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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Jun '14

Trip Report: The City Of New Orleans.

What a fitting way to celebrate achieving United Million Mile Status – by taking a five-day train trip back to Seattle from New Orleans. For those of you curious about all the benefits of United Million Mile Status, just click on the link.

My red-eye via San Francisco arrived a little after 5:30am…and shockingly, even though I have plenty of time to get to the train station, my bag is the first on off the carousel, which probably means it was the last one loaded onto the plane with my tight connection. I was relived last night when I saw my bag on the loading equipment – nothing like having a bright yellow bag to stand out against all the black ones.

In true cheap-ass style I’m taking the E2 Jet Express into the Central Business District. There is a stop 5 humid blocks away the New Orleans Amtrak Station, and at this time of day the bus if filled by more folks with hard hats than folks with luggage…I might be the only one. It was interesting hearing the different folks from different stops and different destinations chatting away like they see each other every morning – which I’m betting they do.

The New Orleans Amtrak Station not only serves Amtrak, but Greyhound and one other bus line as well…open and airy, it’s more of a 50’s-70’s style station rather than the old vaulted ceiling of Chicago, LA, Kansas City, Seattle, etc.

The station also features the Magnolia Room for its Sleeping Car Passengers:

Nothing fancy, but in addition there were a couple of overstuffed chairs – perfect for the almost four hour nap I took – I was just happy as hell that the room was open at 7AM when I arrived. With a cup of coffee and the half sandwich from last night, that nap was a welcome addition to the hour of sleep I got on the flight (assuming that).

After getting a little sleep it is off to the store for supplemental supplies for the trip (soda and beef jerky) and a little lunch. Luckily, three blocks away is a massive grocery store (Rouses) – a rarity in a downtown.

Probably not the healthiest of lunches, but what they hell, it’s New Orleans.

Mac and Cheese with bacon, mashed potatoes (no gravy), roast chicken and fried chicken – and one of the Diet Cokes from the twelve pack for the trip. In addition to the Diet Coke, picked up a twelve pack of Diet Ginger Ale and some Oberto (funny that it’s a Seattle brand) Beef Jerky.

We loaded to train a little after 1PM for our 1:45PM departure.

And quickly I was settled into my office/bedroom for the next 20 hours.

Somebody call for a cocktail?

Soon we were off through neighborhoods still ravaged from Hurricane Katrina – and the occasional amusing scenes, like a collection of Mardi Gras Floats awaiting next year (or maybe never):

My first hoped for “Platform Memories” stops was to be Jackson, Mississippi where Ed runs a letterpress shop and an occasional backyard 35mm movie theatre. Alas, he schedule didn’t allow a trip in from the burbs and as it turns out, non-ticketed people aren’t allowed on the platform, so it was just me:

Other hopeful “PM”s were thwarted as well. Roberta in Chicago – in Sweden. Cynthia from Chicago – in Wisconsin. We’ll see how the Lawrence, Kansas City, Flagstaff and Los Angeles folks do.

The City of New Orleans has some slightly upgraded equipment like this odd Dining Car on one side, Café Car on the other side of a single car:

And then a sort of café seating, observation seating car right behind it:

With their schedules it’s a little weird, leaves too late for lunch out of New Orleans, and gets in so early that there is a limited breakfast from 6AM to 7:15PM – and speaking of breakfast:

Scrambled eggs, pork sausage and home fries, which I was good and didn’t completely finish.

Overall, the experience wasn’t a good as the Southwest Chief or the even better (well, in the past) Coast Starlight:

  • really crappy tracks and a fitful night of sleep
  • limited dinner and breakfast menus

On the plus side:

  • my dinner steak was actually medium rare
  • my porter had ice available at all hours, including the morning
  • we arrived five minutes early

I’ll do a final wrap-up after the next two legs.

Hello Chicago – for six hours.

[? ? ?] I hate to think about the weight number with an “Amtrak Diet” week.

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