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Author Topic: Leaving this Friday 9/5
smitty195
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I'm taking off on the Amtrak trip I've been looking forward to for a few months now. Can't wait! Me and a buddy are flying to LAX Airport, then FlyAway Bus to LAUPT, dinner at Phillipe's, and then just hang out until the boarding time of the Eagle/Limited. I'll finally get to see the new Metro Lounge in LA!

I've got a Roomette in the Eagle sleeper because I'm using AGR points. My buddy is in Room E or D I think.

I fly home on Tuesday morning on SWA, a direct flight from Little Rock to San Jose (one stop in Phoenix, but I stay on the same plane). Can't wait!!! [Big Grin]

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RRRICH
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Have a good trip, Smitty! The new L.A. Metro Lounge is pretty nice, and has a great view overlooking the train sheds. It is a little hard to find though. Basically, it is at the north end of LAUPT, past the ticket windows and new fast food restaurants. It is marked -- you need to go through a door (I think), then up an elevator to the lounge.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Allow me to say one good thing about Southwest.

If you don't like the seat you first have, , you can always get another at a intermediate stop.

But beyond that, any airline that thinks the preflight safety briefing is something to joke about does not get my business.

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smitty195
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Thanks, Rich! Can't wait!! It's been way too long. And thanks for the info on where the Metro Lounge is located. I knew it was somewhere around the ticket counters, but wasn't sure exactly where to go. Although now that I think about it, hmmm, I think I might be more confused now. The ticket counters are to the right (when coming in from the street, and walking through the great hall passenger waiting area), and the Subway Sandwich is to the left----correct? If so, then that's pulling me in two opposite directions---do I have that right?

GBN: I'm a so-so fan of SWA. I love how they run things so smoothly and efficiently. Much better than United, which is where I have enough miles go get me home for free on this trip.....HOWEVER......their routings and aircraft are horrible. I couldn't find anything that worked. It was always a three stop/three airplane trip. But those miles expire next month, so instead of using them for a flight, I'm getting a new Time Capsule from Apple----absolutely free. Can't beat free!

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sbalax
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Have a great trip, Smitty. We'll look forward to your trip report.

I'm glad to hear you found something you wanted for your miles but my understanding is that as long as you keep your account active (fly, use the credit card, etc.) the miles do not expire.

We just had one of our planned cruises (Dubai to Rome) cancelled by Celebrity so are looking around for a substitute. I think we've found it in an Azamara cruise from Dubai to Istanbul. Fly home using miles on Turkish non-stop to SFO and then connect on "The Bumble Bee" to SBA

Mr. Norman--

United has a new Safety Video. I've only seen it online -- it's entertaining but not the "jokes" of SW. I think you can find it on YouTube or The United Hub.

Frank in overcast and cool SBA

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Gilbert B Norman
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No more flying for me this year, for a few days ago, I donated my Mileage Plus points to a charity, Fisher House Hero Miles.

Also, I'm too spoiled after the exemplary in-flight service, albeit amidships, on UA952-53 during July.

Even though one phobia I have no affliction to is Aviophobia, I still wear laced shoes on flights if possible and I always "listen up" for the briefing. I'm not known for my sense of humor and "sitcom" night on the networks means watch something else, all of which is why the Southwest "skits" are simply a turn off. The best way to ensure the turn off is to fly someone else. United goes anywhere I have occasion to go - and I know my way around Terminal 1.

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yukon11
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Have a nice trip, Smitty.

There is an article, this morning, in our local paper about SWA and JetBlue. Apparently, they are installing new, slim and narrow seats which will give them greater passenger occupancy, per plane, which favors their bottom line.

However, such is causing problems. Not only do the slender seats cause less leg and elbow room, but they also are a problem when the seats are reclined. The passenger, in back, can experience a severe loss of leg room. There has been incidents where fights have broken out, causing the aircraft to have to land. I know Southwest and JetBlue are good airlines but I think the new seats are causing a backlash.

Possibly Amtrak can take notice. "Nickel and diming" customer services and comforts can have some negative consequences.

Richard

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Ocala Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:


If you don't like the seat you first have, , you can always get another at a intermediate stop.


