Thursday, May 25, 2017

More "De-constuction" along US-50

Once again, the wheels of progress have turned.   I can''t say whether it's a good - or bad - thing.

As I returned from my recent adventure, I noticed the former mom and pop motel near the US 50 and US 301 split - lately containing an antiquities shop in its former restaurant and lounge - being demolished.   The old motel rooms were already removed from the site. We had not known that it was in danger of disappearing, but just like the other motel demolition project, reported on in December of 2014, everything happened quickly.

Taken last week.  All that was left is the main building.  And you can see the yellow shovel removing  the back of it.


Taken this week.   The site is clear.


All that's left is a small pile of rubble, yet to be removed.


And now, the reason for its demise...another convenience store!

Likely this land use enhancement is good for the county's (and state's) taxes, but it's just a mile (or less) further west is the site of the other new convenience store...  How many of them are really necessary?   Obviously one more was needed, and it's likely the company paid a lot more than a pittance to entice the owners to sell the property.    That's the price of progress...

BTW, the antique business formerly in the old restaurant, relocated to Delaware, which has no sales tax.  One employer lost for Maryland, one gained.   Fair trade?  Your guess is as good as mine...

Mandy

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trip Miscellany:

There were a few pictures which might be of interest from my extravaganza...

First, from Santa Monica'a beach and the boardwalk...temperatures in the 70's brought out the kids of all ages!


Following is interesting architecture and mural on the boardwalk at Venice Beach:


View of the Santa Monica Pier from the Palisades:


And Mandy walked the whole way....it was quite a hike.

On her trip, Mandy sampled two different styles of sleeping car accommodations.  Here is a picture of the larger of the two, a family bedroom, with space for 2 kids and 2 adults.   There is a window on each side of the car, which is great for sightseeing.   Definitely lots of room for one adult!  And the seats on Mandy's side of the car can remain in place and usable, while the bed is down on the camera side of the car.  That works well for those waking moments in the middle of the night!


Mandy at a stop enroute...


It definitely was a wonderful adventure, and one which will never be forgotten.

Hugs,

Mandy

Sunday, May 7, 2017

On The Road Again - Day 14 and Thoughts.


When I awoke on the morning of day 14, the train was nearing Chicago.

I shaved, cleaned up and dressed in my capris and a turtleneck as the weather was forecasted to be cold there.   One of the female servers (the one who had the discussion the previous day about guys wearing capris) hadn’t worked my table yet…so today was her first time.   And I was wearing a capri outfit (like she was discussing yesterday morning.)   She seated me at a table with a guy I had lunched with previously.   Then she seated a 30something guy and a 70something woman there with us.   What to expect – good treatment, or a nasty comment about guys in capris and lipstick?  However, I needn’t have had any concerns.  She handled everything "right out of the textbook.She took our orders “ladies first,” and I was the first lady.  (Does that signify she thought I looked OLD!?  LOL!)   Then she addressed me as “Ma’am” for the rest of the meal.  Did I "pass?"  Or was she being politically correct?  I'll never know.  But in either case, how very affirming and pleasant!

Lunch was served early, and I was seated with 3 other women traveling alone.  Everyone was friendly, and for some reason by then I felt much more comfortable in the company of women, than men.   But all too soon it was time to go back to the sleeper and prepare for an on-time arrival in Chicago.

During the layover, I knew my "nose needed powdered" so I sought out the family restroom, which the Chicago Metropolitan Lounge so conveniently provided.  And as things turned out, I could have worn a skirt on to "my wife's train" - the car attendant was young and not a regular on that route. And I didn't know any of the other passengers in the sleeper.  But you never know...

Once on "my wife's train,"  dinner was uneventful, two men and one other woman at my table.  Very nice...even dressed as I was, they presumed me to be "female."    And for breakfast the next morning, same thing.  By now it had become very routine.  And I love it...

The very last leg of the trip was a ride on the commuter train, to BWI Airport and my car.  I boarded and took two seats - one for me and one for my baggage (these commuter railcars didn't have luggage racks, but serve an airport, so what do they expect?  There were lots of us like that on the train, and at least it wasn't rush hour.)

So, who came in and sat across from me but people from my old line of work, who were part of an organization I dealt with on occasion.    This is a dreaded circumstance in which wearing a skirt and/or having red nails would have presented me with a dilemma.   I probably would have just "shut up and said nothing" to them if they didn't recognize me.  But if they did...the skirt would have been rather hard to explain (except if it were Halloween.)

I'm not sure if they presumed "girl" or "boy" when I started chatting with them across the aisle, but I guess I'll find out in due time if the man ever responds to the email he asked me to send.   If it begins "Dear Ms. Sherman:" I'll know what they thought.  (Remember, my given name has been surrendered to the girls - that may also play a part in it.)

My "hindsight" thoughts...on this wonderful experience:

This was a superb trip.  Nearly two weeks in skirts and being accepted as a woman 99% of the time, makes it hard to revert back to my normal style of dressing…even though that is not at all masculine.  So, if ever presented with another circumstance like this, what would I do differently, or try to change?

