Day 90: Amtrak Thanksgiving

Day 90 (2016-11-24): Amtrak from El Paso to San Antonio.

Brrrrr, it is freezing! I wake around 5:30 and check the weather to see 29 degrees. Thankfully, it is dry enough here that my tent is not frozen solid. I hate to get up, but I have to pee. Thankfully, the bathrooms are warm! I break down camp, fuel up at the nearby gas station, and drive back into town to the car wash. I quickly rinse the car and give my bike a good clean it has not seen since being poured on in Oregon. It is unfortunate that I could not ride more in Big Bend but getting the bike in and out of the car was such a hassle, especially since I had to remove the front wheel and loosen the headset/handlebars to make it all fit. I also vacuum out the rental – although Enterprise tried to rip me off I don’t want to leave it all dirty!

Well, maybe I should have left it nasty. I arrive at Enterprise only to find it closed, with no key return box. It’s Thanksgiving so I am not surprised, but they did not tell me it would be closed when I told them I would bring it back today! Damnit. I call the airport office, knowing it is always open. They cannot help me – some offices provide shuttle services, but not the airport. After much back and forth I finally decide to drop my bike and gear off at the Amtrak station, drive to the airport to return the car, and take the bus back. Enterprise is damn lucky I have plenty of time until my train – if not, I would just toss the keys over their fence and call it good. Idiots. At least the guy who takes my car at the airport is friendly. Oh, and it is rider-appreciation day for the bus, so riding is free. Wohoo?

I sit in the wifi-free Amtrak station for a few hours, reading and playing games on my computer as I wait for my train. As usual, Amtrak’s roll-on service is great in that it does not require a box, but the whole Amtrak experience is a little confusing and overly-complicated. Whatever. I hop on board, ready for the 12-hour overnight ride to San Antonio. Armed with food, still more boxed wine, and plenty of reading and games I plow through the night, made somewhat cozy by the complete darkness outside my window.

When I arrive in San Antonio I am tired and surprised to get a response from my Couchsurfing host. I ride the couple miles to his house, surprised by what I find: empty, foggy streets and a slight misting that renders my glasses useless in a minute or two. It’s Seattle! Except 60 some degrees at 4:30 in the morning. I sit outside my hosts’ house for a while waiting for him to respond – apparently he fell asleep – and when I finally get in I immediately pass out on a dirty floor mattress. Exhausted.


A early-morning view of San Antonio near the Amtrak station.

Out here on the road the days of the week mean little except for changing traffic patterns. Small holidays are also irrelevant, except when I ride out of my way for a post office only to realize it is Columbus Day. But Thanksgiving is not just another day – it is a major holiday and one of my favorites. I love eating, laughing, and playing cards with my family and I have only missed three Thanksgivings at home in the 25 years of my life. And when I do miss Thanksgiving I love Friendsgiving, possibly my favorite holiday ever. So I am a little sad to spend this night on a quiet, mostly empty train. What’s worse, I call my family after their dinner and laugh with all of them over speakerphone. It’s a bittersweet call…I cannot wait to be home for Christmas!


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