July 3, 2010

Adventures on Trains

I have now spent nearly twenty-four hours of this week on (various) trains.

Tuesday, I got up early to take two trains to Chicago.  The Missouri River Runner* got me to STL, where I got to switch trains and stretch, and walk around Union Station for a bit in a two-hour layover.  The Lincoln service took me up to Chicago, and after thirteen hours of traveling I finally was done with being on trains.  CB, her dad, and IO picked me up and we went back to CB's house.

Then, it was s'mores!  C's dad made a fire in this weird, grate-tent fire pit thing on their patio and we roasted CB's homemade marshmallows (because she's that cool.  She makes her own marshmallows.  The peppermint ones are awesome in hot chocolate!).  We also drank cherry wine and threw things like grapes and cherry pits and pennies into the fire.  "We're doing science!"

We all slept in, IO and I sharing the guest bed, which was ocean-sized. (I mean, king sized.  There would have been room for at least an army of other people in that bed!)  We took the commuter train into the city and wandered around Lincoln Park.  CB had found a cute cupcake shop she wanted to go to, so we went and had outrageous cupcakes (peach cobbler; some kind of peanut butter-chocolate contraption; chocolate mint).  Our next destination was a tropical flower exhibit but on the way, we were sidetracked by "Pocket Puppies Boutique," a store that not only sold adorably tiny dog outfits but also adorably tiny puppies.  We sat and held a yorkie puppy for about twenty minutes before we knew we had to leave, or we would be lost causes.

CB's dad cooked us an amazing dinner, grilled scallions and asparagus, salmon and this delicious mushroom appetizer:

1) grill 1 to 1 1/2 in. slices of bread.  Also grill several types of mushrooms, like oyster, shiitake, and portobello, lightly oiled and salt-and-peppered.

2) lightly scrub a raw clove of garlic onto the bread.  Brush with oil.  Top with mushrooms of your choice.  Consume as much as desired.

Then, we girls went to see Eclipse.  This was terrible.  Actually, no, it wasn't.  What was terrible was that we all had the intention of going in to make scathing remarks at the corniness of it all (the way we enjoyed the first two).  But this one was different, they've switched directors and it actually was believable (all but two or three scenes, which is pretty good for Twilight!).  I think CB and IO remained a little more skeptical, but I have to be honest and admit that I was grinning absurdly with delight for most of the movie.

Thursday, we ventured into the city by car to have brunch.  RB joined us after getting her fingerprints taken at a gun shop, all part of her pre-UIC enrollment chores.  We wandered around and went to this used-book store where the books went floor to ceiling and the aisles were so close you couldn't really pass someone, you just had to move around like those little tiled puzzles where one's missing and you have to unscramble it into a picture.  I found a book of argot (French slang) and dirty words called "Merde!" that had to come home with me.  CB found a book from the late 1890s called The Sky Pilot, complete with an inscription "to uncle Kurt, wishing him a Merry Christmas from , 1905."

Then it was a parting of the ways, as RB went one direction and the rest of us went to Union Station.  IO and I caught the train back to STL but not before I sent a postcard and we had smoothies.

The train to STL was by far the best leg of the trip.  We each made up a tiny scavenger hunt for the other and took turns going up and down the train, surreptitiously studying people's shoes and luggage for specific items. The conductor called one of the passengers down to give her some message; her name was Summer Violet.  We thought it might have been a joke, but she was a real person.  We were inspired to write a story about her on the nice, almost-cottony snack-car napkin and we left it in the seat pouch for someone else to find.

In STL, we took the metro to the CWE and I got to see IO's apartment.  Verdict: really cute! and conveniently located.  We put our luggage down and walked to Schnucks, even though it was almost midnight, for provisions.  IO had literally been out of the country for the last three weeks, so there wasn't much to eat if we didn't go to get something.  We got some basics but especially some ramen noodles, a late night staple.

In the morning, we slept in and then went to lunch at India's Rasoi (soooooooo delicious), then just digested back at her apartment while we watched Bones episodes, our favorite pasttime.  She took the metro with me to the Amtrak station and waited til I boarded.

The River Runner back to KC was awful.  Not inherently, but by virtue of being hours 18-24 of my week that were being spent on a train.  I couldn't get comfortable; there were tiny kids having high-pitched conversations that, while cute, also involved kicking my seat almost continuously.  I ended up giving up my book for a book-on-podcast while I knit, which was soothing (as something to do) and mind-consuming at the same time.

The requisite embarrassing episode was when I stood up to get my knitting from my bag overhead.  I hadn't been paying attention and somehow my arm swept outward and struck the bottom of a girl's cardboard tray she was carrying from the snack car back to her seat.  Suddenly, ice was everywhere and I was convinced I'd just scared the girl out of her wits.  Who am I kidding?  I scared myself out of my wits.  She went back for more ice while I tried to salvage my dignity by picking up the ice cubes all over the aisle.

Mom and Ben were there to pick me up, Ben having driven my new car (oh, the agony in that decision! Ultimately, it was the goal of getting to drive myself home in my car that made me let him drive it).  Mom was definitely back to her old self: critical of anything and everything, particularly my driving (some things never change).  Ben seemed in a surprisingly good mood, so things must have gone well in my absence.

Back home, safe and sound.  We even have 4th of July plans: a patriotic celebration of the 2nd amendment in the form of target practice at the shooting range where my uncle works.  Should be fun: crack shot-ery runs in my family (seriously).

___
*Side note: The River Runner is the name of the KC-STL trains but I'm pretty sure this is a new development.  Freshman year, when I took the train home for winter break, the same itinerary went by the name Missouri Mule**.  I think this is part of Missouri's plan to encourage Amtrak usage instead of taking the highway.  On the other hand, both times on the River Runner it felt fast, because we got in five or ten minutes earlier than scheduled.
**Further side note:  This isn't as insulting as it sounds.  The mule is the Missouri state animal, I'm pretty sure.  Tells you a lot about us, doesn't it?  Along with our nickname, the "Show Me" state: we're stubborn as hell and are going to insist on seeing convincing evidence before we believe you.  Sorry for copying pyjeon's use of footnotes.

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