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    Smile Mia‘«÷s First Ride

    Perhaps a little unorthodox as ride reports go, I thought I would post this: the “epic” journey of a newborn baby across ?• of the United States.

    Disclaimer: Had everything gone according to plan, of course, we wouldn’t have made this journey. Due to circumstance beyond our control, we had our baby in Arlington, Texas, and were forced to make the long trip back to New York via train as air-travel is out of the question for the tender four days of age.

    Having flown in, we deposited our rental car at DFW airport and cab [Nope, not that one. Sorry, we need the big one.] to Dallas Union Station.

    After a 4 hour wait at the station (the train was 2.5 hours late) we boarded Amtrak’s “Texas Eagle” where had reserved “sleeping” accommodations to Chicago, IL.

    Note: We tried booking 2 adults, 1 child, and 1 infant online or over the phone, and had an impossible time finding a room. Everything pointed to no-vacancy or only coach seating available (can you imagine 48 hours in coach with a 4 day old?). Just to see actual availability of sleeping cars, I searched online for 2 adults only and found several nice rooms available (at least they were nice in the pictures). On a whim I booked my wife and me for the entire trip to secure the room (which can hold up to 3 adults). I then called customer service with my reservation and explained, “My daughter has decided she doesn’t want to fly home with her grandmother. Would you please add her to our reservation? Here is my confirmation number…” This wasn’t a complete lie because we had offered her a flight to avoid the long trip, and she refused. In short, $149.50 later, we had our “first class sleeping car” reserved for three, and our infant didn’t need a ticket…

    Not to diminish the hard working attendants aboard the Texas Eagle, the accommodations were far from what we had expected. As we departed Dallas Union Station, the conductor’s voice came over the PA, “Welcome to the Texas Eagle. Amtrak is family friendly so we have two rules: no drunkenness; and no cussin’! If we get too many complaints, you’ll be met by the local law enforcement at the next station!”

    The train was dirty, our bathroom/shower has not been cleaned [used bars of soap and poop in the toilet], the mattresses were urine stained, the dining car was poorly organized and there was half-eaten food left all around the public areas.

    Not exactly what we had gotten from the pictures of wealthy retired persons sipping Champaign in the observation car…

    The picture doesn’t do it justice:

    Some tender moments:

    After a long night of milk and diapers, we pushed through St. Louis, MO and arrived in Chicago, IL.

    Chicago Union Station is right in the heart of down-town Chicago, so “Offspring 1” and I took a short Daddy/ big-sister tour to bring back a “decaf, low-fat, mocha, late – no whip” for mommy.

    The wait at Dallas Union Station was pleasant due to the courtesy lounge provided to Amtrak sleeping car travelers. We found a cozy spot and setup a makeshift nursery.

    Boarding the Amtrak Lakeshore Express was on-time and well organized. At 9:00PM we boarded the train and were greeted with a wine and cheese reception (sparkling cider for nursing mother and big-sister) while our attendant Michael assembled the beds on his own initiative. Michael is of Basque descent. He speaks 9 languages and is writing a book on the Basque people. We spoke English, Greek and German (I’m only fluent in German and English).

    Needless to say the train was clean and very well organized.

    The second night passed quickly. Mia was in good spirits and slept most of the time. Mom and I cat-napped and read, and we all settled into the trip like seasoned travelers.

    Grandma and Grandpa were quick to offer to collect us at the train station in Albany-Rensselaer. We cautioned them that my car was still at Albany Airport, and that grandparents plus the new family of four would not fit in a 5-person car. We suggested they bring two cars, but Grandma said, “don’t worry about it. We have everything covered.”

    We knew something was up, and sure enough, we were greeted at the station by the extended family with gifts and balloons. After a teary reunion, we collected our baggage and headed out to the parking lot where a garish stretched limousine awaited the new-born rock star.

    Of course, we made sure the DOT approved child safety seat was properly installed before heading out. When's the last time you saw a car seat in a limo?

    After a quick detour to the Albany Airport to collect my car from long-term parking, the clan headed home where Grandma and Grandpa had snuck in while we were under way. The lawn was mowed, the house was clean, the refrigerator was stocked.

    We all enjoyed some time together before everyone politely left not to overstay their welcome and to burden the tired travelers.

    Mia doing what a 5 day old girl does best (yes, she is only 5 days - she was 9 lbs 8 oz at birth!!!).

    Time for a nap.

    Last edited by grossjohann; 07-21-2008 at 08:56 PM. Reason: Image locations changed.

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