Doesnt Get much better then this

We all spend a good portion of our day hoping and wishing for better things, Easier lives, more money.  Yes all of those would be nice.  And i would never say no to any of it. I must say though. That I have something that can never be topped.  Most of us do.  I have an amazing family. 

At the begining of blogging i talked about how I became me. And those that helped me become who I am today.  This post is about the family I have now. Our own little family. 

My wife,  this woman is such a wonderful person. I must begin by saying how sweet and caring she is to everyone around her. She puts everyone befor her self and would do anything for those close to her, and even a stranger in need.  She truely has a heart of gold and a brain to match. She is extremly smart.  Though she thinks she is just average and nothing special. She can take much harder and complex classes then I could ever think about she then goes on to challenger her education over and over. And furthering her knowledge. And always passes with flieing colors. But even more then all of that. This woman is by far the Best mother I could dream of for our kids.  She puts our kids on a pedistal and holds them high. My wife and I are a perfect team when it comes to parenting.  Of cource no parent is perfect and its a never ending battle. But neither of us give up on the kids, and we have the same views on how we want them raised.  We have a bond that is hard to describe.  Both of us will just know what the other is thinking, or wants. You know  the all time argument of what to eat?  Yeah we dont have that issue.  We just know what the other one wants. Its pretty cool.  I love this amazing woman more then words can descide. And I am so happy that she has dealt with me and kept me around.  I know i can be difficult, I made a really stupid decion a year or more ago and she still loves me like the first day. I am so greatful that the big man upstairs has given me the oppertunity to have her in my wife and make two great kids for me.

Our son, Mr Maddix.  This little boy  stole my heart from the second i met him. Sometime around march or april of 2010 i was working for a security company and i was asked to deliver some printer ink to a supervisor just south of Rutland Vermont. This was just after i recieved a wonderful and very attractive young woman had added me on facebook(my wife now)  who ended up being the supervisor i mentioned above step daughter.  Since we had been talking i let her know i was going to be heading over to their house to drop off the ink. And when i arrived i got to meat this very adorable, kind and happy little  4 year old boy with the cutest smile ever. He won my heart at that moment.  He was driving around a sweet power wheels style car the same color as my car.  It was best friends at first sight to say the least.  As you read I did not personaly help creat our son. But i have been in his life since that day, and will always be there until the end of time.  He has gone through some tough times in life and has had some issues that have confused, saddened, and in a way angered me, but not at him in any way.  He has had some issues through out the past few years that i wish i could deal with so he did not have to. Sometimes i wonder if its something i have done that has made him so sad, angry or emotional. We have not been able to figure out what has caused our happy, smily, bubbily, fareing ball of sunshine to become so sad and angry. I will never give up on him and will always fight to help him through it and any other chalenges in life.  He was our first child and i feel in love with him and his mother at the same time.  They were a package deal and i wanted both pieces.  Maddix is super smart just like his mother, and is super creative. Though at times he can be mean to his sister(we have yet to figure out way her but no other kids around him)  he is also very protective over her and will defend her whenever she needs it,  he does not like others being mean to her. And will help her when he can if she falls or needs something.  I see him as my son and always will. Its tough being a step parent at times, i will cover that at a different time.I just hope some day he will see just how much we care and love him.

Lastly there is Ms Brielle. This little girl is something else. She cane into our lives about 5 years ago  Bless her soul she has a very interesting mix of my wife and I in her.  From her looks to her additude to her heart.  She is so caring for everyone around her. She has no problume voicing her opinion. And makeing very clear how she feels. She came in putting up a fight and has not nor will she ever stop.  She is very stubborn and set in her ways. This can be a good thing. But can also make a day seem very long!  We love her to pieces just like her brother.  I can see alot of him in her. At times i see her going down his path of anger and negotive stuff. Then i snap her out of it and get her back on track.  Every kid is going to give their parents a rough time.  Its how they become themselvs. This little girl has no issue being the first one in the door, she has some very amazing manners.  She will talk your ear off, about stuff that is very mature for her age, she is like a mini adult, i am in her life every day and she still shocks me sometimes in what she has to say.  She will order her own food at dinner. Is not shy at all, but also respects people around her. A huge thing we try to instil in our kids.  Respect, mannors and staying educated. 

