Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Modern Train Ride, Still An Adventure

It was a great birthday present!  "Hey, would you like to take a train ride for the day?" That's not your usual what-would-you-like-for-your-birthday question and my not-so-normal response was, "YES!" 
We spent a day on an Amtrak train and took a ride from Chemult, Oregon up to Albany, Oregon, a good days' ride with a few hours lay-over.  The station at Chemult is spartan; there is a cement platform and a slanted metal roof supported by beams and a glass wall with no seating area.
Thank heavens we didn't have to wait long.  We could hear the train blasting it's horn a mile away and once it rounded the bend, those of us who were waiting (what began as six people turned into 20 or more!) were excited to begin our journeys. Last year I was treated to an old time train ride, complete with steam locomotive at the Rio Vista Railroad Museum in Rio Vista, California.  Those cars had all been lovingly restored from the early 1900's to pristine condition by an all-volunteer group.
The first time I rode a train, I was five years old.  I remember stepping up into a black train and that's all I can remember, other than Mom and Dad being with me.  I believe that on that trip we also were able to sit in the viewing car. 
Leaving at 9:16, this ride would get us to Albany by 1:30 p.m.  After hopping on, Kevin and I found ourselves on the top tier of the passenger train, sitting in comfy, Greyhound bus-sized seats.  There was more room on the train than in a plane!  Tables attached to the seat in front dropped down and we had our choice of TWO foot rests!  Once the train began to move, we settled in for a treat of great scenery and spacious seating.
The ride was quiet and a little roley-poley but you don't really notice that until you try to walk down the aisle for the bathroom or snack bar.  I had been expecting that clickety-clack you hear  when watching an old western.  Now, I said the ride was quiet and I was referring to the machinery, it would have been much quieter but for the two young girls about 7 and 9 sitting behind us. Really though, they had already been on the train for three days so their crabbiness was to be a bit expected.

It wasn't long before the both of us were mesmerized by the gentle motion of the car and the greenery speeding by us.  We went from dry desert pines and sagebrush to the lush, soft greens of higher elevations; we passed cedar trees whose boughs were shaped like a Southern Bells' petticoat.  Lipstick red and cotton candy pink blossoms of wild rhododendrons were peeking up through devils' club, lemon yellow scotch broom and cream colored, lacy goats' beard.  I spotted Indian paint brush, wild strawberries and delicate daisies, deep purple lupine and the bright green of the requisite moss of the Pacific north west.  Alders with their big maple-like leaves were waving among the Douglas firs, madrones and golden chain.  Fascinating was the diversity of flora up past Crescent and Odell Lakes, sometimes the walls of the forest were so close you felt like you could touch them! 

I had my face pressed against the window when I heard behind me, "Mommy, whatta ya lookin' at? They're just treeees", "Yeah but after four months in the desert, they're nice to look at!"  Yes they are.  BLACK!!!!!!! It was so fast I pulled back from the window.  We had just gone through a tunnel and it was so sudden that it caused that reflex action and just as quickly we were back in the light again.  Soft curves and gentle rolling, I could almost go to sleep but no, I was going to ENJOY this trip.  Sleeping was for those who were just going from point A to point B or had been traveling for days already.  Once reaching altitude, the forest was tremendously thick, barely letting in enough light for new growth but surely great for all the ferns and mosses that proliferated.

Then came the descent and passing through "the valley" with a quick stop in Eugene. Flat valleys of clover, wheat, sheep and cows intertwined with 'wild' areas of the local bushes and trees, blackberry bushes left to make wildlife areas.

Coming down, the pines began to disappear but the madrones and alders, scotch broom and poplars took over.  There was something that looked like either magenta crown vetch or a wild pea, but dang, couldn't get the conductor to slow down for a look...

I was amazed at how close some peoples'  homes were, lots of them sitting out in their backyards on that sunny and warm Saturday, having barbecues or playing tag football would wave as we passed by.  Only one idiot showed his lack of class by giving us the one-digit salute.  Yep, yer kool.  It was so interesting to see what people could do with so little space in their backyards, or didn't do.  And then there were the industrial sections.  I have never BEEN to the busy train yards or wandered through real car junk yards.  It was kind of cool to watch one of those magnet tractors lift up a huge ton of metal.  There was an area where the train slowed to a cruise, probably about 25 m.p.h., going over a temporary bridge while construction was being done to build a new bridge over a river.  I loved seeing that little boat at the end of the movie being transported from side to the other.  I saw people living in construction yards, old warehouse yards and under bridges.  I was just interested in EVERYTHING.

