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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Dec '10

Day Three On The Train.

Last Day.

The Out Of Service Day.

As a result of the various blog and FaceBook posts, friends and relatives have been asking me about my thoughts about long-distance train travel….

This year I will have done 50,000+ flight miles, mostly on Alaska Airlines…. But yet, this will be the 3rd or 4th (maybe 5th) train trip, though certainly the longest of the year.

While not cheap — $550 from Santa Fe to Seattle (booked well in advance)… what would that be, a one way ticket, two nights in a hotel, and all my meals provided… as my sis-in-law pointed out, not that bad a deal (though, knowing me, I would have stayed with friends rather than in a hotel).

From Boston I’ve done the Acela to NYC in their First Class cabin…. Which is nice because of the well-appointed lounges on both ends of the trip… and the Empire Builder between Seattle and Chicago, the Southwest Chief between Santa Fe and LA and the Coast Starlight between LA and Seattle. Well, I’ve done more US trains, I’m just mentioning the recent years rather than my youth in coach.

There is something different about travelling long distance trains in the states – meals are included, but you are put four to a table whether you want to or not… or you can take your meals in your room, but then most of the time you don’t get any condiments to go with your meal, but you also avoid conversations with strangers at your table which can be good, or bad. Or just downright weird… like dinner the other night, got talking about the Magnolia neighborhood and it turns out this couple was friends with the family that sold their house to my friend Darcie.

One of the attractions for me is that in the sleeping cars you are allowed to imbibe alcohol that you’ve brought with you. This most times extends into the dining room where you can bring a bottle of wine (which I usually offer to share with other folks at the table.

I’ve sort of envisioned my next trip – and it will require a bunch of preplanning and the cooperation of many of my friends – it would be a series of portraits of embrace and love staged at stops along the train route. Parents in Santa Fe, Michelle in Albuquerque, Kyle in Flagstaff, Craig in LA, Chris in San Jose, Mark and Onyx in Emeryville, Michael and Mudd in Chico, Bro and sis-in-law in Eugene, nephew in Portland, Dwight in Olympia, and then a greeting committee in Seattle – or, maybe I’m just a narcissist! Come to think about it, I could fill in some other cities as well. You get the idea.

If you can only do one couple of day trip – the Seattle/LA or reverse would be the one to do – they have a separate lounge car for the sleeping car passengers, in theory wi-fi for your laptop (my cell phone tethered works better), and some really stunning scenery.

That’s probably more than you wanted to know, but I’ll probably recycle some of the text into tomorrow’s blog entry.

Breakfast was at 7:30… after having been stopped for a while near the California/Oregon border… seems there was a passenger that had to be put off the train. Oddly enough, mental issues rather than having too much to drink. Or according to another person later in the day – a domestic abuse thing with his wife on the train. How fun to get met by the state patrol and hauled off the train. I can’t say that the breakfast is anything to write home about, but free is free.

Lunch was at 12:45 and I opted for the bacon cheeseburger minus the bacon since they had used it all at lunch. Finally, after lunch we were back within cell phone range. There was a brief bit of coverage at Chemult and Klamath Falls, but not enough time for data to kick in.

After the “incident” of the morning, we were running about 45 minutes to an hour behind…. So the stop in Portland was brief, limited to me walking the length of the platform, into the station, back out the door to the Metropolitan Lounge to grab two mini-Diet Pepsi’s and three newspapers. I was a good boy and asked permission for the paper pilferage – since it’s the last train of the days use that lounge, it wasn’t a problem. Score: today’s New Your Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Oregonian. I might even have time to finish them all, unlike the stack of magazine I brought with me, which didn’t get finished (or the now THREE books I packed).

Dinner was at a little after 6 – the last seating for dinner since they tend to run early on the last part of the run and they want time to put away the kitchen. When the schedule changes temporarily after the first of the years (trains depart two hours later each way until April), I’m sure the dinner time for the north bound train will be more rational for dinner. Tonight I had the steak. Oddly enough the last three ribs and the éclair are packed in my bag, leftovers from last night.

Gotta post quick – my cabin steward (or is it stewardess since she’s female) wants to see my impressions of the trip.

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4 Responses to “Day Three On The Train.

Last Day.

The Out Of Service Day.”

  1. Michael Says:

    You packed a stack of magazines and three books? Really???? All I take when I travel now is my iPad … 4,000 e-books and counting and any magazine I like.

  2. markso Says:

    Yeah, I’m still old school… but looking at the Kindle 3G for it’s web browser and worldwide service….

  3. Colonel Eric Gowins Says:

    Hey, Markie, I can top the nutcase being put off the train… When Kate and I trained to Miami a couple of years ago, a fellow in the compartment down the hall died. We were stopped for more than two hours in Jacksonville……….best part of the trip, because it was the roughest train ride I’ve every been on. That’s where we learned to avoid CSX rails.

  4. Jon Souder Says:

    The stops are longer when the train hits someone. Believe me, we know. We knew it was going to be a bad trip from Oakland to Santa Fe when the conductor welcomed us to AmTrash. Luckily, things seemed to have gotten better in the last few years.