Judgment Call

Questionable. It applies to the title. It applies to yesterday.

My stepson’s birthday was Monday. It was his 18th. Walmart Silver City inventory was Tuesday. His mother, Ama, wanted to be there. Work intervened. So, she managed to schedule her vacation following inventory. She also had to work out her rotation. However, she got permission to be off Thursday night, making it possible to depart for California. That’s where the boy is.

Leading up to all this, she knew this is what she wanted to do. However, thanks to the unstable nature of the management staff (meaning the bodies filling the positions were not solidly in place), it took time to get the appropriate approvals and the detailed knowledge of the schedule. There were basically three choices for transportation from Silver City to Bakersfield. Drive, fly, train.

It’s roughly 800 miles from Silver City to Bakersfield. Not likely she would drive that far alone. She wouldn’t be able to do it non-stop, as I would. She doesn’t like driving. Her car doesn’t have air conditioning. Driving is off the list.

There is an airport for Silver City. It’s about 10 miles south of Bayard, which is 10 miles east of Silver City. There is ONE commercial airline serving Silver City. They fly to Albuquerque. Only. Twice a day. Twin engine turboprop. She hates small planes. Airlines serving Bakersfield only do so from a handful of airports. None of them between southern New Mexico and Bakersfield. As the saying goes, you have to around your butt to get to your elbow. Optionally, we could go to El Paso or Tucson to connect to a flight going roundabout to Bakersfield. El Paso is two hours away and Tucson is three hours away. The cost of all those hops and the gasoline to drive put the price over $500. Flying is off the list.

She was accustomed to taking the train from Fresno to Bakersfield. A two hour ride for under $50 each way, sometimes under $30. She likes the train. (I, the model railroader, have never ridden Amtrak. Go figure.) So we look at options. There are stations in Deming and Lordsburg. Deming would be the quickest and easiest drive. It’s less than an hour south of us. This is where the fun starts.

We start looking at ticket prices in April. Round-trip, Deming to Bakersfield for about $110 each way. Ok, that’s a bit steep, but manageable, and really not that bad for the distance. The schedule at the store is still in flux. Two weeks later the total has gone from $220 to $260. As tickets sell, the prices go up. This continued until the price got to $324. At this rate, if we wait much longer it’ll be over $400! So I get online to purchase the ticket. All the way through the booking, ready to submit payment and the Amtrak website says the zip code doesn’t match their records. Seriously? Bayard only has ONE zip code!!

She gets home from work and decides to try making the reservation on the phone. Same issue arises. It’s a problem they know about! So forget web or phone reservations with Amtrak. Now I start looking at more details about the stations. Deming is a platform only station. Lordsburg is a platform only station. Basically, that means you must have ticket in hand and cannot check baggage. Even if we find a way to pay for the tickets and have them mailed, what an inconvenient way to travel! I decide to look at El Paso. Big fare jump! How about Tucson? Massive fare drop! I mean over 50%! Round-trip, Tucson to Bakersfield, for $117!!! Oh, and Tucson is a REAL station! Rather than wait to get to Tucson to purchase the ticket, we drive to El Paso, the closer REAL station, to buy her ticket. Sure enough we get there and the price is still available. Done deal Amtrak!

Ok, so we also got to visit the Saddle Blanket. Cool store, filled with lots of Indian/Mexican stuff. Over two acres of it, in fact. Not a bad drive either. Thanks to my frugal little car, down and back (over 200 miles one way) on less than a tank of gas. We also got to stop at what appears to be the closest Fuddruckers on the way back.