Albany arrived at 1:30 and we eagerly exited the train, being greeted by a lovely and functional train station, complete with 1890's restored train depot.  It still smelled old but it was clean, had a ticket counter, old wooden church benches, pamphlets and a bathroom where I encountered a strange young lady.  At first I thought she was a homeless person, you could smell her right away and she was frantically tearing all the paper towels out of the dispenser, stuffing them in her shoulder bag.  Her sky-blue makeup encircled her eyes like a 3 year old's artwork and she admonished me to "DO NOT drink the water!  Did you know water is a sorceress?!!".  She continued to mumble on and then washed her hands.  I got out of there as quick as I could, later I saw her with a  very clean, older gentleman.  I don't know that story...

Kevin and I walked over to a little restaurant, ordered some fish and chips and ice tea while we waited for the lay-over to pass.  It was a very nice train station; quite a number of seating areas with benches and metal slanted roofs dispersed among rock gardens and water fountains.  There were numerous photos of the late 1800's enlarged and framed with historical notes.


Shortly it was time to board the incoming southbound train and once again, I was surprised by the amount of travelers!  This time, there were at least 50 or more people and the train was fully loaded.  Still, all was completed in good time and the train left on schedule.  This time we sat in the parlor car, with upholstered bench seats and a big table.  We did spy an area that had the Captain's chairs and couch-type seating where you faced the huge viewing windows.  That was fun to watch everything pass by like a speeding movie!  And this time we sat on the opposite side of the car so we saw something a little different, more open on this side rather than mostly land walls.  All in all, it was a fabulous birthday gift.



Scotch Broom/Bush

Wild Rhododendron

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fractured-Smactured Still Felt BROKEN

Have you ever broken a rib?  I know a few people who have never broken ANY bone, but all of mine tended to consist only my toes.  Now, those are bad enough to break; they hurt like hell and you can't do anything for them anyway.  If it is the big toe you can cut out a piece of your slipper (and no, the thought of wearing flip-flops is terrifying!) or wear a bigger shoe for the other toes along with the requisite amounts of aspirin or tylenol.  Usually when I would break a toe--have had three and one of them twice--it was because I was running; running away from something or running into something.  My first broken toe occurred when I was about 16 and hurriedly ran into our teeny, tiny bathroom when I learned it was a good idea to open the door first and THEN enter rather than to try and do both simultaneously, which produced copious amounts of "GAAAAHHH!!!AHHHHHWHOOOO!!!" all the while dancing on the un-injured foot while holding the injured foot in a flamingo-style hold. (Yeah yeah, run-on sentence but who cares, look where it got Hemmingway.)

The second time I broke a toe I was close to 35 and we were living in an old, farm-style house with a covered front porch and swing-out screen door.  For some reason I was running out that slamming-screen-front door when my right foot encountered the sturdy and un-moveable foot of an old wooden-framed, bright blue leather couch (you know, the kind with wooden wagon wheels on the side for looks) on the front porch.  
Once again I purged the pain with"GAAAAAHHHHAHOOOOYARRRGGHHH!!!!" and again performed the pink flamingo dance with hot tears streaming down my face. It was the same toe previously broken...

The other two toes were broken along the same lines and not quite as memorable as the first one but still as painful all the while.  Until...and now we're 59 years old, in the PRIME of life, you know? I've become a little slower, a little more careful about a few things.  But it doesn't matter how old you are or how careful you are when your foe is ice and snow.  They will get you.  Laying there all pretty and silent, glistening in the early morning sunlight, so sparkly and innocent.

I had just driven into the parking lot at work, it was February 19th, 2014.  I had an early shift that day.  It was 7:30 a.m. and I still had a good half hour until clocking on so I took my time getting out of the car, leaning inside to get my lunchbag and purse.  All good so far as I hooked one bag on my left shoulder and one bag on my right shoulder, closed the car door and proceeded on the snow-blanketed asphalt.  Three feet in front of the car my right foot went out from underneath me and I landed with a wrestlers' slam dunk on my right side.  I couldn't breathe.  It knocked the wind out of me and when you try to breathe nothing happens, it's a little scary.  I put my head back down and laid there for a few moments, trying to relax.  My breath finally came back and I pulled my splayed legs back in a together position, arms were still splayed out and contents of the purse were scattered.  But hey, the lunchbag on my right side was still secure! 

