Monday, May 05, 2008

Five hundred miles, five hundred miles…

OK, actually, it was 748.10 miles according to Mapquest. At Wicked O’Clock Saturday morning, I drove my car up to the Sacramento Amtrak station.

Sacto Amtrak

I was greeted by my porter, who insisted on carrying my backpack for me because I am so rich and also beautiful and likewise famous that naturally they fell all over themselves to carry my backpack for me had paid extra for a Roomette, which made me a First Class Passenger. {Sticks pinkie in air and attempts not to bust out laughing}

The Roomette is about the size of an average closet, with two seats facing each other in the daytime that fold down into a bed at night, with another bunk that swings down from the ceiling in a rather alarming manner to become a second bed.


This cozy little nook became my home (with a couple hours out for dining car fun) for the next seventeen hours. I read a book.

Things I Learned From Knitting

(The people in the roomette next to me probably wished I’d quit randomly guffawing.)

I knit on a shawl.


(The people in the roomette next to me probably wished I’d quit randomly yelling, “ARGH! SSK, not K2TOG! DOLT!!”)

I thought. I met people in the dining car. I watched the Sierras go by. They had snow.


In due course (by which I mean, at 3:30 in the @*^&@ing morning) I was unceremoniously ejected disembarked in…Salt Lake City!!

Now…there is going to be a loooooooong post about my adventures in Salt Lake City in the wee hours of the morning. Oh my. People…well. I’ll tell you about it later, when I’m not exhausted and still feeling the gentle roll of the train. Thirty-four hours on a train over two and a half days? You will feel the rocking for a while.

So, there was a lot of trying to find someplace safe to hang out while I waited for the sun to rise, and the city to yawn itself awake. Salt Lake is a very slow-starting city on a Sunday. Travel hint: The Starbucks in the Sheraton hotel opens at 5:00, bless them. Once the sun was up and a reasonable number of non-scary people were out on the streets, I went and saw some things.

I saw some architecture. Lots of it. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of it. Salt Lake is a city I’ve driven around and even through, but I’ve never gotten out of the car and walked around. There is a lot to see. Rather than break your Internet, I’ll share just the one thing that for some reason amused me outside of all reason. The cat wants out, please!


Much architecture (oooh, aaah!) and shopping (you make this toffee by hand, you say?) and meeting some of the more interesting citizens of Salt Lake (hooboy) and knitting in public later (shameful!), I wandered over to…hmm…where to go, where to go…hmmmmm…oh, is that a library? A big beautiful public library? That sounds like a rockin’ good time…

Waitasecond…wait just a second here…is that…? I dunno…the picture…it’s kind of dark, kind of fuzzy, kind of shot by a complete idiot…

A Harlot!

Wait! Here’s a picture taken by someone else, who apparently is much better at using my camera than I am!

No, Stephanie, I’m Totally Dorkier Than You

Yeah. That’s right. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was my insanely fun yet somewhat silly excuse for the trip.

It must be stated first that my overall mental grasp of geography is…somewhat poor. I remembered driving around and through Salt Lake on several occasions, and thus put it quite a bit closer to Reno than it actually is. Reno is roughly five hours from my house, and I thought, “And, Salt Lake is, what, an hour further?”


So it was “my” weekend (I still get one out of every six to eight), and hey! One of my favorite authors is going to be in Salt Lake, which is what, six hours from me? Five if “speed limit” is pronounced “speed suggestions”?

And I thought it would be great to actually see Salt Lake.

Then I looked at a map.




That’s a lot further than I thought.

I thought about flying (too expensive). I thought about just going for it and driving (my hip has a nasty habit of giving out on me when least convenient, like, say, in the middle of the desert on I-80). And I was on the verge of shrugging and saying, “Oh well, eventually she’ll come to San Francisco…” (oh, irony: she was in San Francisco, the day I left for Salt Lake!) when I thought of the train. I love trains with the pure love of an infatuated child, but I’d never done anything longer than my commute on one. I’ve been flirting with the idea of making one of “my” weekends a train weekend.

Once my husband gave me his blessing for not being home until dinnertime on Monday, the deal was made.

I’ve wanted to do an overnight Amtrak trip for the longest time. And now I have. It was a ton of fun and a great way to travel. I’d do it again in a heartbeat…although not without an actual layover of some sort. Getting off the train at 3:30 in the morning and having to find places to perch for eighteen hours on only a couple hours sleep was…kinda rough.

