It feels good to be back on “Normal Is Overrated.” How have you all been? Hope you are enjoying your summer. I know I had been enjoying myself the past two weeks in the sunshine state. Now that I have returned to the empire state I want to share my adventures with you. Let me explain why I am breaking down Day 1 into two parts. Part one is more about the 21 hour Amtrak experience and all the new cities Gil and I got to see on the way. Part two is personal and will be harder for me to write due that it relates to the tragedy of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
Gil and I managed to bring our luggage and heavy duffle bags as carry ons in train 97 at 3:15 p.m. Four minutes later the train began its journey to Orlando. I knew we had a long way to go so I packed loads of snacks, huge water bottles, blankets, a light sweater, entertainment (laptop, Kindle, sketchbook, etc), and my camera. The Amtrak travels fast to my surprise and in less than 15 minutes we had arrived in Newark, New Jersey and then Secaucus.
Our first rest stop after five hours of traveling was Washington D.C. To my surprise the stop is not far away from Gallaudet University. I plan to visit the campus once my sign language skills are on an intermediate level. Through the day we passed Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Delaware. Once in Virginia we made a reservation in the dining car, but to our disappointment the food was not the best and overpriced. Trust me on this Amtrak travel tip: pack your own food. We did meet a father who was traveling with his five year old son to Orlando and he explained the geographics of Virginia to us while we ate “dinner.” He served many years in the military and was stationed in several states and countries.
The Carolinas passed us by while we tried to sleep in the coach seats that reclined. Sleeper cars were available but cost more. The seats in front of us had foot rests too, but this did not make sleep come easy. The restrooms are kept clean at least and similar to those in an airplane. By the time Gil and I woke up, we had passed Jesup, Georgia. In Jacksonville we got to stretch our legs and this is where I gave Gil his first welcome to Florida and the heat that comes with it. At this point I was happy to be carrying the capri shorts in my duffle bag to switch out of my sweats.
Three hours later we arrived in Orlando, where my aunt and uncle arrived to pick us up. We traveled to Kissimmee and got situated in my aunt’s place. I got to see my cousins after more than nine years and it was Gil’s first time meeting everyone. We watched my uncle feed the cranes outside his house, walk around his garden, and play with the dog (Fifi) and the parrot (Poly).
Night had fallen so Titi and Tio took us out to a place called Old Town. We explored stores, observed the various rides, got entertained by a performer, and participated in a few games. We did target practice and won two shot glasses at an arcade.
By the end of the day Gil and I took a deep breath. We have officially begun our vacation. It had been a long time since either once of us took time out to recharge and not seeing the skyscrapers of New York City felt amazing. The atmosphere felt more relaxed. My lungs were already complaining of the dry air and humidity, but hey, its Florida. Vacation had come at last!
Photos by: Rosa Elena Oliveras, Gilberto E. Burgos, Teresa Rivera