Princess Muse

Monday, October 24, 2011

Musings on Vacation and the Auto Train

Did ya miss me?

Sorry I've been away for so long.... work has been a little hectic, and then I went on vacation.  And where does a Muse vacation?  Well, I suppose most would go to Greece, but this one goes to LegoLand and Disney World in Florida.

We took the Auto Train this time, instead of me driving down to Florida.  I still didn’t get much sleep (we were right in front of the Lounge Car, so anytime anyone went into it, the noise tended to wake me up.  On our way back, I think I’ll make sure I take a sleep aid and see if that makes a difference--yes it did!), but I also didn’t have to worry about crazy drivers.

It’s about a 16 ½ hour trip from Lorton, VA (where we could load our minivan onto the AutoTrain) to Sanford, Fl (about 15-20 minutes outside of Orlando).  They make a short stop in Florence, SC to refuel and change crew.  (When we drive, Florence is our traditional stopping point to have dinner and spend the night.)
The Lorton, Va station
On the train to Sanford, Fl., there were about 490 persons on our train, with 250 vehicles.  We had 42 cars total (16 passenger and 26 car carriers).  On our way back to Lorton, there were 212 passengers, with 107 vehicles.  We had 44 cars total (15 passengers and 28 car carriers).
The Sanford, Fl. station
We passed through Richmond and Petersburg, VA, but not Colonial Heights. 
The James River

Sadly, the AutoTrain serves Pepsi, not Coke.  Note to self:  buy a six pack of Coke to have on the way back!
Missy’s Top 10 Reasons Why the Auto Train is Better Than the Airlines….
Auto Carrier
  1. I only have to be there an hour ahead of departure time (unless your car is oversized, in which case, it’s still the two hours ahead).
  2. Free wifi in the stations.  And it was easy to get to sign on.  I’ve been to a few airports that promised “free wifi,” but getting to the “acceptance” page was hard.  No wifi  on the trains, but that’s okay.
  3.   NO TSA.  No patdowns, no metal detectors, no taking off your shoes.
  4.  Legroom!  With my derriere all the way back against the seat, I could barely put my feet on the foot rest--and I’m 5’7”.  Even if the person in front of me reclines their seat as far back as it will go, there’s still plenty of room for me.
Look at all the legroom my husband has!
     5.  You don’t have to unplug your electronic devices during departure.  No sensitive electronics to potentially mess up.
     6.   You can move around the whole time and there are no seat belts.
    7.  Free coffee, tea and water.
    8.  Dining cars.  You have a choice of meals (Salisbury Steak, Savory Chicken or Vegetable Lasagna), free table wine (with refills), and a choice of dessert.  The food was pretty good, with a decent portion size.
    9.  Power outlets.  We had two by our seats.  I didn’t have to worry about my electronic device running out of juice.
    10.  Sleeper cars.  We didn’t take advantage of this (I think it costs $50/person extra), but I love that they’re available.  Husband of one my fellow passengers had one (he has a bad back) and said it was pretty comfortable.

Our trip back wasn't as smooth as our trip down.  There was an electrical problem (I think it was just a faulty sensor), but it took a while to figure out what exactly the problem was.  Then, on the overnight portion, there were a couple of trains ahead of us that had mechanical problems.  Instead of getting into Lorton around 9 am, it was about 12:15 pm.  Then it was almost an hour to get our car off the carrier.  Even with these problems, I still would rather take the train than fly.

Well, I have to finish my musings on all the aMusements I had last week....tomorrow:  LegoLand Florida!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Musings on Not Feeling Well

I haven't been feeling very well lately.... more than a simple cold, less than the flu.

I don't like not feeling well.  Last week it was all elevated temperatures, chills, aches and pains, the dry tickle and cough, and, of course, the never-goes-away headache.  This week,  it's the frog-in-the-throat cough (please, don't make me laugh, because that'll bring on the cough) and feeling run down, with the headaches tossed in because the coughs make my brain rattle around.

I'm not a good patient.  That is to say, I don't rest and take it easy like I should.  Mostly, that's my personality--De Nile ain't just a river in Egypt, hon, but it's also because I'm a sub.  Yes, if I were truly sick (meaning that I really couldn't get out of bed without falling down), I would cancel my job and ask for a sub--but that sounds a little silly, to me.

I also tend to be melodramatic.  Not to the point of "O Woe Is Me.  I Have A Hangnail and Now I Will Die!" drama, but not too far off.  I think it's because I don't want to slow down, but I want you to understand that I'm only able to function through Sheer Will Power and Stubbornness.  I am a convoluted person.

When I was in grad school, I somehow contracted mono.  When the doctor told me what I had and that I needed to slow down, I remember looking at him and saying, "But I can't miss school and I'm doing an internship.  There is no slow down."  He looked back at me and said, "You better find a slow down, or you won't be able to do anything."  We agreed that I could go to class and do my internship (luckily, it was just one day a week), as long as I rested the rest of the time.  Of course, we never defined "rest," so I was able to make it up as I went along.

Luckily, I don't get sick very often.  Even when I do get sick, it doesn't seem to affect me as much as others.  When we were kids, my brother complained of the sore throat and ear ache.  Mom took us down to the Dispensary (military walk-in clinic).  They tested my brother for strep and it came back positive, so they needed to test me.  Turns out I had a worse case of it, but I felt fine.  Go figure.  Boy, was I mad at my brother for making me sick!

