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NOTE: For the Photo Essay, click the link in the main header (above) or HERE.

Six days. I can hardly believe it. I’ve been looking forward to this crazy thing since the beginning of the year, been looking forward to attending the conference since before last year’s had even finished, and yet I feel like it’s snuck up on me. The life of a Procrastinator-slash-Freelancer is like that, I guess. No fixed schedule (other than the one on the TV) and a tendency to do whatever, whenever, makes for calendar-related surprises.

What the heck am I talking about? Right. Sorry. The Crazy Trip™.

I’ve mentioned it before, so please pardon the repetition. But, since blog posts in the near future are liable to be directly related to it, I figure I should make sure it’s explained properly—all in one place.

I will be attending the national conference of the Romance Writers of America from 28-30 July. Given my current writing goals, this is almost a requirement. But, honestly, my first conference (last year) was such a great experience, I might be tempted to tailor my goals just so I have an excuse to go to these things. Everyone seemed so damn happy. All 3,000 or so of them. This year’s conference will be merely 2,100 due to space limitations, but it’s at the Disneyworld Resort, so that ought to boost the happiness factor to something equal to (if not greater than) last year’s (in Washington, D.C.; definitely not the Happiest Place on Earth®).

Because of a complete and utter disinclination to zip along in a metal container very high up in the sky, I will be moving at a moderate (read: at times painfully slow and shaky) pace in a metal container chugging along a track. Yes, I’m taking the train. From California to Florida. And back again. Yes, it isn’t cheap (especially since I decided I wanted to lie down while sleeping). Yes, it will take a long time. No, it wouldn’t be better to drive myself. Absolutely correct, to take the bus would be worse. (Though I was up for it, back when the conference was set to be in Nashville, TN.)

I will leave my Southern California home for Los Angeles on 24 July in order to board Amtrak’s Southwest Chief–the train which will take me along the very same route as seen in the Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor movie Silverstreak. My father loves that movie, which means that I’ve seen it at least 15 times…though not recently (which is fine, really), so I’m sure I’ve forgotten a good deal. In any case, while I’m all for madcap adventure, I hope my trip doesn’t much parallel what I do remember. Things like murder, a shoe-polish version of “blackface,” and a train crashing through Chicago’s Union Station. (Alarmingly, a visit to Wikipedia informs me the main character is a book editor. Oh, dear. That’s a bit close for comfort.)

Because Amtrak is what it is, I will be taken to Orlando by way of Chicago and Washington, D.C. And, yes, that’s really crazy. Hence my calling this the Crazy Trip™. I’ll get into Chicago (hopefully without crashing through walls) two days later in time to catch the Capitol Limited. That will put me into D.C. in time to catch the Silver Meteor to Orlando. (Note: I say “in time” rather than “on time,” something which I don’t believe Amtrak is capable of—it’s certainly too much to hope for, in any case.) I should arrive for the conference on the 28th, when, if memory serves, not much happens unless you’re a First Timer and need to attend the orientation that evening.

Oh. Maybe the General Meeting is that morning…or afternoon. But I’m calling Pool Time and breathing some unfiltered air—even if it has a humidity level of 100% and is, to quote a friend, “hotter than the seven levels of hell.”

For my return trip, I’ll be taking a bus to New Orleans and spending a couple of days there. I’d booked this part of my adventure back in the “Going to Nashville” days, but since I’ve wanted to visit the Crescent City for as long as I can remember, I was loathe to cancel these plans. Besides, being in New Orleans enables me to take the much more logical Amtrak route home: the Sunset Limited through Texas and Arizona. Currently, it’s quite limited indeed, setting out only on certain days of the week. Even more to the point, it once went all the way to Orlando. Now, as indicated by my outward route, it does not.

All in all, the Crazy Trip™will keep me away from home nearly two weeks, most of it riding the rails…camera and cellular-based internet in hand.

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