Today we disembarked and began the second leg of our trip: the land portion. I LOVE traveling; I will pretty much go on any trip without asking too many questions. I wanted to leave a little mystery to this journey, so I did not research this part at all.
The day began with a very early train ride. A train ride that lasted for over ten hours. Ten hours of an informative but annoying "tour guide" blathering loudly over the speakers, keeping everyone from sleeping, concentrating on their books or chatting with their friends.
Everyone had become so accustomed to the constant beauty they didn't even bother looking out the window anymore.
There was some kind of accident on the road that delayed the train, and then, I swear to God, there was an earthquake. While we were pulled over for one of the many bridge safety checks, there was much to-do and it turned out the train had left the conductor behind. It was that kind of day.
There were kids on the train that seemed to be irritating some of the other passengers. I noticed familiar faces on the train and realized that we had been put in a permanent group, or pod for the remainder of the trip. These people were to form cliques and turn on other groups. It was a strange study in group dynamics.
But the scenery was GORGEOUS. How many different ways can I say that? Where the hell is my thesaurus?
I had a DaDa moment here
I spent most of the trip in the less-scenic but relatively private lower level.
At one point the ever-present narration said, "You will notice the multiple beaver dams in this area." This guy looked out the window and said, "Yeah, it's like total beaver city out there!" I said, "I have to ask - are you hippies or did you take a lot of acid? Or both?" He and his girlfriend giggled, "We're that age!"
These are my hippie pals, Michael and Mary.
Another excellent part of the day was the food. The food on the train was killer - I wish the food on the cruise had been as good. I started the day with a croissant filled with a vegetable frittata, FRESH reindeer sausage and cheese. Reindeer's gaminess is balanced out by suffucient fat and spice.
For lunch I had a bowl of reindeer chili - also killer.
Later, when we were still on the endless train ride of never-ending glory and nature's majesty, I had a King crab cake slider on a focaccia with red-pepper coulis. I still prefer blue crab, but it was interesting.
The train ride was long, but there were a number of diversions. First cookies were passed by Alex, who was so cute and charming he gave my mom the giggles.
There was even a lecture by an Iditarod racer
It seems our luggage was not traveling by train with us, but by bus along the George Parks Highway. as we received these letters in our lodge:
"A tractor-trailer carrying liquified natural gas overturned on the George Parks Highway. Currently the highway is closed to traffic from mile 171 to mile 184 due to potential of explosion from leaking gas vapors."
It's been a strange day.
Tonight we feasted on a comped 300-dollar dinner at the guest lodge, and the meal was unreal, even though we were all the walking dead by that point. The restaurant was on three levels, to take advantage of the view. A child on the level above us started rocking a large iron floor lamp, until finally it began falling, straight down towards my mother. A quick-thinking waiter grabbed the lamp in the nick of time, and the child's mother pulled her little boy away with a lighthearted "boys will be boys expression".
After a little discussion, we realized the little boy was the same kid on the train - and the same kid who tripped the waiter on the cruise. He was like the bad seed!
My mom said the waiter was making her a little uncomfortable. When he handed me my drink he did so from behind, leaning down across me. I said, "I see what you mean." He asked me about my perfume.
As we looked over the menu, Ralph pointed out, "Look. He's inappropriately touching someone else now. He's cheating on us with another table."
When Space Invader Waiter returned to take out order he stood with both hands on the back of my chair, leaning over me. So I did what anyone would do when their space is invaded - I decided to see how far I could invade back. So as he took our orders, I leaned my head back until it was touching his stomache.
The crab cakes were made with King Crab. They were lovely.
My crab dip was unbelievable - heavy cream and super-fresh crab. I also was served around 7 pieces of toasted bread.
Later, when he came over to check on us, Space Invader Waiter stood next to my chair with his right arm resting on the back of my chair. So I leaned over and lightly rested my head against his hip. He didn't even flinch.
Then I saw him pulling the arm-around the-chair move on a little old man. What is up? He moved before I could snap a picture of that touching scene.
He brought us the biggest crab legs you have ever seen in your entire life and said, "Sorry if they're not long enough." Hmmm. I said, "That's OK. Size doesn't matter." He set down my T-bone and said, "And there's your steak - nice and thick." Seriously. I was dying.
The crab was sweet and succulent, and I won the contest for the longest crab leg. I was messing around with the camera and Space Invader offered to take my picture. He said, "Are you turned on?" What??? Oh, the camera. I said, "No, "I'm not turned on. To turn me one you have to press right there. No there." I looked at him for even a glimmer of flirtation and he looked back as innocent as a little kid. Was he really not doing this on purpose? Everyone else at the table was torn between laughing and being completely horrified.
When my mom needed more water, I inappropriately touched the waiter's belly instead of his elbow as he passed, and he just leaned right into my chair again. No personal boundaries whatsoever. I thought dessert would be the final blow to see if he was messing with us, doing some bizarre waiter trick for tips, or really had no idea that he was all over his patrons. Asking me, "Are you turned on?" Seriously.
But come dessert, the rest of my group left me to order our treats to go. There was no more double-entendre, and he suddenly changed into super-serious waiter. I pushed it when we left by slapping him on the shoulder and turning it into a half-hug. He stiffened up uncomfortably, so I did the straight-guy pat on the back and left with the biggest doggie bag you have ever seen in your whole life.