I'm not going to go into too many details, because I'm sure they are boring, but here's a quick summary. We leave the station at 6:30, about a half hour behind schedule. No biggie. The train was extra slow. Still, no biggie. The train broke down in the middle of nowhere between Aurora (as in Wayne's World, party time, excellent) and Mendota (yeah, I'd never heard of it either), Illinois. Biggie.
(Ah, Mendota, my nemesis...picture taken on the way back. What you can't see is me shaking my fist at the city.)
First, they say they're going to try to get us to Mendota and bus us the rest of the way. I call my family. They tell me that we're going to be towed back to Chicago, given a new engine, and start the trip all over again. I don't believe them, that sounds absurd, considering we were already three hours into a trip that was supposed to be 2.5. The train starts going backwards. Finally they tell us that indeed, we're going back to Chicago. We arrive back at around midnight. Roughly half of the passengers decide to get off and give up.
I ask my family if we should just stay in Chicago. They say no. They will all be very upset, especially my cousin. They have a ton of stuff planned for us to do while we're there. I ask them if they want to go back to their house, it may be a while. Nope, the roads are icy and they live an hour away from the train station. They will go to an all-night diner and eat pie. We finally get moving again. Amtrak says we will not be making all of the stops again, we will stop in Mendota and all stops after that. We don't stop in Mendota. We don't stop in Princeton (the next stop after that). Three girls in front of us get a phone call from relatives who have been waiting for them in Princeton for over six hours saying they just saw the train go by. Girls throw fit (understandably). Girls pace back and forth in cabin yelling into phone and calling Amtrak attendant all sorts of lovely names. They get off at the next stop (about 30 miles past Princeton). I hope they got a free ticket or something.
Finally arrive in Galesburg at 3am. Get back to aunt and uncle's house about 4:20. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Wake up around 10am, do Christmas presents, eat. I am deprived of coffee and sleepy still, so I am probably very grumpy. Try to help cook, don't do much. Eat more. Kind of a blur.
The day after Christmas we saw Valkyrie. Really, truly, honestly, surprisingly good. I HATE me some Crazy Cruise usually, but even he was good in this one. Here's where I have a confession to make. I did not pay attention in History class. I don't watch the History Channel. I don't care to know all that much about the past. I am interested in science, science fiction, literature, poetry, writing, politics, technology, weather, food, travel, psychology, astronomy, even math, but never did I care about history. I blew it off. I did my AP American History final report on British music of the 90s (hey, she said we could pick ANYTHING). So, here goes. I had no idea how Hitler died and I think I liked the movie more because of this. Is that sad? I thought maybe he was killed in the bombing. The way they filmed it was brilliant, never letting on one way or another until the phone call. Score one for stupidity and willful ignorance (and let it be known I'm not usually a fan of either)!
So yeah, we saw that and then...nothing...well, I popped into CVS for a second to buy shampoo and coffee and a few other things. Then we actually went out for coffee, which was good. I got to use the internet for a few minutes. I paid some bills. Thrilling.
We went out for coffee once more on Saturday and stopped at Hallmark to get discounted wrapping paper and ornaments. We watched Pirates 3 and Transformers, both of which I'd already seen.
And that's it. I was there for almost four days. I didn't get to see my cousin's pictures from Germany. I didn't get to show them my pictures from the past year (the whole reason I brought my laptop, really...because they only have dial-up, so I knew I couldn't go online). The cousin seemed really meh about us being there. I'm sure some of that had to do with the fact that she had to sleep on the couch due to the four guests (other uncle and grandpa were there as well) and her boyfriend was in Florida, texting her a bunch. When I was 16 I would have been over it too. I always thought I could be the wise and fun older cousin from the big city, though. The one with tons of knowledge and experience to share, since she's an only child. Thing is, she doesn't really need advice or someone to rant to or any of that because she's totally level-headed, beautiful and brilliant. Hmph. Figures.
Anyway, we left on Sunday. Our train was delayed about 2.5 hours from the start. We got back a little late, but nothing as confusing and annoying as the way out there. I was just ready to be home. It was nice having the Christmas tree and the big feast of yummy food (including lots of vegetarian options), the wrapped presents in the morning and the family get-together feel. I love them all, but it was so quiet. I would go nuts. I guess I'm so used to "tons of things to do" meaning literally that.
There was also a little tension, as usual, because my aunt and my mother dislike each other immensely. When I'm around, she tries to get me on her side, I suppose. "I've tried...she just hates me. I don't know how to talk to her. She mocks me when she calls. She got married and didn't tell me," etc. For the record, when my mom got married, she didn't tell me either...so I don't think it was her trying to be mean. She's just unique.
So from my trip I've learned a few things: I am not an Amtrak fan. I am not the cool cousin I thought I might one day be. Life without the internet is almost unbearable. I have a wonderful boyfriend willing to put up with almost anything, and for that I am very lucky. I am thankful that my mom moved my brother and I to Florida when I was a child. I don't know how I would have turned out if I'd stayed in Iowa, but I like the way things are and wouldn't want to change them. My uncle makes the best margaritas in the world and they are, at times, a saving grace. My grandpa is maybe the coolest grandpa on the planet because he just gets it. He sees the ridiculousness of it all and I love that. Life in the Midwest, for some, completely revolves around the weather and that sucks. I want to spend next Christmas in Florida. In the warm.
On a completely random note...THE DOLPHINS ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS! No, not just in the playoffs, they won their division. If you know anything about football and how hideous they were last year (and for years before that), you know how huge this is. I am so damn happy!