1. Drive out in the Accura (1300 or so miles one way) with Where'sMeKilt and Wolfy (The two W's) and rotate three drivers between two vehicles. (Need I mention that neither city-bred boy currently knows how to drive a clutch, and explain which vehicle has one? Doesn't everyone break in neophytes on the freeway in heavy traffic? I did that once, then after the young man got comfy, went back with the horse trailer, but generally [preferabe] I've taught people how to drive a clutch truck, then turned them loose in the front pasture with a stern admonition not to hit a tree or drive into the creek -- to lessen the embarrassment around how many times they stall out.)
2. Fly out, drive back in one vehicle. (cost prohibitive.)
3. Take the train out, drive back in one vehicle. Ah, what an adventure! The train's closest point in Iowa is Ottumwa, sixty miles away. We'd have to go coach and sleep reclined in the "comfy" seats, as first class runs over $1,000 for three and would require two rooms both for privacy and space reasons. These are 7' spaces with bench seats that make into a lower bunk and an upper bunk that pulls down. You can bring your own food and beverages, (no fridge or microwaves available)
Practicalities -- Leave 9 something a.m. one day, lay over in Chicago, leave lateish, overnight on the train, into Washington D.C. problematical, as we MIGHT MISS (so frequently that the company forbid writing tickets that way, as they then had to pay for the overnight for the passengers) the Raleigh connection, but we can hotfoot it down to the ticket agency and buy our own if we arrive in time...) Lay over six hours, then take a train to Rocky Mount, NC, arriving at 11:56 p.m. if on schedule, (but the train might be late...)
"I've never heard of that town."
Silence on the line. "This is old census data, but it says it's a town of 60 thousand. I'm in California," she adds helpfully, "but we have a relationship with [I forget if she says Avis or Hertz, but one of the big two car rentals] who are only four blocks from the station."
"Which will surely be closed in a town that size at that time of night."
"I don't have any information on that, ma'm, but our station is open."
Great, I think. We can retrieve any luggage we'd stashed, but can't really picture packing much for this drive-drive-drive trip... She goes on to tell me about the distances from the station of two or three more car rental companies, ending up four miles off. She also contributes the reassuring information somewhere along the line that they do NOT guarantee the train's arrival times. Any relatives foolish enough to undertake the 71 mile trip from Raleigh at midnight might be stuck in a hick town (to quote my brother, one of the choices for a pickup job) waiting for it to finally show up, while wishing to be home zzz-ing in a comfy bed.
"Our seats are much more comfy than those on, say, a bus. They recline at a 30° angle," she continues.
I qualify for a senior discount, so she recalculates her rates. We fill out a reservation, and hang up. I have until midnight, May 4 to pay for the seats. There is quite a mark-up for last minute stuff, and prices get higher the fuller the trains get. I can't really wrap my head around fluctuating prices. I'm not sure I got to the lowest rate she was able to offer. I didn't think to ask what it would cost if we booked six months in advance.
4. Bus. Trade comfort for cost reduction and getting into the right city at whatever time. I need to get exact mileage and see how the cost of three tickets stacks up against the gas of driving. I'm pretty sure, based on former bus trips, that I'd personally enjoy the train more, but, doubt either will leave me in very good shape for teaching anyone how to drive a clutch, or being safe doing it myself.
I'm depressed. I need to talk to the boys to see how they feel about taking a several day train trip, then facing a 19 hour drive back in a vehicle that is problematical to operate and may not be sound for the trip.