Had to laugh at GBN channeling Obama:

"If you like your healthcare, you can keep your healthcare."

Anyway, have a great trip!

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Gilbert B Norman
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Jet Blue? I just might have to fly them next Spring. My Niece who resides in Brooklyn, has asked me to come visit them - destination Brooklyn. Not Manhattan, not Greenwich; Brooklyn (you won't get mugged Uncle Gil). Since United isn't in the ORD-JFK market, I guess it will have to be Jet Blue.

Regarding these in flight seat incidents, it's no surprise. The inevitable is simply the airlines will "fix" the seats. Speaking of in flight meltdowns, watch S1, Ep1 of "Satisfaction" (USA Network) for a classic. Only hitch; the Flight Attendant (actress) resembles my friend Maureen (real life United FA) - and she would have defused it.

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HopefulRailUser
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Smitty, the Metropolitan Lounge at LAX is indeed to the right, past the ticket counter. Then left to the elevator. They should have some signage by now.

Have a great trip and tell us all about it.

--------------------
Vicki in usually sunny Southern California

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palmland
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Sounds like a great trip. I'm a big fan of the TE/Sunset sleeper (as well as the EB Portland sleeper and CZ Denver one). That rear window in your car is great spot for a railfan. When we were on it last year a young Amtrak engineer was deadheading and filling me on the rr activity. Be sure and be there about 20min out of El Paso when the mainline goes through the middle of new UP locomotive servicing facility.

You should check out the Tucson station and have enough time to grab a snack in their nice cafe. I have heard rumors the El Paso Burrito lady is back but now operating out of the parking lot. Your SCA will probably know. They were excellent. I believe it was the Temple, TX stop that had some interesting old rr equipment in the station.

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RRRICH
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Yes, Smitty -- turn right at the hall that goes to the ticket counters. I don't remember where Subway is, but it seems to me that there are now fast food places in both directions from the main hall at LAUPT.
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smitty195
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Okay, I got it----all of the comments and suggestions. Thank you VERY MUCH!!!! [Smile]

Today is the day. I got everything done around here yesterday, cleaned the house, did all laundry, left a note and check for the catsitter, packed, made sure I have my iPhone and iPad and the charging cord, I've got me "E" ticket for Amtrak, and all documents for the entire trip are backed up in .pdf format on my free Dropbox app on my phone. I think I'm ready!!!

Picking up my buddy at 11:30AM (my time), then it's off to SJC to catch our flight to LAX. Mmmm.....I can taste Phillipe's now!

Quick question: Does anybody know with the "new" Amtrak with all of the cutbacks in amenities, do sleeper passengers no longer get bottled water for free in their room? If that's the case, I'm going to have to make a purchase before getting on the train.

I'm psyched---can't wait to go!!! I'd imagine when I board tonight (since departure is 10PM) that all beds will be down already. I hate that because it's so hard to set up my "stuff". But I guess I'll just roll with how they do it. Also, are there no services available once you board (such as the cafe car?)? Thanks!

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RRRICH
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Smitty -- yes, bottled water is still available in your room. Generally, your attendant will put a couple bottles in your room, and there is typically always more available at the head of the stairs in the Superliner sleeping cars.

No, I doubt if your bunk will automatically be put down when you board the Sunset. After you get your stuff set up, and show the conductor your ticket, then you can ask the sleeping car attendant to put your bunk down.

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notelvis
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As it is only 7:22am your time, I hope that you receive my well-wishes for a great trip before you go.

I'm thinking that I'm in need of a good, long, Amtrak trip right now..... and I would be willing to use SWA to get there.

Mr. Norman - if you are ever doing another transatlantic flight and if you are of the inclination to try a different airline, we felt absolutely catered to on Singapore Airlines this past summer.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:

Mr. Norman - if you are ever doing another transatlantic flight and if you are of the inclination to try a different airline, we felt absolutely catered to on Singapore Airlines this past summer.

Gotta say, shocker to learn that Singapore Airlines has a KJFK-EDDF route!!!!!!

A-380 no less.

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:

Mr. Norman - if you are ever doing another transatlantic flight and if you are of the inclination to try a different airline, we felt absolutely catered to on Singapore Airlines this past summer.

