17. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Ramble

(Posting to both blogs … because I can.)

I haven’t really written much since our return from New York and the IDRS convention. Between our house remodel, recovering from the trip, and other fun but tiring things, I’ve just not had the energy. But now I’ll at least try to write a wee bit about our train adventure.

Yes. Train.

We began in Emeryville. The Amtrak train station there is small, and there is really no security at all. I guess trains aren’t like planes at all! We had decided to fly out to New York, knowing it would take more time, but would also mean we’d see parts of the country one can only see from a train. I loved it!

Here … have some train music …

Sinten Nunggang Sepur (Who Is Riding the Train) by Heni Primastono – The NUSChoir

We did it up fancy, getting the larger sleeper car. Food is included, so while it was pretty darn costly, at least we didn’t have to think about the food. Of course by the time you’ve been on a train for three days and two nights you just might repeat meals, especially if you don’t eat red meat. I was fine with the food, though. My only issue was that I ate far too much of it! (I’ve always had a difficult time turning down things that seemed “free”. Funny, that.) I took a lot of iPhone photos from the train, and a few with my Fujifilm X-E1 as well. I’ve only had time to briefly glance at them. Most are blurred … but that’s to be expected, I think.

Sleeping on the upper bunk is a challenge on the California Zephyr. There isn’t much head room, and crawling my way into bed was probably laughable had anyone been watching. Once I was there, though, it was fine. I slept okay, considering we were on a moving train.

Trains aren’t in a rush. I like that. I like that I can do nothing about time. It causes me to just go with the flow. For the most part I handled that well.

Ah, but the SMELL. Sigh. At one point in our trip the smell of what I can only think is sewage was so strong I thought I was going to go nuts. Truly. I looked online and read that others have had that issue as well. I guess so many people in a train and the use of bathrooms … well … you get the idea. They need to work on that. I don’t think I’d want to do a long trip again if I only thought about that awful, awful smell!

The California Zephyr landed in Chicago, and we enjoyed a two night stay there. Unfortunately the Lollapalooza festival was in the city, so we didn’t get a true feel for it. As far as I’m concerned it’s full of frat boys, sorority sisters, and lots of VERY short shorts, bizarre shirts worn by guys (disco, anyone?), retro 70s clothing (I should have kept my clothes and sold them there), and other bizarre outfits including one guy in overall short shorts and a sailor hat. The crowds were rather huge, but we avoided them when possible. We went to the Art Institute (Yes, I finally saw Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte!), saw amazing architecture (yes, we took the River Cruise!), and tried some Chicago deep dish pizza. I do hope we can return sometime.

Here … have some more train music with the King’s Singers:

From there we took the Lake Shore Limited to New York. I read that it is frequently called the Late Shore Limited. For good reason. It was quite late by the time we arrived in New York. We did finally grow weary of the train when we were stuck in a “dead train” in Albany: they split the train and half heads to Boston. There was no engine for our half or some such thing, and we waited and waited. Some riders were upset, and one was just ridiculously rude to our attendant, who deserved a medal for his patience. The food? Well, it’s the same menu as the California Zephyr. Variety might have been nice, but no biggie, as it’s only an overnight trip, and included just breakfast and lunch. (Due to a late train a dinner might have been nice, but I guess they don’t do that.) The bed was much easier to get into, since it’s a one level train and there’s so much more head room. The train, though, is old and things were breaking. Our bathroom door wouldn’t stay closed at all.

Odd, funny, or bizarre things:

I felt like a school girl doing the wrong thing in the dining car. I ordered sausage and then realized I hadn’t specified the chicken sausage and my server yelled out “WHITE OUT!” and had to redo my order. One must not dilly dally when ordering, either. It’s like “This is a no nonsense train and don’t you dare take up my time with your indecision!” I learned to come in with a good idea of what I wanted. It was also interesting to see that once they knew we were from the sleeper car we were treated a bit more politely than those from coach. (Long story about that with another person at our table, but I’m too lazy to write about it at the moment.) Someone else had filled out their order and got in a bit of trouble because we aren’t to do that. We are only to put our name and room number down, but they don’t tell you that plainly so how are we to know?! Ah well. I was, in fact, rather dismayed at being treated rather rudely. That being said, I can’t imagine the job is a fun one. Our California Zephyr attendant was only courteous after we tipped her the first time. Our Lake Shore Limited attendant was nice from the start (I wrote a letter to Amtrak about him, he was so good).

Below are just some shots from the first part of our trip up until Ottumwa. I’ve run out of steam so I think I’ll stop now!

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