Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Show "n Tell

What could be worse than a 27-hour return train journey turning into a 40-hour odyssey and then getting lost in Newark Train Station at two o'clock in the morning?  I'll tell you what.  Our glorious week long vacation from our problems in a tropical paradise coming to an end, that's what!

The lid doubles as a step up to the top bunk.
Golden rule: Always close the lid!
Where to start?  First, the train journey.

As you know I ended up having to take a train down the east coast to Miami under orders from Dr Cuteness.  Everybody immediately equates long distance train travel with romance, goodbyes to sweethearts, handkerchiefs waving from the windows, and wires home announcing one's safe arrival (thanks KOB for this vision!).  However any thoughts of romance were quickly dashed when I was confronted with my substitute home for the next 27-hours.  Now don't get me wrong, the sleeping accommodations were perfectly acceptable.  It was just the ablutions setup that I had a problem with. Yes. Right next to my bed.  No division here whatsoever.  I think the dogs have the theory right in this regard.  Never eat or sleep where you....ahem....toilet!  Okay, okay it was still better than the setup in coach.  One toilet for how many passengers?

The trip down went pretty smoothly and I quite enjoyed going to the dining car to take my meals on the plastic Amtrak china, and also reveled in the potluck of table companions one was assigned to.  The two elderly spinster sisters whom I mistook for a pioneering lesbian couple from New Jersey were a delight on the first night.  On the way home I ate breakfast with a heavyset man from Philadelphia who told me how much he enjoyed vacationing in spots that espoused "family values".  I took this as my cue to keep my talk of atheism, pro-choice and women's rights in general to a minimum.

Then the inevitable question.  "So, are you winning your war?" It really was too early in the morning for this and I was honestly confused.  War on what?  My personal war on what is really meant by the phrase "family values?" "You know, your health WAR."  Oh.  Buzzkill alert.  "Because I'm a strong believer in positive attitude and the metaphysical, and I can tell just by looking at your face that you're winning this war.  By the way my friend had IT and he died after only seven months."  Nice.  Oh for the love of all things family values.  Fortunately my sheer physical exhaustion and need to shovel more food into my mouth saved this rather sweet man from having his head bitten off in a bloody attack befitting a scene in the movie, Wolf Creek.   "Excuse me, I need to use the bathroom next to my bed.  Enjoy the rest of your trip sir."

I think I'll summarize my experience of this train journey by divulging some Golden Rules of sleeper car train travel.

Rule #1:  Before attempting to use the toilet next to your bed, check that all curtains are closed and tightly secured.  On BOTH sides.  Don't want to give those folks at West Palm Beach train station a show they didn't pay to see, now do we?

Rule #2:  Unlike Flight Attendants, Sleeping Car Attendants expect to be tipped.  Despite being government employees.  Despite not doing much for you at all the entire 40-hours you were stuck on train.  And despite having the attitude of someone who would do well as an employee of a state-run operation in Cold War-era Siberia.

  • Rule #2A: Sleeping Car Attendants who expected a tip and didn't get one, because passenger was just plain ignorant, should not then belittle passenger to fellow employee, whilst passenger is standing there at two o'clock in the morning.  Such behavior generally results in stern letters being written to management and certainly no tip.

Rule #3:  Don't arrive at Newark Train Station in the dead of night.  But if you do, don't leave that train station without having some compassion for the plight of the homeless and mentally ill in this country.  I literally had to step over bodies in and around that station.  More frightening to me than the people themselves are the policies that seemingly ignore their plight.  Horrifying and disgraceful.

I apologize for the vaccuous segue, but now for the vacation itself, perhaps better described with visual aids:

This is the cafe' across the street where we dined most nights, and were usually serenaded by some kind of live reggae music or cheesy tropical-themed muzak.  

This is where I liked to go and gorge on conch fritters and virgin beverages.  Virgin mojito's don't disappoint by the way.  We were generally joined at some point in our meal by a gimp stork named Hoppy.

This was my "whip" of choice in getting around the whole entire week.  Since I now have a gimp hand, I can't ride an ordinary bicycle and nor could I balance comfortably on a tandem.  The manager at our accommodations rang around to all the local bike places and was able to locate this adult tricycle for me.  I actually received many envious compliments whilst riding it, and this particular night everyone in our party had a go riding around the parking lot, giggling like little children.

This was the beach where Beloved and I spent most of our time reclining on deck chairs and staring out to sea or up at the blue sky through the coconut palms.  Actually this beach is rather famous in that it is the set for many fashion photo shoots and it's also featured as an official screen saver.  That's my MIL in the background.  By the way I sepia-toned this photo to take the glare off my white legs. 

Every night we went to this bar to sit on the porch,  watch the sunset, drink virgin cocktails and muse on why we live in New Jersey.  I like this photo because I don't look like an extra from The Walking Dead.

This photo was taken inside our cottage.  The Florida Keys are under siege from stray cats and our holiday village is no exception.  The cats on this property are well cared for, spayed and available for adoption by guests.  Rosie the cat adopted us for the week as we were staying in HER cottage.  On the last night we relented and let her come inside, where she promptly positioned herself at my head.  We really enjoyed her company and so wanted to bring her home with us, except my naughty little dog hates any species not of his own kind.  Plus I think she's happier roaming free in her tropical paradise so we'll see her next year, same time, same place.

