(Because sometimes you’ve just gotta have some lemonade. With vodka, of course)
By: Mary Jo Martin
Anyone who logs a lot of air miles knows that delays, cancellations and last-minute snafus are all-too-common. So when my very routine return flight from O’Hare to DFW was canceled recently, I figured I’d just get rolled over to the next flight, enjoy some piano music at Bubbles Wine Bar in the terminal until then, and be home a little later than originally planned.
What I didn’t realize at the moment was that North Texas was being hit with such a significant amount of snow and ice that it had practically paralyzed the area.
The airline had already rebooked me on a connection through Louisville the next day that wouldn’t get me in until Saturday night.
It wasn’t the best news since connections can be iffy even during the best circumstances. But there wasn’t anything more I could do at O’Hare, so I checked into a nearby hotel, ordered some room service — and wine — and cooled my heels for the evening.
When I woke up the next morning, I already had two texts from the airline — the first that my originally rebooked flight had canceled, the second that a new, rebooked flight I wasn’t even aware of yet, was also grounded. I immediately dialed the status hotline, only to get a recording that there was a 2-hour wait just to talk to a customer service rep. That was a first. And a big realization at just how bad the situation was.
By now, I was on a third rebooked flight, through Cleveland, that looked precarious at best. On the spur of the moment, I posted my dilemma on Facebook to see if any of my friends might also be stuck and want to share a rental car to try and drive back.
Comments started rolling in, but not about a rental car. Instead, several of my friends encouraged me to check out Amtrak. Until now, my only train experience had been the commuter lines in Chicago — and the Disney World Railroad as a kid. At first I was skeptical, but hey, John Candy made a movie about just such an experience and he made it home at the end, so I decided it was worth a try.
I dialed Amtrak and luckily snagged the very last sleeper car on the only Saturday train that was headed to Dallas. The catch: It was going to be a 22-hour ride and I had no idea what I was in for.
A quick packing job and an Uber lift to Union Station later, and I found myself boarding the Texas Eagle. I share a lot of my travel experiences with my Facebook friends, so I uploaded some pictures of me and my little train digs. I had no idea the phenomenon it would generate. The 83 comments within a few hours of that first post included friends who were either completely intrigued by the whole adventure, or totally savvy train travelers who were giving me tips on what to expect. Three hours flew by and I had barely looked out the window yet because I was so immersed in the social media conversation that was blossoming.
That running engagement with friends on Facebook snowballed and turned into one big social media party. It was almost as good as having all my friends along for the ride!
At 52, I’ve learned that life is anything but predictable. And I like that. It keeps me on my toes; introduces me to new people, places and adventures; and gives me the inner confidence that I am capable of navigating whatever challenges are put in front of me.
So here’s my top five takeaways from what I’m calling #TheLipstickAndLeopardTour aboard The Amtrak Texas Eagle.
1. The Power Of Social Media Is Amazing
This was incredible! I found that if you get people interested — and include them in your journey — they’ll become engaged and invested. One friend who was a regular train traveler advised me where to find the extra blankets stored in my sleeper car. Others asked if I would recommend it because they had long considered it as a travel option but never done it.