6:30PM. Fellow passenger Diana, mentioned earlier, is taking a connecting sleeper same as we are, although not the same train. We're all in the ClubAcela lounge. She sees me getting a drink and insists on showing me something: a chocolate bar with Obama's image on it. She also insists on buying it for me. :) We spend a good while talking about politics and such. She's definitely fun to talk to.
7:00PM. Just boarded The Crescent, which will take us to Marah's. Once again, folks are friendly and helpful - people hear that we're Australian and just open chat with us. The connie just informed us that we were about to leave, and would be departing "like a herd of turtles"... picturesque turn of phrase! Dinner will be shortly (they sure don't let us starve!) and sleeper passengers get first service. 7:09, and we're moving. We're heading out through a tunnel that Michael says is most likely original (bluestone walls and such); he says it looks about 1960s-70s. Like most long tunnels, though, it's dark except for a few safety lights, and we're going underneath a lot of the city, so it's not of very great interest.
Just sighted the Capitol building. Okay. Now we can say we've seen it.
Ha! On the back of the ticket stubs, it invites feedback by saying:
How was your trip?
Tell us and enter a sweepstakes to win FREE travel!
You could be one of 10 winners to receive $500 in FREE TRAVEL by completing a simple confidential survey at www.amtraksurvey.com blah blah.
(small print) No purchase necessary.
Very interesting. Very interesting indeed. Not sure whether that means no purchase after I've taken this trip, or if they would solicit trip quality feedback from people who haven't even taken a trip... fascinating. Well, I guess I might throw some feedback their way, if I feel like it. $500 free travel won't do me much good!
7:40PM. We stroll off to the dining car but it's full. We're told to seek back in half an hour. Back to the room for Looney Tunes.
8:05PM. Connie pops his head in to say that there's tables available for dinner. Nice! We stroll on down. The fish option tonight is salmon (rather than the trout that it's been previously), so I go for that. Mmmm. Favorite of the lady of the river, and no surprise. During dinner we notice a strange hot-electrical smell, which waxes and wanes a bit; it seems to be stronger during acceleration, so it's probably not the brakes.
Back to the sleeper after dinner, and we ask the connie to notify us at Gastonia, which is about an hour before our stop. Then a last couple of Looney Tunes and bed.
2:30AM. The train has stopped. I can't see a station sign though. After lying there for a while, I get up, don shoes, and walk the train in the expectation of finding someone to ask. Uhhh.... nope. The entire train is deserted. Odd, that. On all the previous legs, the lounge has been active or semi-active the whole night - or at least, any time I've looked it has been. This time, everyone's asleep. Also, I try various windows, but no luck seeing any sort of station sign. Eventually a crew person walks in, and I ask him where we are and how far to Gastonia; he says we're at Charleston (I think) and that Gastonia is the next stop once we get moving, 15 minutes away. Five minutes later, we're still not moving.
2:55AM. We're moving now, although I missed noting actual time of departure. No idea what the long stop was for.
4:00AM. Connie just popped in to say we're 15 mins from destination. Yay! Dunno what happened to Gastonia though.
4:15. Here we are!!
5:30AM. Marah! YAY!