1.  For a trip of this length, a "different" spare girly outfit would have been desirable.  I didn’t wear my spare white skort with the blue floral blouse, to limit laundry complications after the trip.  And in any event, since the skirt on the skort is only on the front, and the back looks like shorts, it may not have been feminine enough.   After multiple compliments about my long red paisley skirt, it seems like more time in long skirts would have been appropriate.  Perhaps if (or when) there is a next time,  I'll pair my 3 long skirts and one knee length denim skirt, with women’s polos and tees – the ones which are part of my normal wardrobe, to ease laundry issues back home.   But I would also take an overtly feminine blouse (like the blue floral one) in case of special events.

2.   I contemplated having my newly-filled nails painted bright red before catching the train on departure day, to provide almost 2 weeks of an extra feminine cue.   But I hesitated for several reasons, not the least of which was “what happens if this turns into a disaster and I have to present as male?” 
                                                                                                                                                                                                           Completely removing regular polish from filled acrylic nails “neatly” and without tell-tale remains around the edges is not easy without professional help…and gel colors have to be removed by a nail tech.  Plus, guys don’t often wear red-polished nails.  (But without male clothes, presenting as a guy would be tough, anyway.)    Thus, hesitation was definitely the wrong move...as long as I planned some time to get the color removed in  Chicago.     Other than stirrup pants which I wore on departure day, capris for any colder weather and returning home (and a pair of shorts for emergencies), skirts were the ideal bottoms for traveling.  I wish I could wear them more often.

3.  I was concerned about my voice becoming an issue.   Given the circumstance of complete anonymity (I’ll likely never see any of these folks again),  my voice was accepted as part of me.  Hoarseness from a slight cough gave me some perceived cover (for anyone who thought about it.  But apparently nobody did.)  I simply couldn’t maintain the softer tones I use, without my voice cracking after a few sentences.   I’m just a girl with a deep voice – until and unless I get some voice coaching.  That probably won't happen...

4.  Makeup application:  I had my complete makeup kit with me in the suitcase.   But I only used it once.  The rest of the time I used concealer, foundation, powder, and 12 hour lip color (note: it doesn’t last 12 hours), all of which I carry in my purse.  No eyeliner, eye shadow, blush and so on.  On the train, and especially while sightseeing, I wore more makeup than the other girls.  Most weren't even wearing lipstick.  I seemingly can’t escape wearing at least SOME makeup, to keep my beard shadow under control.    But “less is more.”  

If I ever transition, I’ll cross the “makeup” bridge for dressy occasions when I come to it.

5.  Shoes:   Flats worked just fine, and I wore them all the time.   Sandals weren’t comfy enough to wear all day, every day, and aren’t permitted (outside of sleeper accommodations) on trains.   Too much metal, too many pinch points down low.  High heels on the train would have been downright hazardous to remaining upright, probably resulting in falling into some poor passenger's lap.  (And, they're not much less dangerous on the cracked sidewalks of city streets.)    I need to find something comfortable with a 1 or 1-1/2” heel, and sling or closed back, for dressier days and evenings.  In retrospect, I should have taken my clogs. They at least have heels, and even without back straps to hold them on, I noticed several girls wearing them on the train.   Next time!

6.  Earrings:  My ears aren't pierced, so I have no choice but to wear clip earrings.   And I wore them almost constantly, until I got home.  (Yes, my ears ached quite a bit.   Long live aspirin.  And I moved the clips around a bit - which helped.)   On this vacation, one of my cute little pearl earrings disappeared at the Santa Monica Pier, and I didn't notice it was gone until it was too late.  :-(   But I had the foresight to bring another pair, much more dangly and sparkly.  So I started to wear these instead:


I like them - their movement can definitely be felt with every movement of my head.  If one drops off (only happened once), that should be noticed right away.   Plus, during this two-week travel period, my ears seemed to adjust quite a bit to pressure from the clips.   After all, until about 10 years ago Mom wore clip earrings all day, every day, and managed to reach 93 years of age without pierced ears...   I simply can't foresee getting mine pierced, at least in the near future.   But I "never say never."

Naturally,  I'm wondering when (or even IF) I’ll be able to try a "vacation" like this again…from looking at our calendars, it definitely won’t be this year!   And if long distance Amtrak trains end up being de-funded by the new administration…there will never be a repeat!    So I'm thankful I took the opportunity when it presented itself.   (And from the weather reports I see, it appears my timing was excellent....)

That’s all for now…

Mandy

PS:  When I got home, I accidentally arrived wearing both my necklace and bracelet.   I've always wear the necklace, but it's a first for the bracelet.  Nothing was said.  One more envelope pushed successfully! (And I wore it every day the next week as well, with no comment.  Yay!)  I'm just glad I remembered to take off the earrings!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

On the Road Again - Days 12 & 13


It was once again up early, because it was time to start the trek home.  In a skirt and top today, of course.  And it was with mixed emotions, because even after such a wonderful trip, it was time to get home to my wife and my familiar surroundings.

I had breakfast in the steamboat’s dining room again…delicious as usual, but with a different female server.  I was not identified as a woman, nor were any male or female greetings/.comments made.  She just did her job.    That's ok with me.