Singapore Airlines has US-Europe routes?????
Looks like JFK-SIN is a little too far for all but the extended range jets so it has to stop and refuel somewhere - and not only that, but one can buy tickets JFK-FRA on SQ25. It continues to SIN as the same SQ25. Possibly other routes too.

And yes, SQ is a very good airline.

--------------------
Geoff M.

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sbalax
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Sometimes it pays to think outside the box when looking for air arrangements.

We just booked Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to SFO and on to SBA on United using MileagePlus miles. It was half what United wanted via Frankfurt.

Istanbul, you say? Well, Celebrity cancelled our cruise from Dubai to Rome but we were able to find one on Azamara a day later that ends up in IST.

Frank in overcast and cool SBA

P.S. We have Australian friends arriving on the Starlight on Sunday. They continue to SLO on Monday on the Surfliner -- I think it's the single level one.

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smitty195
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Hello from Fort Worth. Hot and muggy here. In I'm the 2230 sleeper and we should be departing soon, but as they say, late trains get later. Currently 2.5 hours down.

Excellent Sunset Limited food service crew from LA to SAS. At SAS, things went downhill quickly. Absolutely horrible dining car service. And I mean BAD. About the worst I've ever experienced on Amtrak, and that says a lot. New train, new passengers (as far as #22 goes leaving out of SAS) and we hadn't turned a wheel yet-----literally. Diner out of EVERYTHING for all three meals. Continental only for breakfast, burger only for lunch no cheese or bacon available, dinner is Tilapia (blah!) or steak only. Out of salad, rolls, rice, baked potatoes, vegetables. How is this possible? Lots more happened this morning, but that's it for now.

Other than that, nice trip. Two of the best car attendants ever. They regularly close our restrooms for cleaning. My guy vacuums the carpet. Never have seen this in all of my trips over the years. A real juxtaposition between sleeper car attendants (out of LA) and diner crew (out of Chicago).

Well we were supposed to depart Fort Worth as I started writing this. Something happened and we stopped after moving 5 feet. Not sure what's up.

That's it for now!

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MargaretSPfan
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Smitty --
Hope the rest of our trip is great! I can't believe they ran out of everything in the diner! Man, that is really BAD -- and inexcusable! That train should NEVER have left SAS without a proper amount of food on board. Never!

So glad to hear about your superb car attendants. Amtrak does have some very nice employees, but is VERY inconsistent. Am-management leaves a LOT to be desired, or those bad things would never happen. No -- Amtrak is not responsible for freight train mishaps, but they are responsible for crew behavior and properly supplying the train, and seeing to it that locomotives are kept in good repair.

Me? Even though I am a huge supporter of Amtrak, I will never again ride Amtrak -- not after what I have read about locomotives frequently breaking down -- often in the middle of nowhere (where one's Amtrak train may be the only train out there), and having to sometimes deal with rude and nasty car attendants, and possibly getting unexpectedly bustitutred long distances, and, now -- running out of food and sending the train onwards anyways. And since I don't have the money for a room, I'd have to ride in coach, and that scares me nowadays, from what I have been reading about some of the people who ride in coach. Sooooo -- this here railfan is another "Never again!"

I very much look forward to your trip report, and hope that everything goes very well for you from now on.

As of about 4 pm PDT, Amtrak;s Train Tracker shows that your train is in Dallas (that is assuming you are on Train 22, the TE).

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palmland
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Glad the trip was mostly good. Was your carpet sweeping SCA named Toni. If so he was excellent on out trip a couple years ago.
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Gilbert B Norman
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What I find "sobering" at this topic and others, is how many of the "diehards" around here are finally saying 'they've had enough".

It would appear that Smitty's trip is pretty much a "split decision", Sunset AOK, Eagle "otherwise'. Margaret above has stated she is in the "never again' crowd, as least so far as traveling Coach.

Miss Vickie and Mr. Art 'scrubbed" an X-country trip reportedly as it is too difficult to get needed sleep traveling in Sleepers.

We haven't heard of any "sojourns" of late.

