I've been thinking about … getting there and back again.
Over the Fourth of July holiday, I attended a memorial service for my cousin Joyce, who died last December. At that time, she was living in Virginia and because of foul weather we didn't get to the funeral. Her daughters brought her back to Vermont, where she was born, and invited the family for the service and a small reunion. I went by myself and didn't want to deal with the airport so I decided to be smart and hop on the Amtrak Vermonter, which starts in Washington, D.C., and ends in St. Albans, Vermont. My stop is Essex Junction, one stop before the end of the line.
My husband, Joe, took me to Baltimore's beautiful Penn Station. We left promptly at 8:12 a.m. with the estimated time of arrival in Essex Junction at 8:15 p.m. Since the Vermonter originated in D.C., it wasn't crowded and after depositing my baggage in the designated spot in the car I easily found a seat. I was out of sight of my bag for a while and that made me a little uncomfortable but I managed to move toward it after a few stops so all was well.
By the time we hit New York City, the train was absolutely full and buzzing with activity. People on trains are friendly and actually engage one another in conversation. There were also many people working on laptop computers or using their phones to read, text or talk, but they, too, took breaks from time to time.
There were people of all ages: one octogenarian headed to her summer home in Brattleboro, Vermont; many young families traveling to see grandparents; one young couple with an 18-month-old baby, the size of a 3-year-old. He was remarkably good until the very end when he clearly had had enough of being good. I got recognized as a pet owner and spent much of the trip visiting with a white fluff ball of a dog and her pediatrician owner on her way to visit her sister.
All was well and the crowd was thinning out when we were approaching Windsor, Vermont; about two hours from my destination.
Now I have to tell you that the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. So what came next was very confusing.
It seems we were no longer running on track owned by Amtrak but by Vermont Central Railroad and, apparently, he who owns the track makes the rules. Our conductor announced that they had been ordered to slow down to 20 miles an hour for the next 20 miles. No explanation was given. That was strange and a little ominous.
By the time we got to Windsor the train was ordered to stop and just maybe we would be allowed to proceed to the next stop, which is White River Junction. At least now we were given some information. Apparently we were on the edge of and heading into a huge weather front that had produced flash floods that had washed out stretches of track ahead of us and caused structures to collapse onto the track. There was still no rain where we were.
Windsor, Vermont is a small town. I saw one cab. Those who could called for family to come get them and the rest of us waited 2 1/2 hours for three buses to come get us. So instead of arriving at 8:15 p.m. we rolled into Essex Junction close to 1 a.m., exhausted but grateful to Amtrak for getting the job done. Stay tuned for "and back again."
Audrey Cimino is executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.