Things felt...different, thick, is the best way to describe it.  I was able to recover and get up and felt a little stiff.  I remember thinking, "Okay, don't feel any sharp pain, I don't hear clicking so I must be okay and if I keep moving I'll work out the kinks."  I proceeded into work, clocked on at 8:00 a.m. and mentioned the fall to a few people. By 8:30 things were getting a little tight, I had already shoveled 400 pounds of ice into the fish bin and washed the dishes AND the huge ice bin, rolled it back into the cooler. In short, I finally was able to go home by 11:00 a.m. 

Long story short: I went to the E.R. and had an x-ray taken, the doctor told me I had fractured two ribs (number 6 and 7) and that I was NOT going to work for at least a week, she handed me some Workmans' Comp papers and sent me home with "We don't wrap people anymore, just take it easy and rest, don't lift or push and call your physician in the morning". 

So began the next few weeks of recovery, to which I thought, "This trumps a toe any day, even twice".  You can hardly breathe, you don't DARE cough--which splits the ribs in an excruciating way, can't sneeze, etc., etc.  Well, if you have to cough because you have allergies that make you do this, you quickly devise a way to do it that causes the least amount of pain.  And you learn to eat, rest and sleep in an upright position for a few weeks.  The urge to lay down is as powerful as wanting a candy bar/smoke/drink/whatever.  Pain medications vary from one person to another and the first ones they gave me just made me sick, the second prescription took the edge off the pain but I wasn't fuzzy headed--hmm, may have just found the cure for my usually fuzzy headed thinkin'.

I end this tale with the hopes that I will NEVER break another rib and I am so terribly cautious about tripping and falling now.  I carry a pair of ice grippers in the emergency box in the trunk of my car.  I like to see stars but I don't want to see them that way again!

Spring! Yay! Finally!


....back into normal.  Spring is great for the renewal of heart and soul.  And having something to write about!  Last February I was taken out of the writing equation for awhile due to the fact that on my way to work,  I slipped and fell, fracturing two ribs on the right side (numbers 6 and 7 for you purists). Fractured-smactured, felt like they were BROKEN and recovery still took 6 weeks.  They still let me know they are there once in awhile.


It will be Mother's Day soon, I work in a grocery store and am constantly reminded of the coming holidays, mostly MONTHS in advance, so that by the time it gets here, I have forgotten the actual DAY.  I am already planning on getting my cards tomorrow when I go to work, coming home and signing them and mailing them dutifully on Monday.  Or Tuesday.  They'll still get there in time.


I was reading a facebook thread today that just made me giggle and I will post the conversation forthwith.  Names have been changed to protect the slothful.  Or innocent.  Or parent.
(This begins with the parent of a set of young lady daughters, having to do with their responsibilities of calling on an important day/whatever that may be...)

Okay Girls...
Hubby says there is a phone.... he is not on facebook... and he was expecting you both to of given us a call on our day... yep ....LOL

Reader: Uh oh..Momma's angry!

Daughter: You were doing you! We wanted to let you two be together without inturruption. You know we love you Pops!

Me: Good recovery, Daughter . I like Mom's note about Pops having a phone. I find these days that young people don't like TALKING but they can text up a storm. It does seem to be a symptom of the younger generation...oh what can one do?

Daughter: That's funny. I call often. It's not a recovery when I know the time is precious and needed. Thanks for the retort though.

Me: Anytime, that's what other mothers are for. And my dear, you are an angel indeed! She didn't say THAT PART, lol! Remember, we're talking a mothers' point of view, which will always be slanted more towards "You never call..."

I am a mother. I'm sure I'll know. 
Daughter: And I'm speaking from the daughters of my mother. Mum, don't think we haven't been checking your posts and seeing how happy you are. Love you and hope you enjoyed the time with Pops.

Me: Lol! Oh..yes, you will! I have been trying to tell my daughter lately about that other issue, The Guilt Trip. It comes with the territory..
MORAL : There is no moral to this story, it was just a topic that I thought was "normal".