Anyway, I hope I get over this whatever-it-is.  I've got new aMusements to enjoy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Musings on History and Current Events

I'm 46 years old, by the calendar, but inside, I feel more like a 20-something.  Sometimes, it's hard to remember that I'm older than a lot of my friends (thanks to the fact that I had children a little later than most people), since a lot of the people I hang out with are the parents of my children's schoolmates.  It's pretty funny sometimes, because I'll mention something that happened when I was in high school or college and they'll look at me funny and say something like, "Oh, I was 10 when that happened."

Being a Social Scientist by degree, with a strong interest in History, I'm aware of the Speed of Time.  As Einstein noted, Time is Relative.  What is Current History for me (i.e., the Cuban Missile Crisis--happened a few years before I was born, but close enough to my lifetime that it's still a Current Event), will appear like Ancient History to my boys.

So, here are a few more Current Events (for me) that will be Old News to them:

The Cold War (roughly 1946- 1991)
  Okay, a lot of things happened here long before I was born, but, let's face it,  the Cold War shaped a lot of the influences in my life:  The Apollo Program, the Vietnam War, my living in Germany (heck, my parents even meeting was influenced by the Cold War--my Mom was a teacher from Nebraska teaching at the DODSEUR (I think it stand for Dept of Defense Schools-Europe) in Baumholder and my Dad was an Army Officer from Florida and was stationed there.)  The Cold War was why I got to live in West Germany for three years.  I even wrote a paper for a job application predicting the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Apollo Space Program (1961-1975)
  Started before my time, but the manned flights started when I was about 2 or 3 (depends on if you count the launch rehearsal fire that killed Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee as being a manned "flight" or not.)  We used to watch all the television coverage.  I can remember chanting along with the television during the Countdown to Ignition and Liftoff.

The Vietnam War (November 1, 1955 to April 30, 1975)
  The War was half over by the time I was born, but combat units weren't truly deployed until 1965.  Obviously, as an Army Brat, I was very aware of the War, but as a kid, I wasn't really sure what was happening, just that my Daddy wasn't home.  I'm not sure I really knew where my dad was the first time he was deployed to Vietnam, but I remember waving to every plane I saw flying overhead.

Watergate and Nixon Resigns (June 17, 1972 and August 9, 1974)
  I remember Nixon's Resignation a little better than the actual scandal, because my mom called me and my friends in from playing so we could watch Nixon leaving the White House for the last time.

The Assassination of Aldo Moro (May 9, 1978)
  Okay, not an assassination that means a lot to most Americans, but I remember it because I went to Italy a few weeks after this happened.  My friend Amy and I practiced our "commando" moves just in case the Red Brigade decided to take over our tour bus.  Not likely to happen, but with American military personnel and their families on the tour, not entirely out of the realm of likeliness.  Aldo Moro was the Italian Premiere who was kidnapped by the Red Brigade (an Italian terrorist group) and killed.

The Space Shuttle Program (1981-2011)
  I'm using the dates that NASA sent the Space Shuttles into orbit.  The Enterprise was a test shuttle (a fact that I suspect most Trekkies are a little bitter about--I mean, really.  Name the Shuttle after a TV space ship but never use it in a mission?  C'mon!)  The Columbia first went into orbit on April 12, 1981.
   The Challenger Disaster, on January 28, 1986, I remember very well.  I was at FSU, walking between classes, when I heard a loud explosion.  I looked up and could see the aftereffects of the explosion.  I dashed into Suwannee Arcade (where the Administrative Offices were) and asked one of the secretaries if they knew what that explosion was.  She turned to me and said, "The Shuttle just blew up."  I was shocked.  It was also my friend Sheridan's birthday.  He was in French class at the time, but about to get out, so I ran over to tell him what had happened.  Not a happy birthday for him.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989)
  The late 1980's saw the beginning of the End of the Cold War.  The people of many Eastern Bloc countries, such as Hungary, and Poland, were demanding more freedoms and economic opportunities.  In October, 1989, I was applying for a job with a government agency and had to write a paper analyzing a current event and make a prediction, based on reports, of what would be happening in the near future.  East Germany had just opened the border between it and West Germany.  As I read reports of how many East Germans were crossing over into West Germany, I wrote in my paper that I thought East and West Germany would have to reunite.  A few weeks later, the Berlin Wall fell.

The Columbine Massacre (April 20, 1999)
  I was teaching 7th grade at this point.  Mostly, I remember teachers and administrators wondering how we A) talk about this with our students, and B) how we make sure this couldn't happen at our school.  I remember my students being worried about it happening at our school.

9/11 (Ummm...yeah, 9/11/01)
  I was at home with my Older (at the time Only) Son.  I was just getting us ready to go to the store  when the channel was accidentally changed from PBS to ABC.  At the time, the first plane had just hit the first of the Twin Towers.  I thought (as many probably did at first) that this was a tragic accident, that somehow the plane had malfunctioned and the pilot flew into the Tower.  Then, it happened again.  When the plane hit the Pentagon, I was in such shock.  I called my mom, hoping that we didn't know anyone stationed at the Pentagon. (We didn't.)

The Iraq/Afghanistan War (March 19, 2003 to Present Day)
So many things.  So many conflicting emotions.  I think I'm going to have to let this one sit for awhile and let History sort it out.

The Election of Barack Obama (November, 2008)
  No matter how History treats the Presidency of Mr. Obama, I just remember how proud I was that an African-American could be elected president based on his Ideals.  I really thought I'd be so much older (or even dead) before this would happen.

Well, all this heavy thinking has given me a headache (okay, I already had a headache, but still....).  Time to go aMuse myself.