RICH’S ROUGH RIDE
By now, many of you know that I have been grounded in recent weeks as I recover from surgery to repair a torn retina. The good news is that my recovery is going well and my doctors are very encouraged that I will make a full recovery. The bad news is that not having the ability to board an airplane has forced me to get pretty creative when it comes to fulfilling all my out-of-town obligations with SportsRadio 610. Two weeks ago, my wife Jenny and I drove over 4,000 miles round trip in just 4 and a half days in order for me to work the biggest game in the history of the Houston Texans’ franchise, a second round playoff game at Baltimore. Over the weekend, I found myself embarking on yet another unprecedented journey in order to join the SR610 gang at “chateau Super Bowl” in Indianapolis for the big week on Radio Row leading up to Super Bowl XLVI between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. This time, driving 1100 miles to Hoosier country was not a viable option for a number of reasons, not the least of which was an offer by my co-host, Josh Innes, to be my co-pilot. Not gonna happen. Jenny couldn’t join me since I’m leaving for a full week and I did not want to do the drive by myself. So…….
Plan B became a combination of cars, trains and buses. Incredibly, the 4th largest city in America has no passenger train service whatsoever. That’s right; you cannot depart Houston on a train to go anywhere, (unless you’re a cow and I don’t even want to think about that). The nearest Amtrak terminal to Houston is in Longview, Texas, a 4-hour drive through the wonderful piney woods of East Texas. So, as you’ll see by some of the photos that Jenny snapped, she and I took off on Saturday for Longview so that I could board the Texas Eagle into the heartland of America. I tried to think of it as a new adventure and was a bit nervous and excited as we neared the station in Longview. I had reserved something called a roomette, which is basically a private area with 2 seats facing each other that convert into a bed for sleeping away the night in a state of relaxation induced by the occasional sound of the train’s horn and the rumbling beneath you which gently rocks you into a peaceful night’s rest. Uh, not quite. I’ll get back to that in a moment.
This was a new experience for both of us. I tried to convince her to find a friend to come along on the drive so she wouldn’t have to drive home by herself. Didn’t happen. So, as the sun was going down over East Texas, we had our first-ever train station goodbye. Not as romantic as it sounds. Actually, it was a bit strange. I was worried about her driving back alone (she got home fine) and I was about to take a 17-hour train ride to Bloomington-Normal, Illinois by myself. Here’s the good part: the berth I had was private and comfortable and gave me all the room I needed to relax. Much better than the stress of a long drive.
I made an 8:00 pm reservation in the dining car and was pleasantly surprised by both the quality of the New York strip steak I was served and the company of the 2 fellow riders at my table. They were a couple of Aussies from Melbourne who had just spent 2 weeks in Austin for some job training. They told me that they worked in a highly specialized field of scientific research and they were on their way to Chicago for further training. Robert and Steve. 2 very pleasant guys who promised me they would check out our website even though they had very little knowledge of the sports that mean the most to us. They WERE aware of the Super Bowl, but not the teams that were participating. Sounded like Rugby was very big in their part of the world. It also sounded like they had a blast in Austin. Who wouldn’t? We had a few laughs over a couple of beers and it turned out to be an enjoyable time. I headed back to my berth and they hung around the lounge for another beer or two. I did mention they were from Australia, right?
This is where my evening got interesting, not in a good way. The bed was comfortable. I watched a little TV via Slingbox on my laptop. Then I called it an evening. Or so I thought. What I thought was going to be a restful night turned out to be just the opposite. In a matter of just a few minutes, it became very apparent that this was going to be one very rough ride. Not only could I feel every turn, every bump and every rumble, it was so rough I was almost tossed from my bed a couple of times. It was like trying to take a nap on a roller coaster. Like trying to sleep when someone keeps shaking you awake by your shoulder. (I know, I’m whining) Later, our attendant said it may have been because we were riding a freight line. Whatever the reason, I got about an hour or two of fitful sleep, at best. Brutal. If I ever do it again, I’l be sure to pack some powerful prescription meds so I can just pass out.
I finally rose about 8:30, got some breakfast and started getting organized so I’d be ready to jump off in Blomington-Normal at 11:00 am. My train was going on to Chicago, so the next leg of my journey would be by bus….after a 5-hour layover! You found it! My bus didn’t leave until 4:00 pm so I hatched a plan to take a cab to a nearby theater to pass some of the time watching a movie. You know what they say about the best-laid plans, right? The cab ride was 20 minutes instead of 5. The movie started 22 minutes late. I had to leave with 10-15 minutes to go in the movie out of fear that I would miss my bus. Oh well. The movie was, “The Descendants.” Probably the saddest movie I’ve seen since, “Terms of Endearment.” Good movie, but I don’t think I missed too much by leaving early.
Compared to the bus, Amtrak was like flying first class. 4 hours mingling with people I would prefer not meeting. I don’t want to sound like a snob, but when a stranger in the terminal began telling me about how he was traveling from Kansas City to St. Louis because his wife had called the cops on him and all he could think to do was to jump on a bus…as Richard Pryor once said, “that’s when I put my hand on my knife.” Not literally, but I did feel somewhat uneasy. Fortunately, it was an uneventful ride to Indianapolis (except when I had to change seats because some guy smelled like a dumpster). I got here OK. Brad Davies was kind enough to pick me up at the Greyhound station downtown. Only then did I feel as if my Bizarro existence had come to an end. Looking forward to another history-making week on J&R. There’s nothing like Radio Row at the Super Bowl. Hope you’ll be listening. Still unsure if I’ll be cleared to fly home. If not, I’ll be sure to share a few more stories from the road. And, oh yea……GO GIANTS!!!