Karachi Originally appeared in Platte County Landmark

It takes a lot to surprise me. And I’m not just talking about the occasional sports upset or getting a large fry when you ordered a medium kind of surprise. I mean genuine surprise. But this weekend it happened.

2014-01-16 13.07.19My son and I embarked on our yearly “let’s leave Mom the hell alone – she’s getting that look in her eyes that she might murder us” weekend and we headed up to Chicago for a guys weekend. Trying to be thrifty, we booked travel via the MegaBus. If you’ve never ridden the MegaBus, think Southwest Airlines mixed with a cattle car and throw in a couple of unknown odors that just randomly waft by.  And repeat for 11 hours.

The MegaBus is not something you enjoy, but rather something you survive – like marriage or an IRS audit or testicle surgery.  Though that’s not the surprising part.

We enjoyed our guys weekend, taking turns farting, eating junk food, visiting landmarks and walking around the Windy City checking out the prostitutes on the sidewalks. (It was about 15 degrees, so we only saw about a dozen.)  And we spent three days living like men – in that we ordered room service and left the door open when to took a crap.

The surprising part of our journey was the commute home. About three minutes after we left the MegaBus, I decided that there was no way in hell we were going home that way. Short of walking, I found a cheap ticket on Amtrak. Neither of us had taken the train before but it was recommended by a friend and the odor couldn’t possibly have been as as the bus.

2014-01-017So, on Sunday we headed down to Union Station in Chicago and boarded the train. Riding the rails, we called it, as the conductor looked at us funny. Additionally, he didn’t seem pleased when I asked to blow his train whistle. But I digress.

What followed was the most relaxing journey I never expected.  I fly Southwest Airlines a lot and I sometimes have to drive my wife’s dinky car – so I know about being cramped.  The seats on Amtrak are like walking onto a boat. They fully recline. They had leg rests. It was heavenly. Where has this been my whole life?

There was an electric plug for my iPad and a lounge car with booze for my liver. I was in heaven for seven hours.  Along the way, however, I started to get pretty angry that my parents loaded the four children into the station wagon every summer during my youth to drive to California or Nebraska or Florida. All of those fights, all of those “accidents,” all of the threats to turn around and go home from the front seat. Those could’ve all been swept away by riding on the cloud that is Amtrak.

But Amtrak is constantly in the news saying that they are near bankrupt and continue to drop offerings around the county. I’ll tell you, after one ride, I’m hooked. I’m a train rider now.  But Amtrak is doing nothing to help their own cause. They’re really missing out on their target demographic – fat guys.

Those seats are so comfortable, all they’d have to do is install WiFi and a television and you’d get five million fat guys traveling from KC to Chicago in no time.

But the surprising thing about it is how much my son enjoyed it. “This was awesome, Dad.” And that, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about.

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