Below is a picture of the outfit I wore to begin my trip home, taken on the steamboat's balcony, just off the dining room.   At that hour of the morning, there wasn't much activity, even though the staterooms were sold out.  Yes, the free full breakfast was delicious!



Afterward, I stepped ashore, to get some pictures of the steamboat in the morning light.  A Sacramento Sunrise!!


My cab to the station arrived on time, and I got there quickly.   No gender-specific greetings.  I think the driver might have been a Grinch-in-training.  Nothing was said, but it's just a feeling I got.  Oh well...his problem, not mine.  I'll never see him again. 

At the station, while I was waiting for a Redcap, two separate large groups of inbound kids on school tours arrived, going to various city sites.   They sat (and stood) all around me.   I was expecting issues or comments, but none of them gave me so much as a second glance.  Apparently they were more interested in their friends and their tour than the TG woman in their midst.

I'm just glad I wasn't in the girls' room when 25 young girls crowded in, all at once...lol!

When the Redcap finally arrived, he interpreted me as female, and spoke accordingly as we piled into the jitney (a seven-person golf cart with a big trunk platform.)  Lots of others were in the jitney, and we exchanged names and car numbers.   This was apparently going to be another friendly traveling group.

Since my train was going to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains later in the day, a bunch of us agreed to get together in the lounge car after lunch, to watch the scenery from there.   And since the guys all sat together, the women all gathered where I was seated.  We had a good time talking and looking around, and took lots of pictures of of the scenery that the Sierras are famous for.   Such as:


Yes, there was snow...just not as much as I had expected.   In places I'd estimate 2 to 3 feet, much less in others.  Mostly toward the tops of the hills.  The conductor said that warm weather the past couple weeks caused the demise of most of last winter's record snowfall.

One of the women in our group sat beside me, in a seat for 2.  As in, shoulder-to-shoulder.  She noticed my camera, grabbed it and took a couple of pictures of me.    She liked this one best, describing it as a cute picture of a cute girl!


Dinnertime came, and I went to the dining car, where tables of four are filled completely.   The staff seated me at an empty table, which was fine.  And then a twentysomething woman and her sister (a mommy with  a 2-1/2 year old boy) came in.   They were seated with me, which was OK – I’m just one of the girls anyway.    We chatted, cooed over Dean (the baby), and had a good time, even though Dean was in his "terrible twos".   When they finished and left the diner, they said to the baby “lets’ all say good night to the nice lady.”  The little boy was a cutie.  Don ‘t you just love it…even youngsters weren’t having trouble with my presentation!

Our beds were made up when we got back from dinner…so it was time to retire for the evening.

The next morning, I went to breakfast early.  The staff seated me at a table, and I waited for some others to join me.  It turned out I was the only girl at a table with three men this time.   And one of them recognized that I’m a girl…he even referred to me as “she” several times in conversation during the meal.   And before long, the others were, too.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself here.  This is how I was dressed for the morning:


Before the waitstaff assigned any one else to my table, I overheard bits and pieces of a discussion between staff members (one 30something girl and two 20something guys.)   The discussion seemed to be about one of the guys who admitted to owning a pair of capri pants (complete with the little ties on each leg's hem slits.)  As near as I could tell (my back was to them) the guy confessed to having them, but not wearing them much.   The girl thought they were too girly for guys.    Then business got brisk in the diner,  and the capris discussion tapered off.

I haven’t worn capris (so far) on this trip.   Thus, I most likely wasn’t the direct cause of their discussion.  My plan was to wear capris for the last part of this leg as well as in Chicago, so I’m not wearing skirts at Union Station or on “my wife’s train.”

Two passengers on this train had already complimented my long skirt, which was very pleasant and much appreciated.   But after my meal, one of the older female train employees stopped me as I walked through the diner on the way to the lounge car.   “Honey, I really want that skirt.”  I laughed and responded with  “Thanks, sweetie.”   “Really - you look so cute in it  - as you sashay down the aisle, it flows so smoothly around you.  You look pretty, and I love both the colors and your outfit.”     Wow!   Me - sashaying?  Really?   I haven’t been consciously trying.   My femininity must be oozing through.

I told her where I got it.  She confessed to buying at thrift shops too.   Then she went into why she likes the longer style, to disguise her legs which she thinks aren’t flattering, and is why she only wears skirts no shorter than her knees.  I told her that my thighs are heavier than I’d want to show off to the world, which is why I like the longer skirts, but will also wear them knee length.   “Well honey, longer is in style now, so buy yourself several like that and wear them every day.”  My response was:  “I think I need some retail therapy, sweetie!   But I’d love to have and wear lots of them.”

We went through Azure Canyon afterwards, and the scenery is majestic:


Dinner was quite uneventful.   There were only two of us at the table, and the guy (in his 70’s) wasn’t at all talkative.  In addition, he was (or pretended to be) hard of hearing. And the male server referred to us as “guys.”   In spite of my earrings, engagement ring, makeup and lipstick, long hair, skirt, pantyhose, flats and purse.   So that was quite a letdown after the past few exciting days.   But hey, it is what it is…too many fun things happened, to let this little incident be a "downer."   Perhaps he automatically refers to everyone as "guys."  That has happened when my wife and I were out together, and we obviously aren't "two guys."   (Hmmm, not even one guy....LOL!)

