It was really our own fault. We got to the train station and only then did we realize that when we bought the tickets online, somehow we neglected to choose the right date. We suspect stress was the main cause of the oversight, because it's not like we've never bought train tickets online before. We should have known better. But the point is, the train we had tickets for left on Sunday night.
So we went to the Amtrak ticket booth and told the guy there what happened, and after a long time dealing with computer stuff and calling people, he was finally able to get the money from our old tickets and apply it to new tickets. The only problem was that they didn't have room for us until about six. That would mean seven hours of waiting for the train, followed by six hours on the train, finally arriving at our destination at midnight. That seemed less than optimal, but we took the tickets anyway to keep our options open.
As it so happens, we have a new train station in our area (just opened about two weeks ago, we're told), and it also happens to be a bus terminal for Greyhound. So we went to the Greyhound people to see if we could just hop on a bus right then and there, but the next bus to Fresno wasn't leaving for another two hours or so, and, even less appealing, wouldn't be arriving in Fresno until seven hours after that. We would be getting there earlier than with Amtrak, but we'd have more time on the road, and we'd have to see about refunding our other tickets.
Armed with this information, I called Mom to let her know what was going on. She said she would pick us up any time we needed it, or if we wanted to stay home and not visit, she'd understand that, too. Well, that didn't help us make any decisions, because frankly it would be less stressful to stay home, but we'd already put ourselves through a lot psyching ourselves up for this trip, and we did have presents for people. But we still didn't want to sit in an empty boring train station for seven hours (although by now we were down to a little over six).
The kind gentleman who drove us to the train station told us to call him if there was a problem and he'd come pick us up, because, what with the new station and all, we weren't entirely sure we were in the right place. But we also knew that he would be going to work soon, and we couldn't rely on him to get us back to the station at six. Still, at that point we just wanted to come back home so we could freak out properly and get it out of our systems.
We decided to take a chance. We would go home and calm ourselves down, find more interesting things to do with our time than sit around in a train station, etc. If we could get a ride back to the train station, we'd go to Fresno. If not, we'd stay home.
So we texted our ride and asked him to come get us (just in time before he had to go to work, fortunately), and when he arrived, we explained the situation about the train. We didn't even get to the part about our gamble when he said, "Well, it turns out I'm on a short shift today, so I can take you back to the station later." Tadah! So I think we ended up with the solution that will best help us maintain our sanity, although of course there's no telling what kind of insanity awaits us at our destination. And of course, there's still a chance we won't have a ride back to the station. Our ride is a firefighter, so if there's a fire, his short shift may not be so short. We're going to count on that not happening.
When we got home, we had a tempting email from Pizza Hut, so we took advantage. We decided it was for the best, because one of the problems we have with traveling is that we're so worried about making sure not to miss any of our transfers that we rarely make sure to get enough to eat.
Today I'm so thankful for our friend driving us to the station and back and back again, happy deals from Pizza Hut, getting to spend some extra time with Page, friendly station attendants helping us not lose all our money on wasted tickets, and late night train trips only requiring one transfer (usually it's train-bus-train, this time it will just be train-bus).