I wish I could declare that train travel was absolutely wonderful, but I’m afraid I can’t do that. Oh, it was dramatically better for me than plane travel, and substantially better than bus travel, but I still found myself wishing I had driven instead. The problems started even before I woke up last Wednesday; when I arose I found an email from Amtrak telling me the train was two hours late. Since I was due to arrive in Chicago at 3:15 PM and speak at 7, this eliminated my time for going to the hotel to check in first. And by the time I arrived at the station it was worse; we departed three and a half hours late. My resourceful student contact at Loyola was not worried, though; she changed the time of the event on the Facebook page to 7:30 and came out to the station herself to meet me. By the time the train finally arrived it was four hours late, and we arrived at the lecture room at 7:45; I began to speak even before removing my cloak and sweater, and fortunately nobody seemed to mind having to wait the extra fifteen minutes. Of course, by the time I got to the hotel at 11 PM I was famished, having had nothing since 6 AM except a handful of Fritos offered to me by a very nice older gentleman on the train who also insisted on helping me with my bags.
My train troubles were just beginning, however. The next morning I took more trains to meet Aspasia Bonasera for brunch, and if the Amtrak had been as punctual and smooth-riding as those Chicago commuter trains I wouldn’t be writing about this. Alas, that was not the case; though I did fine the first day and even wrote tomorrow’s fictional interlude, we kept getting delayed by freight trains and by the time I woke up on Friday we were five and a half hours behind schedule. I’m a very light sleeper, so I was pretty tired, but I had breakfast with some very nice folks and got a lot of writing done while crossing the vast stretches of North Dakota. By dinnertime, though, I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded, and the meal didn’t help; I went to bed straight after dinner and woke up about 11 PM with the sure and certain knowledge that I was going to be sick. The only good thing I can say about it is that, since I’m not afraid of trains as I am of airplanes, I didn’t have the usual panic attacks which invariably accompany airsickness; I was just sick, and reacted with annoyance and frustration rather than the usual little-girl crying and lugubrious moaning which characterize the same condition when experienced at great altitude. I do, however, think that altitude had something to do with my illness; when I got sick we were crossing Montana and climbing toward the Continental Divide (I think), so I’m willing to bet the lower air pressure and oxygen content pushed me over even though I’d made it through Wisconsin and Minnesota without trouble. Another issue was that some fool turned the heat up, and though the roomettes can be made warmer they can’t be made cooler; warm air aggravates motion sickness, so as soon as I woke up sweating and kicking off the blanket I was sunk.
By morning there was nothing left in my stomach, but that didn’t stop my body from trying to expel it several times; I could do nothing but lie still all day, watching the scenery pass. Fortunately, it was exceptionally beautiful; Washington state is lovely, and being able to see where I’m going in daylight goes a long way toward controlling vertigo. When I arrived I was cheered by the lovely sight of my friend Mistress Matisse, there to pick me up; she soon deposited me at the place I’m staying while here, which is mercifully close to the train station. My wonderful hostess, Jae, immediately packed me into bed and set about preparing some homemade soup, and when I awoke later in the evening I had a bowl and rebuilt my strength. The very next night I had a presentation at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture, but we’ll save that for next week’s diary entry along with the rest of my adventures in Seattle!