To bed early: tomorrow Chicago, and a switch to “my wife’s train” for “coming down the home stretch.”   

Hugs,

Mandy


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On The Road Again - days 10 & 11




Monday morning found me back on the train again, and in a skirt, of course.  This was my outfit...but without the sandals. I didn't wear them at all.


The day started with me being seated at a table of women for breakfast in the diner.   No problem…the staff is generally nice like that, I enjoy being seated with women, as well as being included in their discussions.  There was no indication or evidence that any of them interpreted me as “a man in a dress” – even with my poorly-disguised voice.   I did have a slight cough and some raspiness, and that would have helped had anyone commented,  (but they didn’t.)   Yes, it’s a real pleasure to be included.

I took lunch in the Pacific Parlour car, a specially-outfitted (translation - luxurious) sightseer lounge car, for sleeping car passengers only.  Very nice, even if I ended up alone.  Most of the others ate in the diner.   But I didn't like the Parlour's dinner menu, so I took my evening meal with 3 other women in the diner.  Then I scooted into the luxurious seats in the Pacific Parlour car to watch the sun set.

Arrival in Sacramento was very close to on time, but at a late hour (just after midnight.)  And by the time I got settled into the hotel (a floating historic restored river steamboat) and ready for bed, it was 1:30 AM (which was 4:30 AM Eastern time.)   It took 3 alarm clocks to get me moving at 7 AM (10AM Eastern.)  No wonder my bags are so full!

After getting dressed in my long skirt outfit, I went for breakfast and was given the last table for 2 in the dining room, with a river view.   Right after they brought my orange juice, a woman gingerly approached my table and asked if the other seat was occupied.   Of course I said no, and she thanked me and sat down.

We’ll call her “Ms. M.”  By her accent (and self-admission) she identified herself as from England.  She was very interesting to talk with, having spent the last six months on a sabbatical from her employment, traveling all over the far east (translation: Cambodia, Vietnam, and so on.) 

Her trip was drawing to a close, and she had a ticket to ride the same train number to Chicago as I will be, but her departure is a day earlier.  (From there she goes to Maine, then Boston, then England.)   I kept asking her questions and she kept on talking, so I didn’t have to. 

I told her that I’m not sure I’d have been able to do what she just did (getting myself a seat at someone’s table), and she said that traveling gives you that ability.   "You’re drawn to friendly-looking women who speak English, and you don’t let them get away!"    OOOoooKKKkkkk.

We had a great time chatting, and there was no indication that she thought I was anything but a woman.  We wished each other well as we parted ways.  I hope she has a good trip home, but I’ll never know for sure – nor will she about me.  I did not pursue exchanging addresses.  For obvious reasons, I don’t need the problems that could generate on the home front.   But I made sure that my wife knows Ms. M sought the seat at my table.  

During my short stay, I visited the California State Railroad Museum, just a block and a half from my hotel, and took in the very authentic “Old Town.”    If it weren’t for modern vehicles and paved roads,  the area could pass for a frontier town.


Mandy at California State Railroad Museum - long live mirrors when you're alone!  Without them, it's hard to find a safe place to balance a camera, so the self timer can work!



Old Town, Sacramento

That night, I once again ate in the dining room at my hotel.  And further…guess which table (and which chair at that table) the waitstaff gave me?  Yes, I missed chatting with Ms. M.  Dinner was tasty, and then came time to pack for the trip home, which started next morning.

More to follow.

Hugs,

Mandy

Sunday, April 30, 2017

On The Road Again - days 8 and 9


Arriving in LA only a little past the 5:35 AM schedule, I decided that I would wait till 9AM to pick up the rental car at the station.  Thus, I checked into the first class lounge at the train station. (No issues whatsoever.)   I hate traffic to begin with, and starting out for Santa Monica at 7 or 7:30 would almost certainly mean an extra long trip, in rush hour traffic.

There was no issue at the lounge, nor at the car rental counter.  My feminine outfit didn't matter - renting a car wearing a skirt, blouse, makeup and women’s jewelry was not an issue.  Obviously they had the info on my driver’s license, which shows the big “M.”   The female agent simply omitted any gender specific terms when talking to me.   And that was OK – at least I didn’t hear “Sir” – which could have confused adjacent customers.   Once I had the keys and the car, it still took me about 45 minutes to drive to Santa Monica.   And it’s not very far.

When I arrived at the motel, my room wasn’t ready yet (it never is…LOL) and they suggested coming back in a couple hours.  They were very friendly and sociable, and the gentleman I spoke with on the phone referred to me in the feminine gender.  It’s a good thing he didn’t remember referring to me as “Sir” when I made the reservation with him over the phone!

