I woke up on Wednesday morning to an email on my phone from my favorite transportation carrier, Amtrak. Without providing details, it stated that my train would be delayed and that I should call Amtrak to find out more. The first representative I spoke with informed me that the train would be on time. When I questioned her about whether the train was in Texarkana, she replied that it was outside Little Rock. I remarked that I didn't think that the train could get to Cowtown by 2 p.m. if it was that far away, expecting her to give Amtrak's standard reply, "Trains can make up time," though I haven't seen that play out very often. She then looked closer and discovered that Amtrak was trying to secure buses but had not been successful and asked me to call back in an hour.
On the drive to work, I contemplated whether riding a bus from Amtrak, which would be leaving at 2:10 p.m. and would be making numerous stops, would be a smart idea because of the inevitable bumper-to-bumper traffic that would be accumulating on I-35. I also wondered where Amtrak might get buses on such short notice and was concerned about whether such buses and bus drivers would be up to par.
After arriving at work, I started looking into other travel options. I was hoping that I might get a ride from a friend traveling to Austin, but he was planning to fly down to Austin on Thanksgiving Day. I looked into Megabus, which I had recently heard of, and saw that they had several buses leaving on Wednesday. I knew that I would need to take one sooner rather than later because it would be traveling on I-35 and would inevitably succumb to major traffic delays, and I needed to meet my sister and brother-in-law at the airport in Austin at 8 p.m.
I called Amtrak back and learned that they had still not yet secured buses. When I asked if I could get a refund, Amtrak asked no questions and gave me a full refund. I then purchased a ticket on Megabus, though I was not able to get their famous $1-each-way special because of the last-minute purchase.
With a ticket in hand, I had to figure out how to get to the bus station in Grand Prairie. I initially thought I would take a cab so that I could leave my car at work, but then a co-worker suggested that I drive to Grand Prairie and leave my car there. That made more sense because I would be coming back to Grand Prairie on Saturday via Megabus instead of to Fort Worth on the train.
Instead of leaving work at 1:00, I immediately packed up my things and left work at 10:30. On the way to the parking garage, I noticed a helicopter circling overhead. I thought it was odd that it would be circling over downtown, rather than giving aerial updates on the holiday traffic. But I couldn't think about that for too long because I was in a hurry to make it to the bus.
When I started my car, I noticed that the low tire pressure gauge was illuminated. It had not been on during my drive to work in the 31-degree temperatures but now was on even though it was above freezing. The only other time that the light was on, I had a nail in my tire. I prayed that I wasn't being obstinate in trying to drive to Grand Prairie, but it was too late to walk to find a cab. I asked the Lord for safety and to air up the tire. After driving almost twenty miles, about eight miles from the station, the tire pressure light turned off.
When I pulled up to the bus station, the entire lot was coned off and signs were posted that it was "drop-off only." I circled around trying to figure out where I could park, knowing that the bank across the street would likely tow my car, and finally rolled down my window to ask one of the attendants. He asked where I was going and then motioned for me to pull forward. He wrote out some information on a sheet of paper, placed it on my dashboard, and then entered a code into a security gate, which opened and allowed me to park in a gated lot behind the station.
There was only one other gal in line for the bus to Austin/San Antonio and thankfully she had ridden Megabus numerous times and was in the know. She answered my questions about whether they would take my luggage (thankfully, yes) and then the attendant, who was part cheerleader by the way he exuberantly greeted us, got us on the bus in no time.
Once on the bus (which, for those unfamiliar with Megabus, is a two-story sightseeing bus equipped with Wi-Fi and a porta-potty type bathroom), I checked my email and learned that the helicopter that had been circling downtown was looking for a murder suspect who had cut off his ankle monitor and was on the run. On the way to the parking garage, I had walked right past where he had escaped.
The ride to Austin was slow going with periods of smooth sailing that came to an abrupt stop and were followed by much tapping of the brakes, resulting in the worst car sickness I've ever experienced. Had it been warmer (it was freezing; even with gloves and a coat, it was tough to stay warm), I likely would have needed one of those bags that the airlines provide. But during the ride, I knew I had made the right decision because I received a text from Amtrak around 1 p.m. stating that it was delayed until 7 p.m. Even with the heavy traffic on I-35, Megabus arrived in Austin at 4 p.m., which was an hour late but that meant I had only four hours to kill instead of five.
Although the Megabus stop in Austin is merely a parking lot between two buildings, it is located next to the AT&T Conference Center, and so I managed to find a cab quickly. The cab driver even had Christian music playing as he drove me to the Four Seasons Hotel. During the bus ride, I had tried to think of a place where I could eat (something I couldn't do at the airport because I didn't have a ticket) and where I wouldn't look out of place with luggage. I settled on the Four Seasons because they have an excellent restaurant and because I knew from attending conferences there that they would stow my luggage while I ate.
After I checked my luggage in with the concierge, I proceeded to their restaurant Trio and asked for a table for one. The hostess kindly asked if I'd like some reading material, and then she opened a closet with every newspaper in Texas, or so it seemed. I wanted to read what the sportswriters had to say about the Longhorns, so I settled on the local paper and was seated near the window. It was at that point that I realized that I might actually get to see the team because they stay at the Four Seasons the night before each home game.
The waiters were kind and left me to read and managed to pace my dinner and dessert over the span of two hours. At the end of that time, I made my way to a bench outside the conference rooms, hoping that the Longhorns would be having their team dinner. I didn't see them, but I saw on Facebook that a friend was having dinner at Trudy's in Austin and sent him a message to see if he would be able to take me to the airport instead of having to get a cab. He was just wrapping up his dinner when I texted him and graciously agreed to come be my personal taxi driver.
During the drive, I was able to catch up with this young man that I babysat so many years ago. And he got to visit with Erin and her husband when they arrived before we got our rental car.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have been able to plan out all the details of this day--from getting a last-minute ticket on Megabus for the exact amount of my train ticket, to protection on the walk to the parking garage while a murder suspect was on the lam, to safety driving on low tires, to sustaining me during car sickness, to getting a cab so quickly and one that played Christian music, to having dinner at a nice restaurant, to providing a friend to drive me to the airport. In a twelve-hour span, the Lord really showed Himself and showed that He is in the details.
And but for all His grace, it would not have been possible to be together for Thanksgiving.