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  Jackie Kays

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 VSPA Reunion..."Train from Hell!"

All excited! Going to the VSPA reunion for the first time!
Everything packed…suit for banquet, VSPA vest with patches,
Amtrak tickets in hand. “Wanda, do we have everything?”
Wanda, “For the last time, yes, yes…everything!”
Off we go to Kansas City's Union Station!
Departure for Albuquerque, New Mexico
and the long awaited first VSPA reunion!
After boarding the train, and being assigned seats and
waiting about fifteen minutes, the train slowly (I do mean slowly!)
started to move down the track in a Westward direction.
The time was approximately 1:00 a.m. and we were very fatigued!
(both almost 76 years old)
We had called Amtrak days earlier in regards to being furnished
blankets and was informed that we could buy them on the train for
a small fee, and was instructed to request the blankets from the conductor.
The conductor came by and I asked. “May we have a blanket?”
He looked at me and smiled, “Are you kidding…I don't have any blankets!”
He then informed me that I could buy a blanket from the train's store!
I asked, “Where is the store located and what time does it open?”
He smirked and replied, “It opens at 0800 hours!” I informed him that
the blanket would do me damn little good at that time, “I needed a blanket now!”
He mumbled, “Sorry!” and moved on down the aisle.  
We curled up and tried to go to sleep. I opened my eyes and thought “Well, this is really a smooth riding train. I looked at my watch and we had been on the train well over an hour. I then looked out the window and to my amazement…we were still sitting in the train yard! I was no closer to Albuquerque than I was an hour ago!
At this point, I was beginning to be an unhappy camper!  (I went down to the snack bar, located down a set of very steep and narrow steps to the lower level , and bought two very hot coffees, note: I placed my cup of very hot coffee on the little fold down table attached to the seat in front of me.)
A few minutes later, my illusions about this smooth riding train came to a rapid halt! The train made a sudden, violent lunge forward, then just as sudden, a full stop! You guessed it!... Oh! Shit!…now I'm wearing a cup of very hot coffee in my lap! OUCH!! I jump straight up from my seat, banging my head on a very hard, low overhanging luggage compartment…OUCH! I then grabbed my now on fire crotch!
OUCH!...OUCH! I'm biting my tough to keep from screaming out loud!
(You might ask; “is he having fun yet!”)
Now I have to take my bag from the overhead baggage compartment, take out a clean pair of shorts and blue jeans, and then start toward the latrine down the aisle that's moving violently from left to right and up and down all at the same time it seems!  I finally arrive at the latrine where I intend to make my clothing change.
Once I get the latrine door open, I realize that the latrine was made for “Little People” or excuse my politically incorrect description…Midgets!
We are talking here, a space the size of a large stand-up refrigerator!
I'm approximately six foot tall (when I stand up straight)
It took me ten minutes and several contortionist positions
before I succeeded in the change. (Remember, I'm almost 76 years old!)
I think you are beginning to get the picture!
(I don't know how in the hell Superman does it so quick!...smile)
By now…I'm beginning to think; is this the “Train from hell?”
I make my way back up the tinny stairs and swag back and forth
until I get to my non-moving seat. (Boy! Was I happy to seat my butt back down!)
I thought; I'm not getting out of this seat until we get to Albuquerque..which
is still approximately eight hundred miles away!
Buy now the air condition is working overtime…colder than the inside of an Alaskan ice cream truck!
Across the isle from us sat a large man (Okay…Fat!) Earlier, he's eating constantly (pork and bean from a can, cheese and cracker among other smelly things!)
 By now we are shivering and freezing.
The big guy has now fallen asleep and snoring loudly! The stale, gastric polluted air which he releases approximately every three minutes is chocking us!
(Now I realize…this is defiantly the train from hell!)
The big guy is warmly covered by a nice Amtrak blanket, but it has begin to slip off
his large frame and I'm intensively watching it …hoping it will fall into the isle, where I plan to quickly pick it up and swear, if asked; that it belongs to me! (My sweet, honest and righteous wife will not allow me to steal the damn blanket!)
Some how we manage to get through the miserable night!
 The sun slowly rises and I muster enough courage to try another trip to the Snack Bar for coffee. (It's a good thing that this incident happens on the way down and not on the trip back with the hot coffee!)
I get out of my seat and try to synchronize the sway of the train car with my body, but to no avail! I get about three seats down the isle…stumble and fall into a seat with two elderly (Did I just use the word elderly? Who do I think I'm kidding!...smile) women! My VSPA cap falls in one woman's lap, my glasses in to the lap of the other.
My right hearing aid has been dislodged and is hanging by its little tub out of my ear, my upper dental plate came lose and is protruding from my mouth!
I'm grunting, grappling, and mauling the two women, trying to regain my balance!
I faintly hear one of the women screaming; “Get off me!” My embarrassment and
lame apologizes fall on deaf ears. I finally get my balance back and quickly disappear down the isle.
The conductor announces that the Dinning car is now open for breakfast!
We weave, bob and stager down the isle to the dinning car.
Have you ever eaten on a small boat while it rocks violently back and forth?
Well, eating on this train makes the boat easy work!
I would lift my coffee mug to drink, the mug would go one way and my head would go the other…boy that quickly becomes frustrating!
Finally the train makes it across the beautiful Kansas desert (Sorry, I meant plains…smile) into the beautiful Colorado desert, Ah, ah..plains until we reached
the small Colorado town of La Junta, where some how, in broad daylight the train manages to run over a pick-up truck! This incident took three hours to clean up.
The train moves about two feet and stops again! Another ambulance appears on the scene…a passenger has had a heat attack…another hour delay.
By now I realize that we are going to miss the VSPA opening dinner! (You are looking at a pissed off…unhappy camper!)…smile.
By now, I needed to go to the latrine once again! I make the dreaded trip down the
tiny narrow steps to the lower deck were the latrine is located. The train is now traveling at full speed trying to make up lost time!  The car and the latrine are moving violently from right to left! I am desperately trying to urinate!
Upon my return to my seat Wanda ask; “Did you make it alright?” I responded; “Well, I might have hit the urinal twice in twenty attempts!”…smile.
About all the beautiful scenery on the trip…Well, if you appreciate graffiti art, then you would enjoy the scenery!...smile.
We arrived almost four hour late at Albuquerque!!
You might ask; “Would I ride this train again?” My answer would have to be
Yes…due to the cheap fair, because you see…I'm cheap!...smile.
God willing and the creek don't rise…
Wanda and I will see you wonderful people in
 Phoenix next year!

Your OLD jungle buddy,


Fair Warning! There maybe an exaggerations or two in this little tale!...smile.

Í am forever honored…for I have marched with heroes!”

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