry.

Luggage? To go from Paso to San Luis? Had we lost our minds?

We’d brought along my briefcase, a camera, a smallish suitcase, a large tote and Husband Richard’s trademark hat, just to make sure they’d fit in the mini-room, and where.

Panting slightly, we finally got to our upstairs “bedroom,” smaller than an apartment bathroom but fortunately bigger than a breadbox. The room is 6-foot-6-inches by 7-foot-6-inches, (minus space for the enclosed toilet, sink and shower).

We began testing spaces and gaps, measuring, photographing and making notes. Our test baggage wedged in OK, but there wouldn’t be much space left over for us. If someone moved even a little bit, that motion inevitably triggered a quick game of bumper-butt musical chairs.

Meanwhile, during our hour-plus ride to San Luis, we also watched scenery through the room’s picture window. It’s amazing how different familiar places appear when you’re looking over the back fence, especially (gulp) the Men’s Colony.

But would we arrive in SLO before the other train left the station, literally?

Our train stopped briefly near Cal Poly, and our Faithful Attendant said, “When we stop here, it usually means we’re waiting for the northbound train to go by. It looks like you won’t make it. I’m sorry.”

Would we? Won’t we?

As we pulled into the SLO station, we saw the northbound train! Yay! It had also been late ... but it was poised to depart at any second.

Faithful Attendant leapt out the door, holding our bags and frantically waving them at her counterpart on the other train. She hollered, “Wait! Don’t leave yet!”

Dash time again. Huff huff, puff puff. We’re getting too old for this.

We raced way down the platform, again, and flung ourselves through the door with barely enough time to find seats and sit in them before the train took off.

But the Two Stooges had pulled it off. Our dress rehearsal was a success. We’d gotten our answers (some of which had nothing to do with a train trip). The train would work out fine. We didn't have to ride the bus back to Paso.

And maybe, just maybe, we are as completely crazy as everybody thought we were.

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