Betwixt the Coasts: From West to East in 80 Days Part 5: Welcome Back To The Betwixt Guide To Hilarious Travel Encounters In Amtrak Trains’ Dining Cars


Ok, LA to Kansas City…35 hours, including 4 meals in the Dining Car. I met my travel mate Dani from Switzerland on one of these long trips 6 years ago… oh D, You Missed A Corker this time. My first dinner was with someone I swear looked and sounded like he was a Nazi Kommandant who’d fled to South America. Then he said: “I live in Colombia” and we talked about football and Liverpool Colombian players. Opposite us on the table are two matching outfitted (pale blue) nun type ‘sisters’ with weird white hats. Herr Colombia says “ARE YOU NUNS?” very loudly. I am on the point of exploding my battered shrimp with pepper sauce all over the swish tablecloth when one of them says “No”. The other then says “We’re Amish”. Herr C says “Whaat?”. Not Nun 1 adds “Amish. We’re Amish”. Not Nun 2 says a little later to me “Do you like chocolate?”. I say something along the lines of “oooh well I’m trying to watch my sugar intake (having been unable to finish half a Jewish Deli gateau in Palm Springs….)”….then Not Nun 1 chips in with “but we’re both having the cheesecake”. Not Nun 2: “We Like That”. Herr C retorts “so maybe I’ll have that then…”.

They all order the Steak “well done” (Herr C) “medium rare” (Not Nuns 1 & 2) and I opt for chicken breast on a bed of green beans that tasted of green beans. Boiled for six weeks. The conversation, as it was, then turns to trains. “You travel a lot on Amtrak” I ask? “Had the cheesecake before, then?”. “Yes we do,” says Not Nun 1, “my first time” says Herr C. He orders the cheesecake and adds “safe journey” after managing two mouthfuls. The Not Nuns say goodnight, and I am left to start and finish my chocolate mousse cake on my Tod Sloan b4 a quick wink to the funky waitress as I leave and go to the bar saying to her “I think I could use a drink or three” and she giggles with a massive knowing smile!

The ridiculously surly lounge bar person snaps at me “Both” as I ask whether cash or credit cards were preferable to her. Then adds “Cash is Fast, Cards are Slow”. And would you perhaps enjoy a meat cleaver through the skull, I feel like asking, just to test the water further…but hesitate as she interjects, “cheers”. This reminds me of the time when my old Uni friend Michael Lock and I were in New York and I didn’t know what else to do after paying for a ticket on the subway, maybe even expecting said ticket to be handed to me. The staff member at the counter simply snarled “The Transaction Is over.” (A gate miraculously then opened….).

I love the speed of Amtrak trains. We’re currently in the Observation Car watching the cars on the adjacent freeway hurtle past us. You gotta laugh. Gawd knows whom I’ll be sitting next to for Brekkie. Hopefully there’ll be an axe murderer from Arkansas, which is more than likely as two along from me at the moment is a scruffy teen with a huge laptop slaughtering chickens with a virtual sub-machine gun in some ghastly graphic video game.

Roll on the pulverised eggs and Blood Spattered Mary.

Mind you, next day over a delish breakfast and fab lunch I met two great couples who were er just NICE and NORMAL…..we talked life, travel, food, sub-prime mortgage disasters, dining cars, and….wine.

Dinner unfortunately erupted in an absence of any lava at all with me being shoved with the Two Un-Nuns who were being darn right rude (by forging an absence of anything reactionwise whatsoever to anything I said). “OK Darlin’ so show us yer Amish Pastry” could have been more subtly put….if only I’d offered that….

Well as they say, there’s Nun So Queer….

Now where’s my cream pie? Next Stop KANSAS CITY MISSOURI for a week and an Ozark Lake or two…..



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