Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Stuck in Lodi Again - Amtrak Mishap 2017

"Driver needs assistance. ... I repeat, driver needs assistance!"

No, that was not our Amtrak conductor shouting out the above sentence. But it wouldn't surprise me if it had been. 

And no, that's not my train to the left -- and that is not what happened. But it's a cool photo, no? I actually covered that story back on Oct. 1, 2012. 

Ok - sorry - back to the Amtrak mishap of February 2017.

Let me take you back to the beginning......

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017
After getting snowed-in and having to spend two extra (and amazingly wonderful) days in Carson City, the adventure began. It actually started with getting kicked out of Harrah's (but that's a whole other story) before I finally boarded a bus to take me from Reno, Nevada to Sacramento, California. 

But traffic was slow. Donner Pass had been closed for two days resulting in numerous vehicles slowly serpentining their way up the hills and through the mountain. And by the time I got to Sacramento, I had to run to catch my train connection. I barely made it - with only a couple of minutes to spare. Before I could find a seat, the train was already moving. Fortunately, I found one solo seat all by itself just outside the dining car. I settled in and shortly after - less than an hour - was when the fun began.

I heard a high-piercing shrieking, metal-scraping sound, almost as bad as nails on a chalkboard, followed by a strong, forward thrust that threw me into the seat in front of me. Luckily the seat in front served as a cushion for my head to hit. It was ugly and scary. I was actually texting my love at the time and I quickly sent another text:

"Train came to a screeching halt, throwing everyone around."

The conductor then came on the intercom and told us that someone had placed a lot of debris on the tracks and they would have to clear it before we could continue. As he talked, the lights began to flicker. Then the power and the sound went out and we were left in the dark - figuratively and literally. A few seconds later, little glowing lights lit the floor. The conductor was going through the cars telling everyone to stay in their seats. One worker going by told me it was large pieces of metal - large debri items - and that it appeared someone was trying to derail the train.

Stuck in Lodi again
A quick glance at my cell phone told me I was in Lodi - or about a mile from the Lodi station. The sun was setting and we were in the middle of flooded fields. I remember thinking, "There is no way we can walk across those fields to get to the road." There were a lot of babies (I could hear them crying) and a lot of elderly - and we even had a blind man with his seeing-eye dog.

That was just the beginning. They told us one of the tanks was leaking gasoline. I have videos of the announcements but can't seem to get them uploaded here, so I am including the link below: (to listen, first start it, then  unclick the "x" on the volume control situated at the bottom, right hand corner of the video.)

We finally inched our way to the Lodi station one mile away and then waited more than an hour for buses to arrive for us. When they did - the fun continued.

I kid you not, our bus broke down one block from the station. Or, at least, the driver thought it had - but it turned out she was in the wrong gear. She said she normally doesn't drive those buses and she was "new" at it.  She got on the intercom and started yelling "Driver needs assistance. I repeat, driver needs assistance."

While on the freeway, we came close to getting hit by two drivers speeding - or chasing each other - in what appeared to be road rage or some other horrible thing. It was bad.

Then our driver got lost getting to Stockton. She ended up going through a neighborhood with narrow streets and she had trouble maneuvering the turns and almost hit a parked car..... in fact, she may have brushed one. It was kind of hilarious. All the passengers kept looking at each other in disbelief and asking "Is she for real?"

When we finally made it to the Stockton station - which was abandoned at that late hour - the driver simply pulled up on the side of the road next to the station, facing the tracks. I was already paranoid that we were too close to the tracks but she wanted to leave room for a second bus to park behind us. That second bus turned into the station. (They had a good driver.)

Our driver jumps out but forgets to put the bus in park. She left it in gear....and the bus started rolling towards the tracks. She jumped back on just in time to slam on the brakes and back up. I have a big phobia of railroad crossings (not trains) so I was ready to jump out of the moving bus.

I finally made it home after 1 a.m.
Yes - it was quite the adventure.