Tag Archives: Amtrak

I am way behind in my yuletide preparations

Greetings, readers. It is quite bizarre how fast this Christmas season has flown by. I could swear I just woke up on Thanksgiving morning and watched the Macy’s parade with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. I blinked my eyes twice and it is December 20th. I’ve only listened to a hand-full of Christmas carols, and my apartment is not decorated at all. Bah humbug to me.

There have been a number of things that I believe has caused this delay in decorating. First of all is my job. I come home from it tired and needing to sleep. I don’t seem to get much done on the days I have a shift; it is work, eat, and sleep. On the days I don’t have a shift, I have work with Rebecca and errands to do that can’t be done on job days. Second is the time I have spent proof-reading and editing Four’s a Crowd. Apparently I am the last of the readers to finish my editing. Shame on me. Luckily I know the material like the back of my hand, especially my part of it. Once I get rolling, it won’t take me long. Lastly, when I could be reading at 4:00am, I am playing Out of the Park Baseball 18. Today was game 5 of the completely fictitious Canadian Baseball League World Series. Somehow my brain isn’t engaged for activities like reading and editing at 4:00 in the morning. Fear not, Darren and Rebecca, it will be done.

After the holidays, I plan to revamp my schedule. Whether that means taking some time off from work, or changing my job schedule, has yet to be determined. I’m certain that everything will fall into place. It always seems to.

Thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected in the Amtrak train disaster, as well as in the tour bus accident in Mexico. So sad. The California wild fires, although I’ve heard they have been partially contained, will probably burn for another several days. I’ve been calling my aunt, who lives near one of the fire areas, and she is uncomfortable from the smoke but holding her own.

Finally, very soon two of our long-time establishments will be going out of business. Not because of the economy, but rather the sale of the building in which they are housed. Spats Café and Speakeasy has been around for 30 years and the Rathskeller Bar has been underneath the cafe in the same spot for many decades. I always hate it when establishments go bye-bye, especially the ones I remember as a youth or a teenager. The State College area is not really effected that much from the recession because there are a lot of college kids who attend school every year and need books, Penn State clothing, souvenirs and anything else Penn State they can get their hands on.

I wish everyone good luck with their holiday shopping. Enjoy your plans with family. And until tomorrow, take care and happy reading.

Surprise! A Tuesday blog entry :-)

Greetings, readers. Yesterday was a hectic mess and almost a disaster. I took a good friend, Becky, to the train station. Traci went with us too. It was supposed to be a stress free day, but it didn’t turn out that way. It was cold, very windy and the Zipcar I was supposed to obtain was not there when I needed it.

After 30 minutes of speaking to several agents, I was finally able to get a car. Traci, Becky, and I got on the road a little bit late and with frayed nerves, but ready to enjoy the 40 minute ride. The speed limit was higher than I expected – 70 MPH – so the trip went by faster than I thought it would. We were in Tyrone in no time and having an early dinner at the Burger King. There weren’t many people there, so we were able to get our food quickly. After finding a table, we sat down to a nice meal and interesting conversation.

We had about an hour to kill, so we didn’t rush eating our meal. I sipped my coffee and relaxed. After sitting and talking it was finally time to go. None of us wanted to go back out into the cold and wind. I was severely under dressed, only wearing a shirt and hoodie. I ran to the car, unlocked it and started the engine. It took a few minutes before the heat was able to blast through the vents. It was just a short drive from the restaurant to the train depot. I kept the car running so that we would all stay warm while we waited for the Amtrak train.

There was only one problem, Becky’s train was a late. She got updates on her cell phone. As a matter of fact, the train was getting later by the minute. Something was wrong. As it turned out her train was being held up by another train that was having difficulties. I thought that’s what the problem was, but I didn’t want to tell Becky my guess earlier because I didn’t want to worry her. I was sad when Traci and I had to leave to get back to town on time. There was no place for Becky to keep warm, just a little shelter by the train tracks. I would have stayed, but I had only reserved the car until 6:30. We did the best we could.

Until tomorrow, have a great day, take care and happy reading.