So off I went, to the Museum of Flying at the Santa Monica Airport.   It’s a great little facility, but what immediately catches your eye is the  “stuffed and mounted” DC-3, which dominates their front yard.  Can’t miss it!   And after all these years, I finally found out what the DC stands for in “DC-3.   The planes were made at the Douglas factory here in Santa Monica, and the C stands for Commercial..   Hence:  Douglas Commercial – 3.   (Yes, Virginia, there was a DC-1 model and DC-2, as well, in addition to 4, 5, 6  and so on.)


They had many other stuffed and mounted planes, artifacts and displays  - mostly inside.  When I finished there, it was back to the motel to check in.   And my room was ready.  And I was once again referred to in feminine terms.   I’m really beginning to like this!

After settling in, I took a walk to the beach (a block and a half from the motel) and followed the beachfront walk for a mile or more, hiking all the way to Venice Beach.   Weather was beautiful (sunny and low 70’s, with a gentle on-shore breeze), and though the beach was not crowded, there was still enough “cheesecake and beefcake” on the trail (skateboarding, bicycling and hiking) to please anyone.

And the fact that I was out and about, in the presence of kids and adults alike, with no issues whatsoever (yes, I was wearing sunglasses so I could watch when I felt like it) made this another wonderful experience.  It could become habit-forming.

I  expected to have dinner at a certain beachfront restaurant in Venice Beach, but there was a loud band out front, playing contemporary rock music, and I “couldn’t even hear myself think.”  But judging from the number of teens and twenty-somethings there, they enjoyed, and that’s what counts.  I walked on by.


So,, on the hike back to the motel, I stopped for early dinner at a seafood restaurant.  No gender-specific greetings there  : -(   I enjoy being out in public en femme, and going about my routine business.  But I’m still not comfortable being in a bar environment as a woman.   Alcohol,  loudmouthed people and TG's sometimes don’t mix well.  But the restaurant was family-oriented, and – surprise – probably 75 percent of the women were in skirts.  Plus, half of the girls in skirts were in some kind of heels.   No heels for me on this trip.  The amount of walking I’ve been doing (and luggage space or lack thereof) precluded bringing them.

:-(

Then I hiked back to the motel, "done in" from all the hiking.  

Starting  out very early (6AM to miss traffic), I checked out a decoration I’d noticed on the front of a CVS Pharmacy in Venice Beach as I drove back to the motel from the Museum of Flying.   It was unique enough that every tourist walking by was grabbing their iPhone or camera.   Don’t you agree?


After finishing up in Venice Beach, I headed for Santa Monica Pier and the “End of Route 66” sign.  Everyone had advised against parking on the pier as it was so expensive.  But that’s where the signs led me, and in reality, they seemed reasonable since they charged by the hour, not by the day.   My visit only cost $6, not too bad.   I’ve paid much more in big cities.


Remember the Eagles and their song “Hotel California?”  There is a hotel by that name - very close to the pier.  I don’t have any "inside info" about it, or any "inside knowledge" about a connection to the one in the song.   But it’s very nice, though eclectic, and has a surfing theme, as you can see from the pic.   I would have considered staying there except for the price (twice what I paid per night.)



This is a scan of the front of their room key...given to me by the desk clerk as a souvenir.

My view of the song (which I like) is that it’s more about the CA culture of the  60’s and 70's. Like extravagance, drugs, party till you die type thing.   (But your view might be different.)  Hmmm…they did party pretty late in Santa Monica the first night I was there.   The second night was more subdued…    While visiting the pier, I walked along the bluff, near the edge of downtown.   Very pretty view of the pier, the surf and the coastline. 

When   I finished at the Pier, I decided to drive north on the PCH.  (CA route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.)  My wife and I drove the section from San Francisco to Santa Barbara a number of years ago, so this would partially fill in the gap.   My objective was the Missile Park at the Naval Air Station at Point Mugu in Ventura County.    It is to small US missiles (think Regulus, Poseidon and smaller) what the Museum of Flying was to aviation in general.   However, everything is outside, is identified, and there is no attendant, so it’s “walk around and look.”   But still very nice – it’s a worthwhile destination.



In my pictures from this trip, you'll notice that I appear to have only 3 skirt outfits with me.   That's basically correct.  I brought a fourth, but didn't wear it on account of laundry issues when returning home.   That will be corrected, along with several other things I'll talk about in my final segment of this travelog.

On the way back, I stopped at several beaches and overlooks.    As expected, the traffic was just awful.   When the two-lane road became four lane as I got closer to Santa Monica, I pulled into the right lane (I only go the speed limit and want folks to be able to pass me.)  

A young guy – probably in his daddy’s Ferrari (or some other noisy exotic sports car) - crept up beside me.  The driver checked me out, and hit the gas hard, squealing his tires and roaring ahead, then slowing down till I caught up again.  I was wearing sunglasses so he couldn’t tell I was looking at him as he looked my way, then roared ahead again, and this time kept going.   Was he flirting?   I suspect so.   We both knew there’s no way a Nissan Sentra could outrun a Ferrari – although in this case, it would have been a true “drag race...” – pun intended.

