28/7 9:30am. Wake up, check out. We start driving around downtown Charlotte and Midga thinks the place looks just like the Melbourne CBD. We cross unmistakeable Collins and Bourke Streets then out into the suburbs - Fitzroy, East Melbourne, Carlton and North Melbourne. The right streets even have concrete sections in the middle and skid marks that could be tram tracks to a short sighted person. What's really uncanny is that the suburbs from north and west Melbourne are in south and east Charlotte...
2:30pm. We visit Discovery Place, which is sort of like Scienceworks. Everyone has lots of fun.
8:30pm. We drift around a bit, looking for open wifi to get directions, then we find a Starbucks. AT&T, by the way, haven't come through with the 3G internet for my pal the phone, which delights all concerned. AT&T seem to be the US equivalent of Telstra, complete with a monopoly on the copper network, control of the white and yellow pages, shocking customer service and a reputation for same. But apparently they were never government owned.
10:30pm. We're heading back to Spartanburg and the batteries in both the camera and the phone are flat. Hopefully the kids fall asleep in the back seat. Doesn't look like it though.
11pm. We hit a thunderstorm of some severity. The rain pelts down and the lightning is close and keeps going for ages.
11:35pm. We get to the station in plenty of time. Our visit to the USA feels like it's ending already!
11:55pm. The train comes. Lots of hugs. Bye bye American sister and neices and nephew. Heave several sighs. Don't sad face!
12:05pm. Hit the sack. Oops, forgot to send birthday greetings while online.
29/7 7am. Blast that alarm, I'm one inch from uninstalling it and writing my own!
10:30am. Conductor tells us last call for breakfast. Better get up.
2pm. Arrive New York Penn. It's another airport! Club Acela is good, the rest is not. All this time we haven't found a single rude American - well here they all are. To be fair they have a long queue to deal with, and the way to the airport isn't all that simple. But written instructions repeated aloud slowly would be great, as would info about tickets etc.
3:30pm. We board a Long Island RR spark to get us to Jamaica. It's the first stop since we're running express. The vehicle is quite nice - vinyl seats in lightish colours, quiet inside. Third rail has its limitations - lights and air con go out over the points! Penn station has a lot of recovery time built in. Pity we didn't get a chance to do the full Smartpax Survey on this place.
3:55pm. We get to Jamaica and go through the sliding doors to the Airtrain section. Immediately the noise stops and the people are polite. It's like an airport lounge, in the NICE sense without the pressing crowds. A uniformed official sells us tickets and we head in the direction indicated. Where? It looks like an extension of the concourse! A pair of sliding doors close and a piece of the concourse drives away... it's the platform edge doors the retards demand for Melbourne! Argh... that means we missed the train. Next one? Four minutes. Wow. For $5 a head. I guess it must be subsidised - although it had reasonable loading. The service was run by a two-car set, though the platform looked long enough for 3 or 4. Power is 3rd rail again, they must have some ideas about interoperability. Seating is longitudinal, leaving plenty of luggage space. The trip isn't long anyway, so we stand.