But totally worth it. Salt Lake is a cool city, and of course listening to Stephanie was an absolute blast. The whole ‘Harlot Experience’ is just a big old hoot, from the expression on the faces of the Muggles (“Uh…whoa…that’ssssssss…a-lot-a-knitters!”) to chatting with people who had come from as near as a few blocks to as far as Montana, admiring other people’s socks and shawls and baby blankets and spinning wheels (yes, there were spinning wheels in use during her talk).

Sitting there, listening to her being smart and funny and putting into words things I’ve thought or felt, knitting a sock without worrying that she’s going to look out and frown at me with that “Pay attention! I am speaking here!” expression, surrounded by other people busily knitting without fear of reprimand…all of us laughing hopelessly every eight seconds…it was brilliant.

I had found a chocolate shop (oh, there’s a surprise, Tama found chocolate in a major city, quick!, somebody call the 6:00 news…) and I liked them so well I bought some for her.

There are things you just can’t say to someone in words, either because you don’t really know them well enough or because you can’t say them without sounding either stalker-scary or supremely dorky. Or all of the above.

So I gave her chocolate, my way of saying, “Thank you so much for doing what you do. Thanks for being brave enough to put yourself out there. You’ve given me inspiration in my knitting, bravery in the face of steeks and the chutzpah to say, ‘I can totally handle this lace pattern’. Followed closely by the ability to not only laugh but to know I am not alone when I have to rip out fifteen rows of messed up lace because I cannot reliably and/or repeatedly count to seven. Thanks for making me laugh – you’ve made me laugh so many times, about so many things. Thanks for being smart, and funny, and generous, and a brilliant writer and knitter. And by the way, you are not in fact the dorkiest person alive…I am SO dorkier than you could ever hope to be. Seriously.”

And then I made my way back to the Sheraton, which had the dubious good fortune of being my ‘safe place’ while waiting for the insanely late departure of the California Zephyr. (They were very nice to me. They even gave me a ride to the station when it was finally time.) (Although, on reflection, maybe this was merely a way to get rid of me, because I had now spent almost nine hours altogether loitering around their lobby, restaurant, Starbucks and bar…knitting…)

And then I caught the train to Sacramento, and drove home, and was swarmed by Denizens.

Even the newest one.

New Denizen

(This is Dharma. She is approximately twelve years old [which means she ranks the other Denizens], and the sweetest cat ever. She had to find a new home when some bad allergy issues came up, and by golly, we’d been pondering the idea of getting a cat – so here she is, and unless her mommy says she wants her back she’s here to stay. She’s already figured out how to insinuate herself onto my lap while I’m knitting, and then she’ll occasionally put up a paw to remind me: It’s Knit One, Purl Two, Pet the kitty, dear…)


Anonymous said...

Hurrah for you! Nothing silly about that trip - a weekend away and the Harlot sounds like all kinds of fun to me. I'm glad you had a good time. The new kitty looks like a keeper, too - she'll make a great lap-warmer.
Oh, and you look lovely in that shot - very impressive - after 17 hours on a train, even! Go Tama!

Rena said...

Okay, imagine being in that little two chair closet with your MOM. I did that way back before my daughter was born, and it was suprisingly fun. I've even been stuck in Salt Lake in the wee hours of the AM. The absolute DEADEST town I've ever been to. You look fantastic. What a fun adventure! I love trains.

The new cat is adorable, if I must say so myself. ;-)

froggiemeanie said...

Train trips are sort of fun. When DH and I were undergrads we used to frequently brave the 16 hour, overnight, train ride to visit one another.

It was only in our fourth year that we managed to afford to get berths (similar to roomettes) for the rides. Before that we'd sleep in the seats. Urk.

Good for you for getting away from it all!

Very Herodotus said...

Hang on a second - aren't you allergic to cats too? Is this one of those "I just can't say no" things?

It looks like your trip was extremely fun - I'd love to take a train trip sometime, especially if I could see the countryside out the window.

Yarnhog said...

What a great trip! I love traveling by train--or at least, I used to before kids.

Don't feel too bad about not knowing what to say to the Harlot Herself. At least you had chocolate. The one time I met her, all I managed to come up with was a supremely stupid, "I just love you so much!" To which she politely replied, "I love you, too." I may never recover what little bit of cool I once possessed.

Hilary said...

When I read your "leaving" post on Friday, I was shocked you weren't going to Maker's Faire in SF to see the Harlot.
so I'm totally amused that you went to see her in Utah.
sounsd like a fun trip.
aren't you allergic to cats too?

Anonymous said...