When I eventually got back to the motel and happily was able to park the car for the night (I hate traffic), I decided to walk back to Venice Beach to get takeout at one of the restaurants.    On the way back I noticed something new…a “barcycle.”  No, not a bicycle – this was a wagon with a bar in the center, with a driver/barkeeper to drive.  And pedals at each of the seats around the bar. to power it with alcohol!



I didn’t do much investigation, but it seems you can charter it for events.   And with the patrons providing the motive power, it doesn’t use any non-renewable energy!  Very curious….   Then it was back to the motel to pack for an early departure back to the train station….heading for my next destination.  

Gee, I hate to see that this extravaganza is winding down.   That closet door I kicked off its hinges this week was last seen floating away in the Pacific…

More to follow!

Hugs,

Mandy


Thursday, April 27, 2017

On The Road Again - Days 6 - 7



At 3 AM I was up already up, preparing to get off the train, though my bags were mostly packed from the night before.   I was just anxious to get the show on the road.   

My outfit was ready, so I shaved and dressed and went down to the lobby to wait for the cab the bellman had ordered, to deliver me to the Amtrak station at 7AM.   It arrived in a timely manner, and there was very little interaction with the driver…and no “S” word.  When I got to the station, I went to the Magnolia sleeping car passenger waiting room.

An employee was there and let me in, identifying me from my ticket and former employer’s ID card (which doesn’t show age or gender), giving me the code to the electronic door lock (they have a problem with vagrants sneaking in.)  Another lady was already there, and we chatted a while.  Then I went out to take some pictures, and when I let myself back in, I heard clapping and “Good Girl! I knew you could do it!”   It’s the first time I’ve heard that phrase used to compliment me!  

Here is a picture of me in the Magnolia Room, taken by the lady...


And things kept getting better. 

A few minutes later, more folks came in, and chairs started filling up.  Then 4 young guys (20-somethings) with British accents came in and sat down across from me.   Feeling a bit better about my abilities to communicate like a woman, I asked them where they were from (vacationing from South Africa), and they started talking.  Just like guys do.   A few questions from me, kept them going.   Soon the only vacant seat left was next to me, because many of the rest were couples.   A woman came in and asked if the seat was available.  I assured her that it was, and she sat there, thanking me for the seat, and we chatted a few minutes, till it was time to board the train.  

Some of the folks I’d spoken with were in my car, others not.   But I was “Ma’am” or “Miss” when they greeted me as I passed by them, and in the dining car.  Obligingly, the dining car staff followed along and noted that I’m a woman.    They went out of their way to seat me at a table with other women.  This continued as the trip went on…two days and two nights.  

There was only one cranky old male “Grinch” who seemed to recognize my true gender.  Early on, when he passed me in the aisle, he said “Excuse me Sir – oh, Ma’am.  Sorry. )  An accident?    Naaahhh - intentional.   But for some reason, he changed his tune later in the trip and stuck with Ma’am.  Perhaps hearing it from others made him reconsider his analysis of me?  Naaahhhh.  Just trying to be polite….after initially being a butt-head.  Fortunately, his attitude didn’t prevail with others!   

Clearly this was the most enjoyable Amtrak rail voyage I’ve had so far – with the most social interaction that Mandy has ever experienced.  (Of course, not counting the private car trip to LA a couple years ago.  That stands alone, in its own right.)  There were compatible female table mates at every meal, and the ladies related to me as a woman., talking about things like how women get “talked down to” and so on.  Mandy was definitely experiencing a taste of “life as a woman.”   Other than the Grinch, there was no clue that anyone thought I was anything but what I appeared to be.   It was was a wonderful and very affirming experience.    I hope it continues as my trip unfolds.

And Mandy was the only woman in the 2 sleeping cars who was wearing a skirt.   Go figure.

I took the following picture of an interesting cloud formation at sunset on the first evening on the Sunset Limited:


Reality says it was actually a central Texas pop-up thundershower.  With today's world political situation, initially it appeared to be something a lot more sinister and devastating.    Thankfully that wasn’t the case.

And here is a picture taken by the car attendant, of me during a passenger stop in the little burg of Alpine, TX.

 

Then another by the car attendant, in Tucson, AZ.  He said he takes a lot of pix for people as souvenirs.  (I quietly wondered how many are trans folks?  We'll never know!)



Stand by...more to come!

Mandy

Saturday, April 22, 2017

On the Road Again - Days 1, 2 and 3


On the road again….time for a little excursion.

With the possibility already mentioned that the new administration in DC may try to eliminate funding for Amtrak’s intercity trains, I decided to get out there and ride the rails, before it’s no longer possible.  

I charted out a “dream vacation” covering many of the western routes, planned some interesting layovers. And made my reservations…solo.  (My wife was invited, and she likes trains, but not this much.  So she opted out.)   Before you ask - yes, retirement makes things like this achievable.

As I get summaries of each segment written, I’ll publish them…let's start with this one!

Departure day finally arrived.  I headed for the train station at the airport in Baltimore, to catch a commuter train to Union Station in DC.  