Top ten list of Star Trek holodeck programs I would have if the technology existed

Greetings, readers. As a Star Trek fanatic and a holodeck episode lover, I started to think, just what programs I would create and save if I had use of a holodeck. In the Star Trek world, even though a person is in a small room, the concept is that holographic images are displayed and moved so that people are tricked into thinking they have unlimited space. Here’s my list in reverse order.

#10. A visit to any city I chose. [Maybe one day I would create Paris and sit to enjoy coffee in an outdoor cafe. The next day, perhaps Rome to visit the Colosseum. Or to Devils Tower in Wyoming.]

#9. Drive a car to anywhere. [Oh, what fun it would be to drive to Maine any time I wanted to.]

#8. My own baseball league with my own home team and personally designed stadium. [I could see the Pennsylvania Lumberjacks, perhaps.]

#7. A house with a virtual family. [This idea, I must admit, came to me after watching an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, “Real Life”, where the Doctor created the perfect family, but B’Elanna Torres thought that was too easy and changed the program. I would set it up so that I could control the weather and the type of home and furniture we had, but I would randomized how my family reacted to me day-to-day to be more realistic. I would not have the “perfect” family.]

#6. A train ride to anywhere. [I could ride an Amtrak in America, take a local in New Jersey, or hop aboard the Orient Express. Lots of intrigue and mystery there.]

#5. Take a virtual cruise. [I could set it up for any number of days I chose and for any destination. I could take a quick trip to the Bahamas, or a cruise around the world, stopping at all the wonderful ports of call. This one would have to be saved and gone back to. ]

#4. An airplane ride to anywhere. [I absolutely adore aircraft. I wish I could fly in them more often. If I only had an hour, I would take a prop pane ride from State College to Pittsburgh. If I had more time on my hands, maybe I would hop a jet and fly cross-country to California. I could sit in my virtual airplane seat, take notes, and type my stories.]

#3. To speak to any writer I chose and pick his or her brain. [I could share my limited amount of work with them and ask them to critique it. Hopefully they would be kind.]

#2. A day at the beach. [Imagine the warmth, the sand, the smell of salt in the sea breeze, and of course, the ocean. I could spend hours in this program.]

#1. Recreate a day at Bear Spring Camps anytime I chose. [I would have a few scenarios in this program with different kinds of weather, different times of the year, and, of course, the people I know from real-life Bear Spring, as well as computer generated fictional families. You would hardly ever get me out of that program.]

Honorable mention: Camping in a tent. [I’ve never gone camping in a tent before, but if there was one big enough that I wouldn’t feel claustrophobic in, it would appeal to me. To hear the crickets at night and have my campfire going would be soothing and peaceful. I love nature, especially crickets and the sound of birds.]

There’s my list. I hope you enjoy. Whether you are a Star Trek fan or not, please do chime in with your list, either here or in Facebook.

Until next week, have a great weekend, take care, and happy reading.

My life without a car

Greetings, readers. I have been without a car since 2008. I enjoyed the years I drove very much, but an accident totaled my vehicle. With the money situation the way it is, I’ve been told by my accountant that even a used car is not in the current spending plans. For now the occasional Zipcar will have to suffice.

In the early years of my driving career, I would drive past our local airport and head for the back country roads. They would twist and turn and that drive really kept my skills and reflexes up. The only time I really drive distances now is in August when I go to Maine in a rental car.

Even though I have Meals on Wheels, a lot of times I like to have an evening snack when I watch TV. Luckily there is a store nearby, but it is a drug store with a small selection of food in it and their prices are not cheap. For me to go to an actual supermarket I would have to either rent a Zipcar or take the bus. The bus poses two problems. First, I’m going by someone else’s time schedule. And second, depending where I get dropped off, I would have to lug my bags back home. It is not the worst thing in the world, but when you have a convenience store right in walking distance, that choice is more expensive but quicker.

The only doctors in walking distance are my psychologist and the dentist. My general practitioner and, most importantly, my neurologist, have to be reached either by bus, cab, or Zipcar. This can get a bit expensive and inconvenient. For my next doctor’s appointment, I will need to get a bus an hour and fifteen minutes early, because the next scheduled bus would make me late to my doctor’s appointment. And as much as an hour could be between the end of an appointment and the next bus.