So now we have her tickets for the outbound and return trips. The train leaves Tucson at 7:35. It’s a three hour drive. I figure we’ll leave between 3:00 and 3:30. We have a couple extra stops to make thanks to Comcast “upgrading” our system. We leave Silver City Walmart right at 3:00. Did I mention this is pm? We’re heading right into the afternoon sun. It’s forecast to be 95 in Silver City and 101 in Tucson. My car doesn’t have air conditioning either. Here comes that questionable judgment. Nearly 3 hours in I-10 heading into the sun crossing a high desert. Ok, she still seem to like running down the highway and is sipping nonchalantly at the gas. This is good. We’re cruising along nicely at 75-80. (She really does like to run the highways.) I calculate. This is going to put us in Tucson shortly after 6pm. Ok, a little over an hour early isn’t so bad. We can sit in the air conditioned station and cool off. That’ll be good for her since the train is air conditioned, too. It’ll be good for me so I can recover!

Somewhere after crossing the Arizona border I remember Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time. So Tucson is an hour behind us. We’re going to arrive shortly after 5pm. In fact, we pulled into the station at 4:45pm. Damn. Oh, and she’s catching up on her sleep. Potential sunburn and all. As we’re entering Tucson, she wakes and I tell her of my error. We arrive at the station amidst the road construction in the area. That part wasn’t so bad as I had looked at maps in Streets & Trips and on Google Earth. We pull into the parking lot and there’s a two hour limit. Great. I can’t stay the whole time. There’s a restaurant, sort of, inside the station. We’re both pretty much starving because we didn’t bother eating yesterday. So we go in and it’s air conditioned. I’m in heaven. She wants to sit outside. At least it’s in the shade.

We get our sandwiches, chips and tea. Hers is a light peach that she said had almost no flavor. Mine is a mint that was VERY refreshing. We eat. I sweat. We go into the station. She asks about checking her bag. They tell her all the way to Bakersfield. That’s a relief for me. (Turns out she is grateful because making the transition from train to bus at Union Station LA would have been difficult.) She’s set now. There doesn’t seem to be much point in me staying until half an hour before departure. If I have to leave before she gets on the train, I might as well do it now. Besides, with the time change it may only take two hours to get there, but it will take four hours to get home.

I remember seeing a Shell and a Love’s in Benson. It’s actually pretty close to Tucson. That’s my destination to refuel. (I had left home with about 90 miles already on the tank.) I fill the car, wash the windows, and just as I’m getting ready to pull out, she calls. I know it’s her because of the ringtone. I answer and she’s not there. I call her back. No answer. Panic starts creeping up my back. I’m still less than an hour from the train station. Watch me fly through rush hour traffic if I have to. I call again and she answers. She didn’t realize she had managed to butt-dial me. Ok, heart rate returning to normal. I get back on I-10. I had bought an extra two bottles of the tea for the road. Glad I did because I needed the fluid and caffeine. What I didn’t need was the headache that accompanied them. Too much heat plus too much caffeine equals headache for me. Apparently.

There isn’t much along I-10 between Tucson and El Paso. Ok, there’s Benson. And there’s Lordsburg, Deming and Las Cruces. Benson to Lordsburg is a long time to drive with a headache. And it’s still warm. Even after the sun finally goes down. I stop at the Chevron in Lordsburg, where we stopped to fuel the truck when we moved. I buy a bottle of water. I have Ibuprofen in the car. I’m a happy driver. Especially after I make the turn from US70 to NM90. It climbs pretty steadily and immediately out of Lordsburg. And the temperature starts to drop right away. It’s also a two lane road with no lights, and next to no traffic. That makes for a pretty long drive.

I had sent a text a couple of hours earlier, in fact at departure time, if she was on the train. Just about the time I reach Walmart she replies. Ok, so she’s at least on the train and had fallen asleep. I stop to pick up the mail and head home. The house has been closed up since 2:30. It’s an oven. I turn on the air and the fans to get comfortable. Once comfortable I open all the windows, as I usually do at night. This is a high desert after all. It cools off nicely at night!

I had been up since 5:30am. You’d think I would fall asleep right away. I guess three bottles of mint tea negated that. That’s why this morning when I woke up at 6:45am (the train pulled into Union Station LA), I debated coffee or a nap. The nap won. Yep, questionable judgment. But it will still be cheaper to make the two trips to Tucson than it would have been to depart from Deming. That’s my justification. See, questionable judgment.

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