For this part of the trip, I had to travel in "less feminine mode"…as the trains would be ones my wife uses to get to her sister’s place for their annual visit.   My attire was stirrup pants, pantyhose, flats, turtleneck tunic top, necklace, and purse.   And my nails were freshly done (in a light pink color).

On the commuter train, nobody - from the ticket office to the train - used any gender-specific forms of address for me.  In Union Station however,  I was universally addressed as female,  at least until I got on the Amtrak train…when as if by magic, the greetings reverted to “male.”   Both the train crew and sleeper/diner attendants.  I didn’t recognize the folks, but apparently they knew my real gender.   C’est la vie.

By the way:  in case nobody has seen them, at Union Station a shopkeeper is apparently making some money from selling “Hillary Clinton bobbleheads.”  I didn’t buy one (though probably it would be a decent investment as a collectible), but almost went in to ask why they weren’t selling “Donald Trump bobbleheads” too.  Maybe they were Hillary supporters...   There were a lot of customers in the store, and time didn’t permit waiting…

My  train departed on time for Chicago.  But after the last regular stop in Western Maryland, delays began.  Five minutes here, five minutes there, waiting for trains going in the other direction.  After “dinner in the diner,” the car attendant turned down my bed, and I hit the sack.   Though with all the stops, I didn’t sleep much.  In the railroad industry, and old adage says “late trains get later. “  And it sure did.   As far as I was concerned – the delay was no matter.  All it would do for me is shorten an uncomfortably long layover. 

Remember, I was dressed as I was yesterday, since I was still on "my wife's" train.  Once off the inbound train in Chicago,  folks I ran into at a restaurant and again at the lounge at Chicago Union Station, all interpreted me as female, despite my not wearing a skirt.  In fact, few women were wearing skirts. which surprised me.   With the temperature at 75 degrees at 11 AM, I thought skirts would be popular.  My mistake!

But I put the time in the Windy City (yes - it lived up to its name) to good use…by doing some interesting sightseeing right after arrival, and getting a few pictures.


Remember Kolchak - the Night Stalker - from an ancient horror series about paranormal activity on the Telly back in the 70's?   (Be careful...if you do, you're dating yourself!)  In the above picture, I finally got a good look at what I seem to recall was Darren McGaven's office!  (The one at track level on the Elevated - pictured above.  He could see into the trains and riders could see into his office.)

Above is on the south side of East Jackson, down by the intersection with South Michigan Ave.  It marks the end of Eastbound Route 66. 

The above sign on the South side of Adams Street beckons the way West on Route 66!   Note the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) peeking up over the top of the sign!

Once back in the station, waiting in the lounge for departure to New Orleans,  I found out that there had been some demonstrations near the Trump Tower that day- those supporting Trump clashing with those who don't support him.   That's all I would have needed - to accidentally step into the middle of something like that.  Fortunately I don't know where it is, nor do I care...but I certainly will be careful in the future!

At train time, I used the services of a redcap again, which saved walking out to the train.  Both my bags and I got a lift, along with several other passengers and their belongings.  I guess I'm not the only one who doesn't travel light.  And I was correctly addressed by the folks present.

My train left the station, and then stopped dead in its tracks.  A lift bridge in front of it was stuck, and they couldn't get a good estimate of how long it might be until it would be fixed.   So they disconnected the diesel engines, drove them around the train and put them on the other end, and devised an alternate route to get us out of the station and headed south.  (By the time we arrived in New Orleans, we were almost 2 hours late. ) 

On this train, the young car attendant initially interpreted me as a guy, using the dreaded "S" word.   But as several passengers addressed me as a lady, his tune changed.  And after returning from the diner (where the staff addressed me as a guy), he had started to address me more appropriately.   Not sure what made him decide to do that, but whatever the motivation, he did the right thing.  Even though I wasn't in a skirt.   And it remained that way for the rest of the trip.   (Which - along with getting me off the train first) ultimately earned him a tip...

Sleeping was tough that night, due to the rough ride.  Tracks belong to the freight railroad (in this case Canadian National), and though repairs have been forthcoming, it's a lot of track to fix.  It appears they've done quite a bit, but there's more to be done, that's for sure.

I've never been to Jackson in Mississippi before, and probably won't be again.  But my new friend the car attendant got a pic of me on the platform there.   It felt as though it was well over 80 degrees, and upon returning to my room,  I shed the long pants for shorts, and the turtleneck for a tunic blouse.   


By the time the train arrived in New Orleans, it was still warm, but had clouded over, and tropical late afternoon storms moved through.  It was still raining as we skirted Lake Pontchartrain, and it had been a long night and day.  The cabbie, who identified me as "sir" got me right to the hotel, where the  desk clerk promptly used appropriate female greetings.  As did the bellman.

Once in my room,  the skirts came out and would be my attire until Chicago on the trip home.  For the present, shorts/pants were relegated to my suitcase.   A fabulous beginning to a wonderful trip.   

And now the fun begins...stay tuned.

Hugs,

Mandy



Friday, April 21, 2017

On The Road Again...days 4 and 5




My first day in NOLA (as it is occasionally known) began with a morning walk to the Canal Street trolley line to buy a day pass.  Needless to say, I didn’t wear a bifurcated bottom!  My hotel was only a few blocks away, and this was my first skirted day in quite a while.  It was a real a confidence builder, as I was “just another woman walking in the city.” 

