I actually got back home last Monday but between the very interesting weather we've had here in Western, NY and just being crazy busy, I can now do a quick little write-up on what this 18 day trip was all about! In 2012, I came up with this hairbrain idea of riding Amtrak to see all 4 space shuttles! Having been a huge fan of the shuttle program, I knew somehow I needed to find a way to see all 4 of the shuttles in their permanent museum homes, using Amtrak to get there! Well, I booked the trip back in February, and it was by far the biggest logistical nightmare of a trip that I've ever put together, but I booked it, and now, I did it!!!
This trip involved riding a total of 9 Amtrak trains, and involved my staying in 5 hotels and renting 4 cars! I rode #49 to visit Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH like I do every year, then drove to Fostoria, OH to check out the new railfan park there, 17 trains in 3 hours, not bad! I then rode #30 in a sleeper to DC, the next day, rode #56 to New York in coach to see Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum, then the same day, took #129 back to DC. The next morning, I saw Space Shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian in Chantilly, VA. I then rode #97 in a sleeper down to Orlando, FL. I then drove out to Cape Canaveral to see Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center and also did the Shuttle Launch Experience (closest thing you'll ever experience to an actual shuttle launch!). I then set out on 5 straight days of Amtrak train riding to get to the final shuttle. I boarded #98 in Orlando, took it to DC, and on the way, almost ran out of fuel in Richmond, VA (this was reported here and it wasn't Amtrak's fault that the fuel truck got lost!). I then took #29 to Chicago, funny, the P42 that brought #98 into DC was the same one that took me to Chicago on #29, though we didn't run out of fuel! I then did some railfanning at Roosevelt Road in Chicago, before taking #3 to Los Angeles, having a sleeper on #98, 29, and 3, that's what 35,000 AGR points will get you! I rented another car and drove to the Calfiornia Science Center to see Space Shuttle Endeavour. Some on this board suggested using public transit to do this, but I chose to rent the car because I had 70+ pounds of baggage (stuffing a computer and a tripod in suitcases takes up weight!), and no place to store it since I couldn't check into the hotel until later in the day. Having the car was definitely the right move!
I spent the night in Hawthorne, near LAX where I rented the car, then early the next morning, brought back the car, took the FlyAway Bus to LAUPT (also used it to get to LAX the previous day), then took Surfliner #761 to San Luis Obispo in business class. I then took the "AmBus" to San Jose, then CalTrain to Millbrae, then BART to the San Francisco Airport, rented another car, drove out to my hotel in Vacaville. The next day, did my first of 2 rides on the Napa Valley Wine Train, the first being in the engine one way and in a dining car on the way back, then on the second day, riding both ways in the Vista-Dome!!! I spent part of another day doing scenic photos of the wine train before getting ready to fly home. I flew home on JetBlue from SFO to Boston, then to Buffalo. I was rudely welcomed home with high winds and lake effect snow, and to think the previous day, it was 70 and sunny in Napa!!!
There will be a travelogue on my site, and it will be enormous! I took almost 3000 pictures on this trip and I'm hoping to have the travelogue done by sometime in March 2015. I know that seems like a long time but it will be worth the wait! This has to be the best Amtrak trip I've ever taken. I rode with so many excellent crews who really do care about the railroad they work for! I also had a steak on #97 that I'll remember for a long time, I met the chef on that train and told him it was one of the best steaks I ever had on Amtrak! I participated in "Happy Hour" on #3 which involved having a $3.00 Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer!!! So many great times, so many memories, so much to write about! The initial Microsoft Word Document of the travelogue was over 30 pages long! I wanted to post this here because I wanted to give a "brief" summary of how great this trip was (though I know there was a lot of content here, it was that big of a trip)!
Posts: 113 | From: Buffalo, NY | Registered: Sep 2002
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Sounds like a railfans dream. Glad you could do it. Certainly this was a case where the journey was as important as the destination. Trips are definitely more enjoyable though when you have goal in mind such as yours. Amtrak for all its flaws usually provides an enjoyable ride.
Posts: 2394 | From: Camden, SC | Registered: Mar 2006
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The fuel issue reminds me of a cartoon strip back in the early 1990s, I think, back in the UK. Back then there were stamps you could collect from gas stations, you stuck them in a book, then when you had enough you could buy things with them - a loyalty program in effect. Anyway, the comic strip showed a train with the engineer holding a funnel in the empty fuel tank while his colleague wanders off over the fields with a fuel container, with the engineer shouting after him, "don't forget the Green Shield stamps!"
And regarding the steak, I had one on the Empire Builder last month: yes, it was good. Not the best but then I didn't ride Amtrak to eat steak. However, considerably better than the chewy gristle that was served at the MGM Grand in Vegas last week.
-------------------- Geoff M. Posts: 2426 | From: Apple Valley, CA | Registered: Sep 2000
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Sounds like a fabulous trip.... I love your sense of mission.
-------------------- 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. Posts: 4203 | From: Western North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2004
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