I don’t mind taking alternate transportation when it is needed, but I’ve cut my Zipcar usage way down. Basic insurance is covered by the company, but yearly dues and full insurance are two yearly major expenses for me.

If I had my own car, I could hop in it tomorrow and go visit Walnut Grove, Minnesota, if I wanted to. To accomplish this in my current situation, would require a check of the Amtrak train schedule, one of the many long distance bus charter companies, or an airplane. With money tight, I think I’ll just stay home. My point is, that if I just want to get up and go, I can’t. About 75% of my life must be planned out.

Zipcars do help. But that sense of freedom, of hopping in my vehicle and going anywhere anytime is gone for good. From now on, I will have to walk, take a bus or a cab, or some other means of transportation, to get where I’m going. This coming Sunday for Easter, as happened this past Christmas, my girlfriend’s friends have invited us to have dinner, but they have to come pick us up in their car. Although this is not the most terrible thing in the world, I do feel a little bit like a burden to them. Perhaps next holiday, we’ll rent a Zipcar and pick them up.

If I have to take my girlfriend somewhere, like to her doctor or to the hospital, the Zipcars are $9 an hour, and we would book it for at least 3 hours to be sure we have enough time. My lowest tally with her has been $27. That is not exactly the same as her chipping in $5 for gas if I took her in my car. Plus, if all the Zipcars are rented and she needs to get there in a hurry, we are calling a taxi cab. And once again, we wait for them. If we want to take a drive to see the scenery, or go for a special lunch someplace that is a few towns over, I would want to rent that Zipcar for at least 3 to 4 hours, and we are talking about $36. Sometimes we just don’t have that to pay, so we don’t go.

Do I miss my car? Absolutely. With all the expenses, such as gas, upkeep and insurance, I’m probably lucky that I don’t have one. Knowing my luck, I would crack a cylinder head and it would be a $3,000 repair. Do I miss my freedom? Absolutely. But in 8 years I’ve learned to adjust. Things are more difficult without a car, but I am making it work.

Until Friday, when we will have another interesting blog post for you, take care, have a great couple of days, and happy reading.

Train simulator replaces flight simulator as my favorite

Greetings, readers. I never thought I’d say it but it is true. Train Simulator 2014 is my new favorite simulation program for the computer. Flight Simulator X is wonderful and it helped me immensely during my depression. Looking at the clear blue sky and the white puffy clouds did make me feel better. However, with Train Simulator you are on the ground and can see all the fantastic scenery.

When I first purchased this game from the Steam website, I was a little leery. My anti-virus constantly fought with it for the first two weeks, which made matters worse. Once I learned that anti-virus systems include an exceptions list to blocked sites, I put Steam on this list. Finally Train Simulation 14 worked wonderfully. With my older laptop, with a not-so-great graphics card, I do have to have everything on the lowest settings. That is okay with me; it runs. So far I have run trains in England, Germany and the United States.

Now for the downside of Train Simulator 14. Unlike Flight Simulator X and its primary uploading website, Simviation, trains are not free to download. You must purchase everything. For a person like me on a budget, that can get mucho expensive quickly. So I’ve purchased everything I am going to purchase for a while. I’m done.

Let me briefly tell you about the trains that I have. I have three very fast Amtrak trains, three old-style steam locomotives, various trains powered by electricity, and a couple of old-style diesel trains complete with authentic sounds. Five stars on those.

Am I going to pump hundreds of dollars into this hobby? No, I can’t afford to do that. I have probably spent too much on this already. But it is extremely relaxing to hop on a train, choose your run, and set out. I have runs ranging from twelve miles in the Portland Maine scenario, to the northeast corridor route which is roughly ninety miles long.

To summarize, I would dearly love to see this game with its fullest graphics settings to get the sheer beauty of it. With the five-year-old laptop, I am grateful it runs at all. When it comes time for the next laptop I will make sure it has a good graphics card for my simulations.

Until next week, take care, have a good weekend, and happy reading.