As for myself, I have hardly said "never again", but joyrides are likely just that. If I have somewhere to go, and Amtrak has a convenient schedule, I'll use 'em. I could well go to a University Musical Society concert in Ann Arbor this season, and if I find that Wolverine reliability has improved, I could easily ride - albeit Business Class. I have a late Feb trip to Florida "penciled in' but do not know yet if I will fly or drive. If the latter, AT could well be in the cards. I really care little about the Sleeper downgrades, but then I'm not as discerning as are some around here (it seems like it has been implied that if I was prepared to spend for Business Class going overseas, I could have found others that have a superior in-flight service product to that of United, but "knowing the drill at their website and at ORD" puts things in a "less hassle" mindset).

But one "because I have to get there" trip I make is to New York to visit family. In this case, using the Lake Shore is simply "out". The Chicagoan's (whoops; #48 Lake Shore) schedule is simply absurd for my needs; why show up in NY and especially if final destination is Greenwich when there can be no evening plans whatever - good luck renting a car at an off airport location during those hours.

However, let it be noted that I fully concur with Amtrak's scheduling of #48; it sure saves on "miss connect" costs.

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sbalax
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Our Australian friends were very pleased with their ride from LAX to SBA on the Starlight yesterday. They had a coach almost to themselves and the Parlour Car attendant did an announcement inviting coach passengers to come on forward to have a drink or two. I've NEVER heard of that happening.

I put them on their slightly delayed #761 to SLO this morning and the baggage attendant remembered them from yesterday possibly because theirs were the only bags check yesterday or today.

I think the grousing about Amtrak is parallel to what is going on at the airlines and even the cruise lines as cuts are made.

Frank in overcast and oddly humid SBA

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Mike Smith
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My wife and I are anticipating our Seattle to Houston trip starting September 27 (less than 3 weeks!) I'll post something about it.

Palmland, I have had Toni on several of my trips. He is a major league shmooser! I have seen him steal people from one sleeper to fill up his sleeper. He is a GREAT attendant!

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Geoff Mayo
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Hah, my trip is September 28th from Seattle! Here's hoping it's better than Smitty's TE segment. Likewise I'll try to post something about it.

--------------------
Geoff M.

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yukon11
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
[QB] What I find "sobering" at this topic and others, is how many of the "diehards" around here are finally saying 'they've had enough".

*************************
If I encountered the problems Smitty had, east of San Antonio, I would be one to say "I've had enough". I see myself as a diehard passenger train fan, not necessarily an Amtrak fan.

There is no excuse for poor food or running out of food on an Amtrak middle-distance or long-distance train. Absolutely no excuse. If Amtrak cannot make amends regardless of what excuse (poor planning, cost of food services, etc.), I would be for permanently discontinuing the Amtrak route.

Andrew Selden suggested having Amtrak long distance trains run by Amtrak engineers and conductors, with on-board services handled by private interests. Maybe it would be better to have private interests (hotel chains, cruise liner outfits, etc.) run the entire LD train, if that is what it would take to ensure some sort of quality.

I would even go for consolidating the LD trains to 2-3 east-west routes and a single route, north and south, for the east and west coasts.

By the way, a number of years ago, on the Starlight, I had a complimentary bottle of Dasani water in my sleeper. It must have been sitting on the shelf for 2-3 years before it got to my sleeper. Tasted like plastic and I couldn't get the plastic taste, out of my mouth, the rest of the evening.

Richard

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DonNadeau
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@ smitty195 So sorry about that dining crew. Glad the trip goes well otherwise.

@ Frank Also glad that you found a superb Suez Canal alternative. That itinerary is not to be missed.

@ Mr. Norman

In its defense, Southwest is the only airline I've experienced with more than several people paying attention to preflight safety briefings.

If humor accomplishes that, we should be happy in more ways than one.

I am glad that Southwest provides a welcoming cabin environment in contrast to certain other airlines at times and to Amtrak in the types of incidents that smitty195 sadly experienced.

