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Cimino: No moaning about safe return home

I'm still thinking about … The Trip

When last you heard from me I was moaning and groaning about my 20-hour train/bus/car trip to Vermont and now I want to moan a little bit about the trip back. Aside from the fact that the purpose of the trip was a memorial service for my cousin, I really enjoyed the time I had with my brother Jim, his wife Robin and their granddaughter, Sarah. Aside from the trips for weddings, funerals and other special family occasions, our visits back and forth have been short but sweet. This time we actually took the time to just sit and talk or play a game or watch a silly movie.

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My brother treated me like a tourist, showing me all the sights. For those of you who have never been to Burlington, it is a truly beautiful city right on Lake Champlain. Burlington Harbor has been completely redeveloped, much like Harbor Place in Baltimore, smaller but the same idea, beautiful vistas, town houses, shops, restaurants and places to walk and ride a bike. As a matter of fact, you can ride the bike trail from Burlington to just short of Canada. There is even a special bike ferry to cross from Vermont to New York. Burlington served up an impressive Fourth of July fireworks spectacle for 100,000 people just outside the brake water (where, once upon a time my Uncle Leonard ditched a jet plane when he was stationed at the Strategic Air Command Base in Plattsburg, New York, but that's another story).

I was having a great time. It's the Fourth of July. Oh, wait a minute, it's the Fourth of July! I wonder if Vermont Central Railroad and Amtrak are fixing the washed out track and removing the fallen structures from the track? OMG as the kids say. I'd better check.

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So I got on the phone and called Amtrak, the 800 number was right there on my return ticket. You can probably guess what came next. I don't know where the person I was talking to was located but wherever she was, she did not know anything about washed out tracks and flash floods in Vermont. She very helpfully suggested that I call the station in Essex Junction. Oh, I was loudly thinking, you mean the one that is opened one hour before and one hour after a scheduled departure? Even though my plight and that of dozens of other travelers was on the local evening news there was precious little information to be had about how we were going to get out of there.

It's the Fourth of July after all. Then, at the ninth hour came a text message. Yes, a text message. Oh what a time to be alive! I was told to be at the Essex Junction station at the appointed hour and my fellow travelers and I would be transported 4 1/2 hours by bus to Springfield, Massachusetts. And indeed we were, with stops at each scheduled train station in between.

And what did we see at those stops? Many construction workers with back hoes, cranes and plain, old shovels digging out the mess left behind by the storms all along the line. So, I'll stop complaining now and express my gratitude and admiration for the people who were in charge of my safety, the ones who made the decision to stop my train, the ones who stayed with us while we waited for those buses and the ones all along the line up to their knees in mud. Thanks and good job you guys and gals. By the way, we pulled into Baltimore on schedule.

Audrey Cimino is executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.

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