Monday, December 31, 2007

Amtrak has a problem

Amtrak has not been good to this traveler. Here's a recap.

The train is three hours late for an unknown reason. The Whitefish station does not allow me to check my bags because the "truck" used to move baggage in Williston broke down. I tell the agent that I've got Christmas gifts in one bag and it's important that I check them. Nope, can't do it. I get to Williston  and find out that my bag (not the gifts - just everything else I need for the week) is missing. 

I call the 1-800 number and file a missing bag report. The agent says to follow up the next day. I call the next day and am told it's a customer relations problem, but they won't be open until Monday. I call Monday (today) and am told I need to call each station between Whitefish and Williston myself to see if the bag has been turned in. I'm thinking, seriously? I'M supposed to call?

I try to call the stations and the calls just roll over to Julie, the automated 1-800 voice that is beginning to make my skin crawl. So, I request that computer Julie transfer me again to an agent. I explain my situation for the 5th? time. The agent tells me that they filed a report and sent it out to all stations, and that I should hope that the person turns the bag in to a station. The rest of the conversation goes something like this...

Iris: "What happens if the person is NOT a good person and it doesn't get turned in?" 

Agent: "I'm sorry, if a person doesn't turn it in, you are out of luck.  YOU SHOULD HAVE CHECKED YOUR BAGS." 

Iris: "Hmmmm, interesting. I tried to do that, remember? The baggage truck was broken, and I wasn't allowed to check my bags."

Agent: "Oh, you really should talk with customer relations again."

Iris: "Who am I talking to now?"

Agent: "This is the 1-800 number. Customer Service isn't open due to the holidays."

Iris: "May I have the number for Customer Relations?"

Agent: "There is no number for Customer Relations. You have to call this number and we will transfer you." 

Iris: "So, I have to call this number every time, wait the 12, 6, 16, whatever minutes for an agent, just to be transferred to customer relations?"

Agent: "Yes, that is the procedure."

Iris: "Amtrak has a very serious problem with customer service." 

Agent: "Well, now, we've done everything we can to help you." 

Iris: "Really? You asked ME to call every station between Whitefish and Williston."

Agent: "Yes, because we filed a report, and now are asking you to wait."

Iris: "So, the report filed FRIDAY, is going to be looked at again today, Monday or tomorrow Tuesday? I'm pretty certain based on the impressive customer service record that the agents in these individual stations are not going to check an email message from Friday on Monday or Tuesday."

Agent: "Ummmm...maybe we could file another report."

Iris: "You think?"

The agent takes my information again, tells me it will be sent to all stations again, and tells me to have a good day, again. 

My advice? Don't travel by Amtrak. Spend the extra dollars for a flight. Yes, my bags have been lost with air travel as well, but I've always gotten them back within 12 hours. In my experience, they've at least attempted to help me. 

I'm trying to shake this off because there are definitely worse things that could happen to a person. It's just that this bag had my favorite clothes, my winter running gear, my glasses, etc. Yes, they can be replaced, but it certainly has not been fun making a trip to Penney's and Wal-mart (the only store within 60 miles) to spend extra money on clothes that do not fit right. Or, to spend a week not being able to run in one of my favorite places because I don't have any gear. I know, I'm whining. I need to get over it. 

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sad news

It's 5:30 am, the train is very late, and I have some extra time. I woke up with this news on my mind. The creation of my blog was not for world news, but I feel it's worthy of a post. Any thoughts?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Running Again

Since it was my last day of work, I was able to leave in the afternoon to run. I did a short loop on trail and dirt road near our cabin. My heel felt OK during the run, but afterwards was sore. Advil and ice seem to work, which usually indicates a soft tissue injury, but I still wonder if I've got a stress fracture. It felt good to be outside again for fresh air and some much needed processing time. When I left the cabin, an interesting and slightly ominous cloud had formed to the South. I tried to capture it in these photos.

For the music lovers out there...check these out on iTunes. If you saw "The Mission," and enjoyed the soundtrack, you'll like these too.