I passed a “sign of the times” on the way, a disused and inoperative – but nicely decorated -  pay phone.  Even the handset is gone!  Everyone carries a cell phone nowadays,  right?  So pay phones are like buggy whips and flat irons…just hope you never get stuck in an emergency with a dead phone battery.

 
When I found the day pass automat  machine, of course it was broken.  So I asked a man standing near there (who looked like he might know something) where to get a pass now?   He addressed me as “Ma’am” and pointed up the block to the Walgreens Pharmacy.   I guess if you need "anything", Walgreens can help.

While waiting for a van tour of the area, I took a stroll along the Mississippi on the beautiful Riverwalk.   It was a clear, sunny morning, with hints of mist on the water.  It made for some very surreal sights, that one can typically see only early in the day.   There were a lot of women out for morning walks or runs, and the walkers always smiled and said “good morning” as they approached.   Very friendly women…


Finally I got back to the hotel, to await pickup for the van tour.    Hotel staff continued to address me as “Ma’am.”  As did the driver when the van finally arrived.

It was a very interesting and complete tour of the area, including the places flooded by Hurricane Katrina.  Because it was in a van, it could go places a tour bus wouldn't fit...   Following is a picture at a business which survived the epic inundation – with a line painted on the wall to show how high the water reached at that location.



While many homes in the 9th Ward have been restored or rebuilt, there are unfortunately too many which have not.  Still bearing FEMA markings from the rescue effort, they are dangerous eyesores in the community.  



After my wonderful tour, I walked (and trolley’d) around town for a while, grabbing a quick reflective picture in a store window.   It’s an inspirational message, to say the least.   “We are what we see.”  And I saw a lady!   I was treated as one at the restaurant I chose for dinner.  (The turtle soup and Louisiana fried shrimp were fabulous, indeed.)   


I actually needed my umbrella again that day, as another afternoon tropical shower passed through the area while I walked back to the hotel.    It’s amazing to me that so many folks (women in particular, since we carry purses) don’t bring umbrellas.  I dislike walking in the rain without one…so when traveling, I always take one.

The next morning I trolley’d to the old US Mint on the upper end of the Riverside Line.   Not being a numismatist, I didn’t realize there had been a mint in NOLA.  Of course that closed well before my time (1909).  It was apparently the only mint to have served both under the Union and the Confederacy.



For those of us who like to eat, a famous place called Café du Monde makes fabulous beignets (pronounced Ben-Yays), a tasty French pastry.  I can’t speak from experience – the line was so long it was taking an hour to be served, and I refused to wait.  But EVERYONE was there…they had lots of time.  I didn't.   (And I attracted no attention…the crowds were building and everyone was marching to the tune of their own drummer.)  And in any interaction, I was presumed to be a woman.

While in the vicinity, I stopped by the Cathedral-Basillica of St. Louis, King of France, on Pere Antoine Alley, and noticed that the door was open for visiting.   Between the Cathedral and the square in front, it’s both spectacular and gorgeous.  


In the afternoon, I used the free shuttle from Canal Street to  Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World…”where every day is Mardi Gras!”   They offer tours of the “factory” where Mardi Gras floats and figurines (for the annual parade) are stored during the year, and built/rebuilt for the following year.  


And on the shuttle bus back to Canal St., being the fourth to board, I already had a seat.  As women came  aboard, they were looking for available seats.   One by one, the few men there were all standing up and giving their seats to the ladies.  Fortunately, I was one of the ladies – and once alI the men had been chivalrous, even the boarding ladies got to stand.  I got to keep my seat - one of the rewards of being a woman!

To end my day of sightseeing and allow time to pack for the next day’s train (women always overpack, right?)  I decided to have a late lunch/early dinner and partake of the daily jazz brunch at the famous establishment “Court of Two Sisters” on Royal Street.  I got there well before it closed, and enjoyed a number of Southern specialties – catfish, crawdaddies and the like.  My gender wasn’t an issue.  I was treated as a female customer – though my appetite wasn’t particularly petite.

The three-story building that now houses this famous restaurant was once home to five governors, two state Supreme Court justice, a future justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a future President of the United States. But beyond this, The Court of Two Sisters is celebrated for two things: 1) its old-world courtyard (the biggest in the city) with original gas lights and flowing fountains, and 2) its phenomenal, daily jazz brunch, with a strolling trio playing real New Orleans jazz seven days a week.   A delicious ending to a great visit in the Big Easy!

But the best part was spending both days in skirts, and being treated as the lady I am.  By everyone.  For these two days, I did not hear the dreaded “S” word, nor did I even hear “non-gender-specific” greetings.  I was a lady, and did not notice or experience any issues…even though I thought my deep voice might be one.  It wasn’t.  Nor was the minimal makeup I wore…probably because most women appeared to be wearing none at all due to the heat.

In the next chapter I’ll cover days 6 – 8.  Stay tuned!

Hugs,

Mandy