As I said at the begining. We all wish we had alot of money,cars and material wealth. But at the end of the day, in the morning, and every moment in between. Since that day in april. I have been blessed with something that can never be bought. Nor can it get better.  Family is what matters the most. We are healthy(for the most part)  and alive. We have our strugles, and obsitcles. But most Importantly we have eachother.  
Thank you for reading.  

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Cross country segment 5 Los Angeles, CA to Chicago, IL via Texas. Part 2.

So after leaving San Antonio there was not much at all to see.  It was just farm land then woods then small towns.  We did go thru Austin. And Dallas. I got a few photos of these areas but nothing spectacular.  During this trip there were 2 little boys that sat in front of me. They were very polite and well mannered. I could tell one was around our daughters age, and he started chatting with me about what he was seeing out the window.  It kept us both entertained for a while.  That family departed the train in the night at some point.  I got pretty lucky and my riding partner for this part was very nice. But spent most of the night in the lounge car. So i had the seats to my self for most of the night so i got better sleep then before.

On this train i didn’t see anyone from my previous trains so i had to try to get to know new people.  Which felt odd to me because i felt like i shared my story like a billion times and was repeating myself.  I did find out that my riding partner for this segment. Paul, he was from London. And him and his wife usually come to the states once a year and travel to 4 city’s or towns that they have not been too. Apparently its a bucket list thing.  Tragically one of his wife’s good friends was killed in the recent attack in Nice. So she was in that area and unable to join him on his trip this time.  He talked a lot about how train travel in Europe is so much more advanced then the U.S. he seemed to be a travel expert .  The staff on this train changed quite frequently, which was very inconvenient because then we had to re tell them were we are going and all that jazz.  It was very disorganized. And chaotic and made the trip less comfortable.  I was amazed at how different each group of staff completed their tasks and duties. The flows were so different.  Not what you would expect when they all go thru the same exact training program.

So while on this segment i saw this younger man maybe in his mid 20’s who was traveling with a very adorable little girl that reminded me a lot of our Daughter. After over hearing some conversations i found out the girl was 3. And the mom was very hurtful to the girl. And the mother gave up custody of the child to the dad. And the dad wanted to be away from her so he used his last amount of money to get his ticket(she was free due to age) and they were going to live with his parents until he could get work and such.  This was a super sad story. I am very observant and notice patterns and i noticed that the little girl would ask for a very small amount of food. Literally and  not very often. (A sign that she had to beg for food at home)  this was so heart breaking. And the dad was not eating at all so there was more food for the girl.  At the next dinner time. The lead service attendant Lucas was taking reservations. And i pulled him aside, and politely and clearly asked if he could take a reservation from this dad and daughter, and tell them not to worry about any payment. And i would pay for it(annomisly). And i pulled a $100 bill out of my pocket.  I was in complete shock when this guy looked me right in the eye and said “that is too complicated”  i asked if he was serious and he goes “i don’t have time for the complications this would cause” i started to push back but then just said never mind i would find another way since your heartless.   All this Amtrak Employee had to do was take this money. Put the kids name on the list. Let them eat then give them the change.  Simple.  No different then the steps for a normal customer. I was disgusted. And ashamed to even be on a train with staff that would act like this.  Before the guy and his daughter got off the train i handed them the money and congratulated him on  doing a great job raising this little girl. And wish him the best of luck going forward.  Needless to say this one incident has put a very sour taste in my mouth about the rest of this trip. And i decided to cut my trip short and just head home. I will do an over all experience post in the next couple of days after i shower and eat normal people food. And sleep horizontally. Stay tuned.