L´Estasi Dell´Oro (From the Good, the Bad, the Ugly) - Ennio Morricone (Dance Version)
The Professional - Ennio Morricone
Il triello (Titoli finali) - Ennio Morricone

I'm heading to North Dakota tomorrow. See you in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I am thankful for... friendships,

good food and wine,

great conversations,

warm hugs,

that give me more energy for tomorrow.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

There's not much to report on the running front. Changing jobs during the holidays is never a good thing. The long hours put in during the past two weeks, in addition to little daylight, have all but eliminated any extra time for running. I'm trying to remain patient and rational - the extra time off will hopefully benefit in the way of full heel recovery.

It is with some shopper's guilt that I share a few recent running related purchases. First, I bought these Asics "Trail" Shoes, the equivalent to my road running shoes. It really is a hybrid shoe. I've got my Hardrocks for nastier trails, but wanted something a little lighter that really fit my feet. I also got my first pair of gaiters from this website. Our local outdoors store had a great sale awhile back and I found another running skirt for 10 bucks! Not that we have to look good to run, but it can't hurt, right?

Other purchases included Nuun, Cliff Electrolyte, and Luna Moons, all in the pursuit of long run stomach comfort and cramp free legs!

In other news, I'll be heading home to North Dakota after the holidays. A trip home is always full of adventure, board games, puzzles, food, and creative ideas. For example, last year several of us jumped on the bandwagon of putting together a relay team for the Fargo Marathon. Only one of us had actually been running. The next day, we started the training by enduring a run in 10 degree, 30 mph wind, true ND weather. I am curious to find out what craziness we can generate this year...

My parent's home during any visit is full of energy with most of the activity happening in the kitchen. We become loud, opinionated, and fixated on cooking, but always with the happiness of just being together. The spouses that have joined our family usually sit back and observe the general chaos or escape to a quiet place whenever possible. Over the years, my mom has managed to dictate some unwritten rules regarding subjects for us to avoid. These include politics, welfare, religion, feminism, and absolutely anything to do with Bush (President, Jr., Sr., governor or otherwise). She has done this in the hope for peace at the dinner table, and for the most part, we stick to it and it works. I guess that means I won't be playing this song? Here's to my soon to be vacation!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


It's hard to believe that almost two years have passed since I completed the AIDS Marathon Training Program and left the blogging world. I'm not sure what is motivating me to begin again. Perhaps it is the inquiries from those of you who enjoyed my ramblings. It could be the desire to capture and share some of the running adventures I've had in really beautiful places. More than likely, it has something to do with life's transitions and the need to stay re-connected with the people who have touched my life.

About those transitions, there are several. First, I'm an aunt. Some of you may know this is pretty miraculous, considering my sister's health history. It is an exciting time, and I'm so looking forward to meeting this little baby girl face to face during the holidays. I wish I lived a little closer to her. It is my responsibility to help make sure she grows up to be a strong, independent woman who isn't afraid to have a voice!

Second, I'm making a career transition. For awhile, I've debated leaving the mental health field and returning to traditional social work. An opportunity presented itself to work with Child and Family Services, and I accepted. I'm trusting my instinct on this one. From experience, I know the work can be heartbreaking, but I also know the rewards.

Third, Steve and I are living in a tiny cabin in the mountains. It amazes me that we were not long ago city dwellers living on take out, riding the metro, getting stuck in traffic, with Starbucks Frappucino's within easy access. Now, we joke about our Saturday "town" trips, the interesting locals only ice fishing culture, and the need to buy airline tickets to eat something like Dim sum.
While I definitely miss live music, restaurants, theatre, Sports Authority, choices, shopping trips with Melissa, etc. I feel blessed to live in such a beautiful place (and I'm thankful for internet shopping).

Finally, I'm learning to walk. Yes, me. I've had to take three weeks off from running due to bursitis in my heel. I learned that I can survive without a run even in the midst of high stress. In a way, this "learning to walk" has generalized to the rest of my life. I seem to be more capable of remaining calm and peaceful even during times when I'm not particularly happy or when I have to be in proximity of people I don't respect much. Don't worry, I'm still a spitfire. I just choose to channel my energy into worthy causes.

One last note for those of you who don't know me well - this blog was designed primarily for sharing running stories. But, as friends and family know, I always have thoughts and questions. Please don't be surprised or offended if I casually pose a potentially controversial question or comment. These are usually intended as a tool to broaden my own perspective, so feel free to post responses.

Check out the pictures from Swan Crest 57k (pictures courtesy of Danni) and the Nike Women's Marathon.