Courtesy of US Airways

Today I am fly­ing to Philadel­phia for a brief week­end vis­it with my par­ents and a cou­ple of my sis­ters. Or rather, I am try­ing to.

Let me pref­ace all of this with a warn­ing so dire, you would be fool­hardy to ignore it: fly not on US Air­ways.

This morn­ing, while I was relax­ing at home, wife safe­ly off to work, chil­dren in her care for the next 54 hours, I got a call. It was a record­ing, and I almost hung up in a reflex honed dur­ing this past elec­toral sea­son.

But just as soon as I had deter­mined that this was not a Real Per­son on the oth­er end, a mul­ti-phon­ic chime of the sort you hear in an air­port told me that while not Real, this was prob­a­bly a call I should lis­ten to. US Air­ways was inform­ing me that my flight had been can­celled. Noth­ing else beyond an 800 num­ber if, IF!, I had any ques­tions. Like, what was I sup­posed to do now?

The young woman on the oth­er end of the 800 num­ber help­ful­ly got me a seat on anoth­er flight leav­ing at 2:30, two hours lat­er than my orig­i­nal, arriv­ing in Philadel­phia at 9:30, five hours lat­er than I was sup­posed to be there, with a stop in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Did I want that flight, she asked help­ful­ly. And I refrained from sug­gest­ing that my oth­er option seemed to be hand­ing her my tick­et mon­ey and stay­ing home.

When I got to the air­port, I was informed that my 2:30 flight was now going to be tak­ing off at 4:00, and that I might have to run in DC. This with a help­ful smile.

In the end, the flight wasn’t so bad once I got off the ground. Rea­gan Nation­al Air­port even man­aged to pro­vide a vanil­la milk­shake in the ter­mi­nal, which can’t be all bad. I sat next to a nice young woman from a com­pa­ny called… Van­gard? Vagrant? I thought I’d remem­ber it, but I’m pret­ty sure it wasn’t Vagrant. And then next to a very seri­ous young man in a suit, who remind­ed me a lit­tle fright­en­ing­ly of Pee Wee Her­man crossed with Tim Roth. He spent the whole flight in zen-crazy mode, hands flat on his thighs, star­ing straight ahead. Though I did catch him nod­ding off a lit­tle.

Riding the rails from Lawrence

When I was a wee boy, grow­ing up in Argenti­na, we used to take the train all the time.  We’d walk to the sta­tion, wait for the train, get on, and go places.  I don’t remem­ber where we’d go, and frankly, I don’t think that was too impor­tant at the time.  I was on a train.

Years lat­er, in Madrid and New York, I’d take the sub­way all sorts of places.  When I came out to the Mid­west, I met peo­ple who had nev­er been on a train, much less com­mut­ed on one.  It was for­eign to me.  And to them, I guess.

But now that I’ve lived here for more than a decade, I real­ize that I’ve been on trains… well, I can count the times on one hand.  More impor­tant­ly, my chil­dren have been on two trains in their lives, nei­ther of which real­ly count.  One was fake Thomas at Thomas the Tank Engine Days in Bald­win, KS.  The oth­er was the light rail in Den­ver, CO.

Last night I found out the Lawrence has a work­ing Amtrak Sta­tion.  It gets vis­it­ed by the South­west Chief (video) twice a day, once on its way to Los Ange­les, and once on its way back to Chica­go.  Even bet­ter, it stops in New­ton, KS, which is a half hour from Wichi­ta, where Grand­ma lives.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, a trip to New­ton would have to start at 12:32 am, arriv­ing at 3:25 am.  And the return trip picks up at 3:01 am, arriv­ing back home at 5:49 am.

Not exact­ly the trip to take a five-year-old on.

Oth­er stops on the way include Chica­go and KC in one direc­tion, and Las Vegas, Flagstaff, and Los Ange­les in the oth­er direc­tion.  It might be a fun trip to make when the boys are old­er, and we can bud­get for a vaca­tion (the trip to Grandma’s would cost $162!).

Or, I could wish real­ly hard for Amtrak to start anoth­er train on a 12 hour off­set from the first.  That’s right, Con­gress, dou­ble Amtrak’s bud­get!  Please?