--------------------
@DonNadeau

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DonNadeau
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Lots of unexpected service out of U.S., e.g.,

Air Zealand LAX - London
Air India & Kuwait Airways JFK - London
Qantas SFO - Vancouver (flown just often enough to keep rights to fly route)
Pakistan International JFK - Manchester (UK)

None of these is more surprising, though, than Aeromexico Tijuana - Tokyo!


quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:

Mr. Norman - if you are ever doing another transatlantic flight and if you are of the inclination to try a different airline, we felt absolutely catered to on Singapore Airlines this past summer.
Singapore Airlines has US-Europe routes?????
Looks like JFK-SIN is a little too far for all but the extended range jets so it has to stop and refuel somewhere - and not only that, but one can buy tickets JFK-FRA on SQ25. It continues to SIN as the same SQ25. Possibly other routes too.

And yes, SQ is a very good airline.

--------------------
Geoff M.

--------------------
@DonNadeau

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sojourner
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Smitty, sorry your trip wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but my guess is if you call customer services, Amtrak will make amends. At least, I was on a train once late to Miami with no dinner, and I was given a partial voucher for future travel.

How was Little Rock? I enjoyed my visit there, and also going to Hot Springs.

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smitty195
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sojourner: Thanks. I *will* be calling Amtrak Customer Service. It was so bad in the diner once we changed crews in SAS, and the lying that they were constantly doing was just rotten.

As for Little Rock, it was nothing like I expected it to be. I guess I didn't really know what to expect, except perhaps a small, dirty little town with a bunch of hicks. I'm embarrassed to say it but I was so wrong----and I mean REALLY wrong. I didn't find that at all. As a matter of fact, I found one of the cleanest cities I've ever been in. (The DoubleTree Hotel has excellent rates and you're right where you need to be to visit everything). One thing that really popped out at me was how NICE people are to strangers. I'm just not used to that. I'm used to being ignored. This is CA, after all. But people would stop and ask, "Would you like directions on getting somewhere???", or, "Are you looking for a good place to eat for lunch?". We just relied on the locals to tell us where to go, so we were "blind" and did not do any research. We said, 'Let's just go with what the locals say----how bad could it be???". Well it turned out to be AWESOME!!!!! Especially the local-recommended dinner. Outstanding filet mignon with lobster tail, and for dessert.......(drumroll please.........) I had THE BEST COCONUT CREAM CAKE IN THE WORLD. Yes, THE WORLD!!!!! Soooooo creamy. And the coconuts were slightly toasted, so you were't eating raw coconut. It has a nice crunch to it. Everything there is home-made and is absolutely delicious. It's right on the banks of the Arkansas River (which, btw, is HUGE). I had no idea the Arkansas River was so wide. Lots of barge traffic on it at night. I saw one barge go by my hotel window at around midnight and he was all lit up completely around the entire boat (spotlights, etc) so that he could be seen, but he was pushing SIX barges of dirt!!! They were lined up 2 against his front bumper, then 2 in front of that, and 2 at the very front. I don't know how you control them. That was pretty interesting to watch.

But i'm ready to go back to Little Rock and do some more touring and checking out new home prices. And yes, we did make it out to the Clinton Library and Massage Parlor. Had a nice time there---I love presidential libraries, and the neat thing about this one is that they have it divided up into years. So for each year he was in office, there was a section. And you make your way down, year by year, and you are reminded of things that you had totally forgotten about. Lots of speeches playing on a loop video of the president speaking. I really enjoyed pulling out the big metal binders where you could look at the presider's daily schedule for the entire time he was in office. Pretty cool stuff. And I'll add one political note here because I can't resist, but something surprising happened as I was going through the exhibits. I stopped in my tracks, and called my buddy John over to look at the speech I was looking at. I said to him, "Does this speech remind you of a Republican president or a Democrat President". He was "wow'd" like I was----it sounded pure Republican. So basically, it showed me how much has changed in such a short amount of time. I NEVER EVER would have known, simply because I forgot. But Clinton's presidency is actually very similar to today's Republican Congress. And today's Democrats are way, way, way off the charts into far left territory. I'm probably not doing the best job of explaining it, but while I was there, it really blew me away how much things have changed in such a quick period of time.

Anyone have any questions about anything? It was a neat trip---I'm so glad I got to take it. Sooooooooo glad. It was absolutely fantastic.

Posts: 2355 | From: Pleasanton, CA | Registered: Apr 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mike Smith
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Check out Hot Springs before you buy a house in Little Rock. And now you have a clue why we refer to CA as the land of fruits and nuts. [Smile]
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smitty195
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It really is. Living here has its ups and downs, but unfortunately lately, there have been more downs than ups.

