I think it was Clark W. Griswold who famously said “I think you’re all f-ed in the head. We’re ten hours from the f-ing fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much f-ing fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I must be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!”
April 2016 brought the Alexander and our cousins the Cappa family on a pilgrimage of sorts. One may call it more of an adventure seeking out some good ole fashion family fun. Here is a bit of how the adventure went….
Nothing quite takes the pleasure out of heading to a vacation like a delayed flight, flat tire or a broken down auto train. You know, kinda like the auto train we just took on our pilgrimage to see a mouse. A 17 hour overnight trip turned into 25 hour trip, and Mommy forgot to pack the cooler with adult beverages. This was a traveling calamity that was simply out of our control. So, we took over the bar car and had rather expensive Amtrak beverages, played the iPod (loudly) and had a dance party. There were charged iPads, iPods, laptops and DSs. There was wifi, and all of the boys and girls were happy people. Maria and I decided to keep our eyes out of the second floor train window and watch as the miles went by. There really is a “behind the scenes” view of America which the train ride exposes. Mostly of the poor folks in America and the amount of over consumption we have grown to not even realize we are doing. Rundown homes and junk yards were all along the route. Elsewhere in the train, people were hunkered down watching films on their laptops, sleeping, and playing catch-up with their kids. Unlike the commuter trains, there was our own private bathroom and shower combo and a place to rest our heads. Daniel was fixated on our bathroom and the fact that you could both use the toilet and take a shower at the same time. Dinner time!
We head to the dining car for our exciting dining experience. We are welcomed to a lovely table set with Amtrak plastic china, a carafe of ice water and unsweetened ice tea. We are so excited for a change of scenery and a nice hot meal. I suppose we have become a bit of the food snob as the short ribs were disappointing on the train. Go figure. I order a half of a bottle of Pino so things were looking up. The nice waitress gave us our dessert options we could choose from sugar free jello, tiramisu, ice cream or cheese cake. Kids all got the ice cream and I just could not decide. “Is the cheesecake Italian?, I asked” She looked puzzled so I explained further. “Is it the one with the ricotta cheese?” Well you would think I asked her if she spoke Cantonese. She stares at me and says its Philadelphia cream cheese. Donald blurts out “What the hell do you think? Nonna is in the belly of the train making Italian cheesecake?” So I got the tiramisu.
Through the night, beside the rhythmic farting of John and Daniel, the rock of the train was a welcoming feeling as we were trying to call it a night. Christian and Donald stayed in a smaller room just down the hall. Daniel was on the top bunk and John and I got to share a full size bed for the night. I don’t think I have ever slept in the same bed as my kids. Not unless they were vomiting or ill with diarrhea as toddlers. Well my little Johnny Boy is now a 185 lb 6’2″ 14 year old and as you know I am certainly far from a small woman. Sharing the bed with him proved to be more than a challenge than I could have ever imagined. Spooning with your son is generally frowned upon so we needed to figure out how we were going to make this work. Johnny decided that it would be best for all parties involved if he just squished as far as he could to the wall and give Mama Bear some sleeping room. We started out great. It was somewhere about when the freight train broke down and the conductor announced that we were stopping for a short time to wait for a new engine that I lost both my patience and my ability to sleep. For three hours, the train did not move and all that was left to do was listen to Daniel’s flatulence, the continuous bathroom breaks my neighbor would take through the night and the sweet sound of multiple strangers snoring. At some point I fell asleep but I have must have rolled over and now was face to face with a 14 year old’s un-brushed teeth. Johnny’s braces must have captured the Amtrak dining contents and some leftover Pringles and popcorn from the afternoon. The aroma was intoxicating in a really bad sort of way. God I love that kid but I am sorry ANY 14 year old, not just mine, needs to brush those suckers a minimum of twice before bed. As I could not sleep I took the opportunity to stare this this once little boy and wonder how I was lucky enough to be his Mother. Danny thought it would be funny to wake us by throwing all sorts of stuff at us from the top bunk. Funny man knew I could not get up there and get him. Breakfast time!
Carbs, carbs and more carbs were on the menu for the breakfast on the now several hours delayed train. Our families met for what was supposed to be a quick meal before we got to Florida but now we were sadly only in North Carolina. After some crumb cake, cereal, bagels and some high sugar drinks we were ready for several more hours on the train. Christian’s sugar intake was at an all time high and would later prove to be difficult to deal with trapped on a train. Our nice waitress served us again and I think at this point was starting to get really sick of us loud inmates. But hey, we had to make the best of it. I decided to ask her if there would be provisions for lunch as we were now not expected to get to our destination until about 3pm. She quickly responded we have cans of beef stew on the train for situations like this. My mind immediately went to a dinty more can and the Hormel logo and I thought this can’t be good. Again Donald looks at me and makes some stupid comment about me being upset about food.
At this point I have several more hours on a train, I am not in the sun and the beef stew for lunch is only going to cause more passenger flatulence and I just wanna get there. The next few hours before our lunch were filled with naps, a family game of heads up and more adult beverages. Along with hours of Christian saying I am not eating beef stew, I don’t eat beef, I wont eat anything on a train from a can. A good time was had by all. Off to lunch we went where we were instructed by cousin Mike that this is like survivor at this point there will be NO WASTED FOOD. All family members are requested to provide any leftovers to the adult table as this was serious now. We were met by our friend the lovely waitress who now has to hear Chrissy. I am not eating this, I will not do this, you cant make me…. So I decide let me play the “my child has dietary needs.” Excuse me lovely waitress that is feeding me meat from a can for $1000 my son is a vegetarian, do you have any other options? She walks away and Chrissy asks the waiter if there are any chicken nuggets leftover from last nights dinner? The man turns to ask lovely waitress lady and she looks at me with daggers in her eyes like I thought the kid was a vegetarian… Well to shut the kid up lovely waitress served Chrissy multiple plates of bread and butter and his little belly was filled. We all enjoyed out beef stew, brown rice and vegetable medley as much as one can enjoy meat in a can on vacation. Cousin Michael ate Christian’s unwanted bowl and there was not one starving family member. Lovely waitress lady and I said our goodbyes and we were almost at our destination.
Our quest for fun was within reach, our pilgrimage to see a mouse was almost here. Ma are we there yet? Yes kids I don’t give a frogs ass how we got here but its 80 degrees and the sun is shining pack your bags we are ready to break out of this train!