What’s the Worst Trip I’ve Ever Taken?

I was asked that question the other day and you’re not going to believe this, but I have no recollection of any trip I’ve ever taken that I would consider a failure.  If I’m traveling, then I’m enjoying myself.

To be sure, however, there have been parts or segments of trips that have been difficult or unpleasant or disappointing.

On one occasion, I was on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, traveling from Los Angeles to Orlando, Florida. My plan was to rent a car in Orlando and drive to Captiva Island in the Gulf of Mexico, off to the city of Fort Myers. I was heading to Captiva for a visit with my mother and father who were retired and living there at the time.

Unfortunately, as the train was coming to a stop in New Orleans, we were informed by a conductor that there was a problem with the track somewhere up ahead of us and we would be taken by bus the rest of the way to Orlando, a distance of some 650 miles.

As much as I enjoy train travel, going any distance by bus is at the opposite end of that particular spectrum. I calculated that, allowing for pit stops and for a meal, I was looking at a 12-hour bus ride to be followed by a 4 or 5-hour drive in a rental car from Orlando to my ultimate destination on Captiva. 

Almost in a panic, I blurted out that I couldn’t stand the thought of a 12-hour bus ride and I thought I’d leave the train in New Orleans, rent a car and drive directly from there to Captiva.

The conductor looked at me and shook his head sadly. “Son,” he said, “We’re celebrating Mardi Gras in N’Awlins this evening’! The Good Lord Sweet Jesus Christ Himself couldn’t get a rental car in this town tonight!”

I had been unaware that it was Mardi Gras and of course the conductor was right. Having no real choice, along with my fellow passengers, I was transferred to an Amtrak bus and completed my trans-continental journey to Orlando in just under 13 hours, including a stop for breakfast at a diner where an extremely generous serving of grits automatically came with your fried eggs (sunny-side up), sausage and fried potatoes.

It was a four-hour drive from Orlando to Captiva Island, over mostly two-lane roads on a diagonal southwesterly route through, as it tuned out, acres and acres of Florida’s orange groves. The glorious scent of orange blossoms was all about me for most of the 200 miles . . . another trip that began as a disappointment, but turned out to be a unique and delightfult experience.