I think the train went through Hot Springs didn't it? It sounds familiar.

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yukon11
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I'm glad you enjoyed Little Rock, Smitty, and the friendly people within.

I've never been to the south. I have met a number of southerners, however. Us folks out here in California sometimes tend to think of many southerners akin to those depicted in the film, "Deliverance". Most southerners, I have met, have been very outgoing, courteous, and quite friendly. I think the real flakes are out here in Calif. There is something genuine and real, for the most, in the phrases "southern gentlemen" (and "gentlewomen") and "southern hospitality".

Another venue where I have found very friendly and amiable people is Canada.... in BC and Alberta. The people seem to be especially friendly and helpful. Maybe not so much in major cities, but frequently in smaller cities, towns, and resort areas.

Richard

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DonNadeau
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@ yukon11

It's interesting that most of the first Americans to come to CA did so because of the Gold Rush. The majority of them by ships that sailed from the Northeast, especially New England. That's one of the reasons you see so much New England-type architecture in Northern California.

The first railroad, Central Pacific, that arrived in CA at Sacramento added Midwesterners to the No Cal mix.

Americans did not come to So Cal in great numbers until the Southern Pacific reached it from TX and LA. These people tended to be Southerners.

When combined with the Spanish/Mexican influence strongest in the southern part of the state (which barely reached your area in Central CA), you can see why No Cal and So Cal have such different cultures--different outlooks.

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George Harris
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Smitty, if you think that a 2 wide by 3 long barge tow is big, you should see the up to 3 wide by 5 long barge tows they run on the Lower Mississippi. Controlling them is both science and art. Not always sucessful either. There are occasional run agrounds and most if not all the bridges across the lower river have scars on their piers from being struck by barge tows. FYI: The arrangement is called a "tow" despite being pushed. Another FYI: The division between Lower and Upper Mississippi River is the junction with the Ohio river at Cairo IL. Having grown up on the banks of the Lower Mississippi (Memphis) I am constantly amazed at some of the trickles that are given the name "River" in other parts of the country.

Guess to me southern is normal. The general prejudice that all are ignorant hicks is an irritant, but maybe helps keep the place from being cluttered up with Yankees and other riff-raff. (As an aside, when going through US Army basic training in 1969 in Ft. Leonard Wood MO those of us that were southern draftees, which was most of us, managed to convince a group of reservists from Massachussets that were put in our training unit that we had never seen indoor plumbing before.)

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DonNadeau
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George,

When my parents moved to Huntsville TX after they retired, my dad went to introduce himself to the local chapter of the Elks.

The first person he met laughed and said, "Another g----- Yankee!" My father said, "I am NOT a Yankee. I am Canadian!" The reply? "Okay, we'll leave off the 'g-----." [Smile]

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Iron Mountain
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Smitty, I have had the best and worst of both worlds (sleeper and dining service) on the Texas Eagle, on the STL-DAL DAL-STL and STL-CHI routes.

By far the best trip, perhaps on Amtrak ever, was a trip from Dallas to St. Louis. All staff was great. We arrived early in St. Louis, before breakfast. I asked the attendant if there would be a chance of getting a bite to eat before getting off. He joyously invited us to the diner along with others and we had a wonderful breakfast.

Another time I was riding the TE to CHI from STL and went to the cafe car(observation car) to get something and they were out of everything. For whatever reason they did not provision the galley in STL. And the train was filthy.

My last trip on the Capitol Limited the bathrooms were spotless with fresh flowers. The carpet was vacuumed periodically. Dining car service was great. Great trip. I do not understand why Amtrak does not have supervisors checking on the performance of these dining and sleeper car crews. This should go on continuously. And if the performance doesn't improve after sufficient warnings and (re)training about subpar customer service performance they should be fired.

Amtrak must lose lots of business because of this poor customer service issue. I think that people are more or less forgiving of delays that are obviously out of Amtrak's control but not bad treatment at the hands of stupid thoughtless employees.

This reminds me of the old adage from the restaurant business; Customers will forgive bad food but not bad service.

Have a great trip.

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