Well shoot, that's a lousy time of day to be stuck in downtown SLC. I'm about 45 minutes from the station - and yes, SLC doesn't do much of anything on Sundays, especially in the wee small hours of the am. Which chocolate store did you make it to? Xocolate ( My personal favorite, but it's a ways from downtown...

Glad to hear you made it to see the Harlot! I was sooo planning on attending, but my asthma had other plans. Sigh. Maybe on her next book tour.

Amy Lane said...

Lovely, lovely lovely... an amazing trip to meet an amazing woman--aren't you brave!

Anonymous said...

Hey! I saw the Yarn Harlot at Webs a week ago. And I gave her chocolate, too. Chocolate mice. She adored them.
Glad you had such a good time.

PipneyJane said...

Sounds like you had a great weekend. A glamorous train trip and getting to see the Harlot, too! Consider me green with envy.

There are times, Tama, when I wonder if you are my doppel.:o) I love long, glamorous train-trips. Eurostar to Paris? Yes! Intercity to anywhere? Definitely. Back in the day, when I couldn't afford a sleeper, I travelled on the night trains from Melbourne to Sydney by train and back, twice, and from Melbourne to Adelaide and back. The "Spirit of Progress" (Melb-Syd) even had a proper 1950's diner built into it for those of us travelling pleb-class.

- Pam (justifies First Class on Eurostar by travelling at dinner time. The upgrade costs the same as a good meal in London.)

Amanda said...

That sounds like the best weekend! Yay for the train! I'm practically drooling over here, thinking of all that knitting time you had!

We took the overnight Amtrak from Flagstaff to LA once, with a sleeper car, but my son was about 9 months old and managed to take up a full half of the lower bunk by continuously kicking me in the head. It wasn't as nice a trip as yours was!

Yarnhog said...

Omg omg omg--did you see yourself on the Yarn Harlot's blog this today?! That makes you, like, FAMOUS! And you look awesome!

thinggtwoo said...

OH My Gosh, what a great ME Weekend! I Love trains, and want someday to do a Roomette trip, too. Your new Denizen - Dharma? She Is GORGEOUS, and Bless You for taking a 12 yr old cat!!! You Are GOOD PEOPLE. :)

Nana Sadie said...

I'm delighted you made the trip - and that you talked to her...b/c I wouldn't have found you if not!
What fun...(I also love trains)
And I truly LOVE the kitty "talk" - "K1P2PetTheKittyDEAR"
She's a sweetie, no doubt about it.

MadMad said...

OMG, go see! And look how pretty you are! You never told us that part!

Patti said...

I LOVE trains! they are the BEST WAY ever to travel... they offer not only prime knitting time, you get to EAT (and drink!) while the train moves along, you get to meet people (who will try to correct your knitting -- "sweetie I could show you the "right" way to do that") and all the while seeing lovely scenery, and getting to your destination in a most civilized manner (except for the 3:00 am thing). Put the trains of australia on your to-do list. I've done one, and hope to do another before I die.

Anonymous said...

oh wow - what a stunning trip!! Silly? Not in the least.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least you gave her chocolate, which is more than I did at the Maker Faire which was nothing, except sit in the audience and cry because she is using her time to empower people. I knitted with her too, except that I lost count on my project almost immediately and decided to set it down when I started cursing. After that I admired people's knitting.

I came here from the link she gave you on her blog, BTW, and I was charmed by your writing.

rams said...

And is that the sweater she swears is green? SUCH a liar.

The roomette looks adorable -- I wonder how long/how much money from Chicago to Sacramento, where my sister and mother live...

And please -- what are the good Sacramento yarn stores (Carmichael would be even better, but maybe asking too much.) Off to putter around your blog...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story! The train car looks rather comfy - but after hours and hours and hours it may look a bit different. Cheers to you!

Anonymous said...

wow! that shawl looks wonderful - what pattern is it?

Anonymous said...

Wow, Tama! Absolutely not a "silly" trip! I have received strange looks and disparaging comments for driving 1 1/2 hours to see the Harlot.
Great pictures, I love the train.
You rock!

Tina - omme i London said...

That sounds like the perfect weekend off! Well done you, and I'm only a teeny weeny bit envious, but then again I have tickets booked for when the Yarn Harlot comes to London. Yippee - it sounds like so much fun!

corinne said...

You are my new hero! Not only did you get to see the Harlot, you were mentioned on her blog (with cute pic even). I am so very sad I missed her when she was here for the Maker Fair (although, I was learning how to ride motorcycles, so the day wasn't a complete loss).