My two elder daughters got a little vacation last weekend. They went to visit their cousin, Jessie, and her fiance, Jack.

They were supposed to take the train both ways, which was exciting because they've never been on a train before. Neither have I, so I was fascinated.

Of course, things didn't quite work out as expected...

I had worked my butt off the previous four days, just so I'd have the chance to leave the office early. That way the whole family could accompany them to the train station.

The train was continually delayed, so we delayed our departure time, too. By the time we got there, the train was FOUR HOURS late, and they announced another 15 minutes of delay every 15 minutes or so. In fact, the lady at the ticket counter was concerned that the train wouldn't arrive in Miami before the station closed at midnight.

Normally they don't allow unaccompanied minors to ride the train unless they'll arrive at their destination before 9 PM. Apparently they were making an exception due to the extraordinary delay.

Eventually, we decided that it would be faster to just drive them to Miami. We called Jessie, and she agreed to meet us halfway, which was very cool of her.

The trip faced another disaster when our van stalled on the highway on-ramp. Some experimentation showed that it was stalling whenever it went to idle. The tank was low, so we tried filling it up; no joy. Nothing appeared to be leaking, no excessive heat, nothing unusual -- but the car wouldn't start unless I gave it a little gas pedal. That sounded like a fuel system problem to me.

We went to a PowerGlide mechanic -- the only one we could find open at 6 PM -- and asked him to have a look at it. He proclaimed it either a fuel pump problem or an ignition module problem, but getting the parts would take 3 to 4 hours. (That's right: as much delay as the train. Grr.)

He further cautioned us against driving the car any farther, claiming it could break the computer. He told us that we'd have to "reflash all the modules". This sounded like a blatant attempt to scare us, but Eri and the kids were convinced. They thought the trip would be cancelled.

After we left, I spent some time convincing her that I could drive with one foot on the gas at all times, and that it wouldn't damage the car. After all, flashing a chip is pretty easy stuff. The call to my ex-mechanic brother didn't hurt anything, of course.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We met Jessie in Fort Pierce, chatted, admired her new Versa, and swapped the kids off. Remarkably, the van fixed itself at that point; apparently all it needed was two hours to get the crud out of the fuel filter.

We only had one child left at that point. The next day, we went to a birthday party and left her behind for a sleepover. That let us fool around like newlyweds for the rest of the day. :-)

The next day we went to the beach with a friend and got a sunburn. (Our new canopy works very well; I just never sat under it. What's the point of sitting in the shade when there are waves out there?)

Monday the kids came home on the train. It was on time, to the minute. They had a fantastic time (I hope they'll post a summary here, along with some pictures). They also highly recommend the train as a comfortable way to travel.

They were a little spoiled, but we expected that. What we didn't expect was the emotional instability: Tatiana was starting to lose it over minor little things, and Melissa was extraordinarily snippy. Considering that Melissa fell asleep an hour early that day, we're thinking they were just tired.

All in all, a successful vacation. We'll be duplicating the trip when we go to Miami for Jessie's wedding. Maybe I can try the train, then.