Man Waiting for a Train

Tuesday was my last day in Harrisburg with my sister, and we made good use of our time together. We visited a pretty awesome farmers' market at the Harrisburg Farm Show complex parking lot, and I came away with a huge bag of veggies: the biggest broccoli I've ever seen ($1.50 apiece), two green peppers (2 for $1), four large tomatoes ($3.50 for all), about a dozen large radishes ($1), and some hefty cucumbers (3 for $1).

The farmers' market also boasted two vendors of Pennsylvania wine, and assorted Amish stands featuring baked goods, vinegar, homemade jams and jellies, apple butter, and apple sauce. The one stand had such a wonderful assortment of pies, many with lattice crusts.

I asked the lady who ran the stand: Was she the baker of these pies? And when she said Yes, with great pride, I took the opportunity to tell her that her pies were even more beautiful than mine! And that's a compliment I don't give out lightly.

I also purchased from that lady two very nice whoopie pies, one with the regular white filling for myself and one with peanut butter icing in the middle for my husband. Who can resist a whoopie pie? (You may see a photo of some lovely whoopie pies in the extras.)

A whoopie pie, for the inexperienced, is generally two chocolate cake-like cookies with sweet white icing in between the two. My mom always used the traditional white cake icing made primarily from 10X powdered sugar and Crisco, with a little milk and vanilla thrown in.

The whoopie pies I bought were tasty, but I have to tell you quite honestly that my mom's whoopie pies are even better than hers were. When we were little, my mom would make whoopie pies only once in a very great while. We kids loved them so and would eat those sweet treats up like little fiends.

So my mom would store those marvelous whoopie pies in a very large, metal chicken roaster (you know the kind) and hide them in the bedroom where she and Dad slept. You would be foolish to think we kids couldn't find them there anyway!

My sister and I went from the farmers' market to the Capitol Diner, a very nice, old-fashioned, shiny diner, where we had a hot breakfast. I was reminded of two other diners I've visited in the past year and enjoyed: Ye Olde College Diner in State College, PA (home of the grilled sticky); and the Classic American Diner in Breezewood, PA.

We took all of our purchases back to the house in the city where my sister has been staying with friends, and checked in on things there. Unfortunately, I am sorry to report that her one friend had a medical emergency while I was there visiting.

He had not been feeling well for some time, and had a medical appointment set for Monday morning. He was taken by ambulance from that appointment to the hospital while we were on our way to Annapolis, and on Tuesday morning, he was taken into heart surgery, where he had two stents placed in a main artery. As far as I know, he remains there still, recovering.

This man is a very dear friend of my sister, as well as the primary care-giver to his disabled wife, and also back-up caretaker for my sister's kitties. As you might imagine, his presence is sorely missed. Yes, we appreciate all healing thoughts and prayers that you might send his way.

From there, I packed up my things, bid a sad farewell to my sister's little kitty Grayhound, and we headed for the Harrisburg Transportation Center, where I was to catch an afternoon train around 2:36 p.m. The place has lots of nice angles and shapes, and I love taking pictures there. The photo above is a shot I took in the waiting area, of a man on the phone. My sister and I exchanged our heartfelt "I love you's" there before I got on my own train.

I am sorry to report that my actual train trip home was not nearly as fun as the prior three. But I guess three out of four nearly flawless rail excursions isn't bad. Complications included me almost getting ON the wrong train (heading for NYC instead of Pittsburgh), and my train ending up arriving home nearly an hour late.

There was also the issue of there being no running water in the restrooms (no running water = no flushing toilets, which as you might imagine is never a good thing); eventually both restrooms on the car I was in were locked, with no access. By the time I got off it, there were very few working bathrooms on the train. I felt very badly indeed for the folks who were to be on it all the way to Pittsburgh.

I had originally sat down in a very large, ample seat, near the restrooms, and spread out all my stuff. I had not realized it was an ADA seat, to be used (if needed) by persons with disabilities. When a blind individual or two boarded the train in Lewistown, I was asked to vacate my seat, which I did quite happily.

Now that I look back, I think sadly of their proximity to non-working restrooms; while walking the aisle to another rail car to use a different restroom was merely an inconvenience to me, it might be much worse to those with vision or ambulatory or other disabilities. A thing to think about when riding the train.

The stop I was to get off at, in Tyrone, is what is known as a whistle stop. The train stops for barely a few minutes for people to exit before continuing on. On all three prior trips, several conductor type persons were very available, and they were attentive and informative, providing ample warning of such stops, and offering helpful details, such as how soon the stop would be coming up and at which end of which car we would be exiting.

I had vacated my original seat and had to walk back to the very last car to find a seat by myself, so I was nowhere near the conductor who took my ticket when I originally boarded the train (who presumably would keep me informed of critical information).

No warning was given to anyone in my train car in advance of the stop prior to mine, and as we approached Tyrone (my stop), I began to grow anxious that I might end up stuck on this train, heading all the way to Pittsburgh! I decided that if I were indeed stranded on the train, I would simply stand in the aisle and scream at the top of my lungs until they THREW me off the train! (How's that for a plan, my friends?)

In the end, I simply stood up, grabbed all my things (at this point, the huge bag of veggies seemed like a very bad idea indeed), and began walking forward through several train cars until I saw someone official, who was already getting ready for the Tyrone stop.

My hands were shaking. I was sweating. I think you would call it anxiety. Is there any fear worse than the fear of NOT getting to go home at the terminus of what felt like (by then) a very long journey?

In the end, it was with great relief that I got off that train! I had imagined myself being greeted warmly by my loving husband, who had promised to stop and grab a bag of burgers in Tyrone. However, when I stepped down off the train, there was no husband, no car waiting, no bag of burgers to be found!

As I walked, dragging my suitcase and carrying all my stuff, he did appear, driving my new car. He reported that a bunch of boys had been skateboarding rather recklessly in the parking lot, and so he moved my car elsewhere because he was worried about it. He'd forgotten the coupon for burgers, and so didn't bother stopping. In the end, we went home to eat.

With great relief, I arrived at my own house, greeted my own cat, and went about the business of doing all the stuff you do when you get home: grabbing a bite to eat, playing with the cat, unpacking my bags, taking a shower and changing clothes, and checking in on any work crises via computer.

My evening also involved cleaning up three days' worth of dirty dishes in the kitchen. No, alas, my husband who is great at so many things doesn't do dishes. I am only half-joking when I say this: next time I travel, I think I'll lock the dish cupboards and leave a stack of paper plates on the counter. Then at last, I was finally sitting down to watch some TV, and after that, going to sleep in my very own bed: home, sweet home!

So what an adventure I had indeed. :-)  Some of it expected, and quite a bit of it unexpected. Best be careful when you walk out that front door; you never know what winding road may await you before your journey brings you back home again. The soundtrack song for the photo above is this: Johnny Cash performing a Jimmie Rodgers classic, Waiting for a Train.

P.S. I've added a second, possibly even MORE appropriate song for my final railroad adventure: the Who, Out of My Brain on the 5:15. *giggle-snort*

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