Cross country segment 5 Los Angeles, CA to Chicago, IL via Texas.

This was a very long segment so i am going to split it into two parts. I want to start with sharing my experience with the Los Angeles union station.  This station as some of you might know has been featured in many movies commercials and TV shows. You can look them up to find out which ones.

This place is spectacular. It is very historic. And so well taken care of.  They have a huge show of security here with a security company and also the local sheriff’s department. If you follow my Facebook posts you will see that i shared a story about how brave these folks are with their jobs.  This station has very comfortable seating. In a very large open area. It also has other sections that are being re done.

They have three courtyards. One has a large amount of seating and a water fountain. Very beautiful and a second one has what looks like film staging some plants like cacti and flowers from this area, and then the 3rd was tables and a big rounded water fountain and a crescent shaped one that has coy fish in it.

Once i saw the area and walked around outside for a bit i went to the pretzel stand inside and ate some pretzel bites and pizza pretzel bites.  These were some fantastic treats.  As the day went on many folks played on the piano that was for public use. And others sang along to the songs.  It was very neat.

Once it got dark out. This is when the excitement started.  This place lit up like crazy.  Literally. The staging i mentioned above was actually huge lights and stuff for this amazing light show.  You have to watch the videos to see what i am talking about.  It was stunning. Definitely something to see in Los Angeles. (see videos at the end of blog)

I then boarded the Texas Eagle and south east bound we went.  This section was not overly exciting.  It was mainly desert and horses and cows.  With the occasional deer. It was a nice peaceful ride. Plenty of time to get to know a few families who i will share with you in the next section. And get some sleep.  Luckily my riding partner for this trip spent most of the night in the observation car so i could have plenty of room.  Very nice guy. At one point we did go thru El Paso Texas. And were feet away from the United States and Mexico boarder. This was neat to see.  At the El Paso stop i was told that there was a burrito lady that was well know for her burritos. So i had to try 1 or 3. Of course i couldn’t understand her very well but i heard her say beef and cheese so i said gimme 3.  After talking to one of the car attendants i found out they were actually beef, potato, and green chili.  And let me tell you what. They were amazing. I have never had Mexican food like this before. Had a bit of kick to it but it was so wonderful. image

imageIn the middle of the night  in San Antonio Texas. our train actually split in half and one part went onto new Orleans. And mine, we headed north. I will leave it at this for now and share the rest later on.

 

Cross country segment 4 Emeryville, CA to Los Angeles, CA

This section of the trip had to be changed around a lot and was not my favorite. I was originally suppose to take the coast starlight train or this route but this train did not arrive in Los Angeles 1 hour before i had to get on the next train. I noticed they had a bunch of what they called thru way routs. Which is just a couch bus that runs between big town sections in California that don’t have trains. All run by Amtrak. So i talked to a very nice lady at the counter and she got me on the bus overnight and then from there i took the surfliner train the rest of the way to Los Angeles.  This bus portion was miserable. they stopped every 10 minutes and then they weaved in and out of town streets. It was definitely like a grey hound trip. But then i got to the surfliner train and it got a lot better. This train goes right down the coast line literally across the beach areas.  The view was stunning. These were short spurts so i did not get to know anyone on this part. Then i arrived in Los Angeles. Read on for the California back to Chicago segment. Lots to talk about on that one.

Cross country segment 3 Chicago, IL. To Emeryville, CA

I want to start off by saying WOW. what a difference from the first 2 segments and this segment.  This part was from Chicago, IL. To Emeryville, CA. This was a very long trip. But well worth it. Once our train arrived we where all given numbered tickets. Just like the last train. Which meant that i was stuck again sitting with a stranger.  I was a bit irritated. But luckily this time it was an older gentlemen that i was to sit with.   He seamed like a nice person but of course there was awkward silence. We left right on time and we got about a mile down the track  then all of a sudden they came over the intercom and made an announcement.  I was in shock.  This was the first time that had happened so far.  The person introduced the train and what the route would consist of. And then informed us that we would be making an emergence stop.  Everyone was confused.  Sure enough the train stopped. And an ambulance arrived along side the train. No one knew what was going on.  Within a few moments we were on our way again.  Come to find out an older man had a heart attack as the train was leaving the station. Sad news.