And last but not least, what vacation from cancer would be complete without some reminder?  This one in the liquor aisle at the local supermarket.  Because that's what I really want to do.  Drink pink breast cancer wine from a cat bottle and "support the cause".  Miaow!


In summary, this was the most wonderfully relaxing and lovely time that Beloved and I could have hoped for, and was totally worth the 67-hours in train travel it took to get there. 

We need more weeks like this.


  1. Love it, Rach! You totally rock that trike. I am so glad you had a beautiful vacation. Looking out my window onto a cold gray midwestern day, I have to say I'm jealous.


  2. I'm thrilled that you and Beloved had the most wonderfully relaxing and lovely time you could have hoped for. I found myself smiling and chuckling through this entire post. I really enjoyed the delightful visual aids, especially the ones with you smiling!! It all sounds wonderful, well, except for that 'winning the battle' question and the pink wine bottle and the long trip home. Geeze...Gotta have stuff to 'snark about' though, right? Thanks for the show 'n tell session!

  3. Love the photos, glad you had fun!

  4. Welcome home, Rachel. It all sounds so wonderful. I'm so happy it went well for you. Loved the photos. I've never been to the Florida Keys, but you make a great case for it. Thanks for sharing your adventure!

  5. Wonderful Rach! If you could stick the travel, I'd love to read your reports from, well, everywhere. Do you somehow attract these characters? The pioneering lesbian couple, the 'family values' gent. And of course, you can't go wrong with toilet humour. But loved that it 'doubles as a step to the top bunk'.
    And beyond glad that you had a lovely time in Florida. A holiday that worked out, at last.

    Ronnie xx

  6. So, I am trying to do the math here. Did you actually get to spend more time having the vacation than you spent traveling to and from the vacation? I'm thinking you did, but that it was close.

    Also, thank you for the info on the Sleeper Car Attendants. Good to know for future plans. Did you ever find out what it was they were supposed to have done which might conceivably warrant a tip? I mean, were there little chocolates on your pillow at least?? Probably not, because I know you would have mentioned chocolate. Personally, I might have tipped them to go the hell away & leave me alone. I don't especially like strange people hovering around me when I'm trying to sleep, particularly on trains. Unless they're Johnny Depp maybe.

    I like the trike! A much more practical mode of transport than its two-wheeled cousin for us symmetry-challenged folks.

    I have a theory that cats like to hang around near our heads so they can look us in the eye & remind us that we are not the superior species. Mine also like to sleep on my head. Sort of like a vibrating snood.

    And, yes, I do hope you have many more weeks like that.


  7. virgin Mojitos are my cocktail of choice too - yummy. Glad you got to holiday and relax. Pity about the 'War' comments and less said about pink ribbon cat wine the better

  8. I love it all Rach... thank you for the wonderful travelogue... are you sure you're not related to Bill Bryson?

    So glad you and Beloved had a great break. You sure did need that.

    Best, Sarah

  9. @kk our rental was from Saturday to Saturday. I left on the Thursday and got into Miami on Friday night. Spent the night there and then met hubby at airport on Sat morning. Coming home, I left on Saturday morning and arrived home at 3am on Monday morning. Fortunately I have nothing better to do.

    Considering I didn't even have luggage coming home, the train attendant only had to get my bed down. That was it. He sat in his cubicle for most of the journey with the curtain closed playing on his computer.

  10. What a great vacation! Thanks for sharing the pics and your usual wonderful wit. Loved the leg glare removal. You do need and deserve more weeks like this. Start planning your next one! Great big hug to you and beloved. . .jacks

  11. I am SO glad to see that you enjoyed FL and equally glad you had the good nature to poke fun at the "First Class" arrangements on Amtrak! I didn't want to spoil the wonder of seeing the toilet in the shower until you actually experienced it for yourself!

    Your trip IS on my gratitude list. This just makes me smile-even the dumb pink wine..... because sometimes, we need to just laugh, eye roll and whatever else.... We can all be rebel activists again another day. No sense spoiling a great trip!!!

    Love to you,

  12. So fun reading about your trip and seeing the pictures. Would have given anything to have been sitting at the table next to you while you were having breakfast with the guy from Philly. :D Glad you had a great time and are safely home. As always looking forward to your next post.

    Much love....uvmer

  13. I really enjoyed reading this post, I'm so glad you had such a lovely, relaxing holiday. Loved the trike & looking at the photos too!
    'Boo' at the pink, cat shaped bottle of wine (seems like we can never get away from BC sometimes), what I wanna know is - who the hell would drink that?!

  14. Rachel,

    I loved reading this posting and traveling vicariously through you, although I don't envy the train potty privacy issues. The characters seem like they come straight from a novel. The gentleman who touted the "positive attitude" and "family values" has his head up his derrier.

    The pictures are lovely, and you look like you are having fun!! I'm a cat lover, so it would be hard to resist taking one to add to my kitty collection.

    The pink ribbon kitty wine bottle....well, I don't know what to say about that one!

  15. Yay! Happy to see you had a wonderful time!

  16. Diversions are a necessity — both having them, and reading about them! Thanks for that lovely respite to FL. So glad you got out of dodge and enjoyed your holiday.

    PS That pink BC wine bottle is one for the record books!


  17. Mmmm, conch fritters and pink wine! Glad you had a nice trip. You've earned it!

  18. So glad you had fun! Love all of the pictures


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