We traveled thru Illinois. Then Iowa, then  Nebraska. Nothing to exciting in these areas.  Folks would be telling their story and getting acquainted. Of course i shared with my seat neighbors what i was doing and they had many questions and what not. So we all chatted for some time.  Then it became late.  My wife and kids were sleeping at home(we have kept in contact the whole trip)  i missed them very much.  So i reclined my seat and grabbed my little pillow and out i went into sleep land.  It was a terrible nights sleep. Its tough to sleep in that position. I woke up to a great sunset entering into Colorado.  We arrived at Denver station and had a walk break.  This was a time for us to get off the train and stretch and get some fresh air. It was an interesting site to see all the “pot heads” smoking in plain sight. And made me sick so i returned to the train.

Just as we left Denver the scenery began to amaze me.  The houses were huge. And the foot hills of the Rockies were just so massive.  We climbed up these foothills and saw views that would take your breath away.  I took so many pictures my hand was hurting from holding my phone.  It was amazing.  We snaked our way thru this area. For a long time. Thru 31. Yes 31 tunnels. And across what seemed like very small cliffs.  We then entered into the canyon that the Colorado river runs thru. And this was the icing on the cake.  The shear size of these mountains and rocks, the pictures i took do it no justice.  This is something that everyone should see at least once in their life. Just amazing.  You will have to go to my Facebook page to see the pictures and videos. To many to post here.  We saw many rafters going down the river along with kayaks. We then came down out of the mountains and saw a few ski resort areas. Picked up some more folks dropped off some others.

We then entered into Utah.  This also had some nice views but was getting dark so we did not see to much of it.  Around 1230 this night my seat partner got his turn to get off the train.  He was a super awesome guy. His name was Matt.  He was probably in his 60s or 70s.  I did not get much out of him about his life or family but he showed many pictures of his hunting and hiking experiences with his son.  He was from Colorado and Utah originally so he told me a lot about what different stuff was along the way. Like names of cliffs and where the wild life usually is. He had great knowledge and it was awesome to get to meet him. Of course most of what i told him about myself was about my wife and kids.

Shortly after he exited. This family of Amish folks got off at there stop.  They also had been with us since Chicago. They did not say much at first. But then what appeared to be the husband or older male figure anyways, talked to me and Matt about some things they had seen on other train rides. At this time. I felt comfortable enough to ask the older woman in the group what it was that she was making.  You see she had a bunch of different color beads of different sizes as well as fishing line.  It looked like she was making bracelets. But she was actually making bells. It was amazing to see her working and creating this bell all by hand.  I asked if she sells them back home and she said yes. I told her that the my daughter loves the color purple she was using and she said she would make that one for my daughter.  I was so grateful. What a nice thing to do and to give as a gift.   I asked her how much and she said $5. And i said no way.  That is worth more then that. And she ended up getting $10 for it.  I tried to give more but she refused.   So they were great to meet as well.

After this i had the whole seat to myself. I was ecstatic. So i sprawled right out and passed out.  I was so tired.   In the morning i woke up to yet another amazing sunset. This time in Nevada.  This area was kinda boring. Mainly just desert. And a wild rabbit  now and then.  Gave a little more time to get to know some of the guys i noticed had been on my new York train as well. One didn’t talk much but i found out he was from Maryland. Just turned 21 and wanted to visit the west coast before he had to be an adult.  At 21 he should of already been an adult. But not my life.  The other guy appeared to be around my age. His name was Jeff.  He had many hiking stories. Many dirt bike adventures and much more.  He was from San Francisco. And had been in Maine on a family hiking and camping expo of some sort. And he decided to take the train back.  He was very down to earth and cool to chat with.  I did not get a chance to sit in the observation cart during this trip  due to the same people staying in there and taking up the seats the entire trip.  It was disappointing and would have been nice if they had a second observation car.

As we came thru California we climbed some other mountains and also got to see the Donner lake from above.  Then we also got to see a huge bay area just north of Emeryville that had some massive cargo ships filled with Cars and trucks fresh from the factories  along with oil tankers.  We went over the longest iron bridge on the west side of the Mississippi as they said.  And now here i am in Emeryville.  A neat looking town.  Not much for food close but a short walk or bus ride and it looks like many options.  That is all for now folks. Keep watching for more.

Cross country segment 2 Albany,NY to Chicago, IL.

First i must say that this part of the trip was so far the worst.  We started off by having to sit with other people, Strangers, the kid i was stuck with was not very pleasant and said about 3 words the entire time. He was clearly not impressed with having to sit with someone.  No one was, but it was a full train. No other options.

There was a very nice older lady traveling with two very young kids. I would say between 2 and 6. And then another woman who sounded like she was the grandmother to the kids.  When boarding she asked if they could be in seats across from each other so everyone was together.  Reasonable enough. Well the assistant conductor was clearly not listening because he gave her two seats together then the 3rd and 4th seat were spread  apart.  And of course no one was happy and would not move to let them be together.  I would have but i was not near them. Luckily the mother and kids were across from each other.

Back to the travel part.  We sat in Albany for  over an hour. No clue why.  The attendants and conductor did not inform us of anything. It was a disaster.  They did not even inform us of stops coming up they waited until we stopped and had to be asked what the stop was.   Needless to say Amtrak employees on this route were not even in the same bracket as all others i have come in contact with thus far.  Disappointing to say the least. After a few other delays we ended up in Chicago about an hour and a half late.  That was okay by me because i still had like 3 hours to wait for the next train.  I had time to grab some lunch (ate to fast)  clean up in the restroom. And explore the interior and exterior of the train station area.

This is Chicago union station i was at. And it was beautiful. The inside of the waiting area is all redone and looks amazing.  Again a strong show of law enforcement to keep everyone feeling safe.  Of course i thanked them as i saw them. I did not wonder far outside  but i got some great pictures of the surrounding area.  It was much more pleasant feeling then the craziness of new York city(that i saw on other travels) even the people walking around were nice and helped point out things.  So even though the travel to the station was terrible. The ending was great.  Now i am on segment 3. And will be on this train for 2 almost 3 days. But maybe i will give you some sneak peaks as i go.  Nothing but time and relaxation for me.  And bugging those around me lol i like to hear peoples stories. Here are a few pictures for you to see.

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Cross country segment 1 vermont to NYC.

So segment 1 did not go quiet as planned but it all worked out okay.  I started in Rutland Vermont. Not to far from where i live. I was suppose to go into new York city, but we had a 2 hour delay in mid state new York due to a truck hitting a telephone pole and knocking the power lines over the top of the tracks.

While we waited for the tracks to be cleared. The conductors kept us informed and also gave out snacks and water.  A very nice gesture i thought. They both also helped those that were going to be late make arrangements with customer service for refunds or other routes. Due to this delay and talking to the conductor we realized i was not going to make it to new York city in time to get onto my Chicago bound train.  Train 49.  So we came up with a plan for me to get off in Albany NY. And wait for my train to come there(it was a stop for that train anyways)  so i hopped off and waited in Albany.  The ticket lady called customer service and got me all squared away.  I enjoyed a nice BLT sandwich at the cafe in the station and also talked for a few moments with a local Albany police Officer and thanked him for keeping everyone safe.  So all in all it worked out okay.  Trains are always late and you mist have a back up plan. Again the Amtrak agents were awesome and very helpful . I should start remembering names.