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Author Topic: Across the USA
Brucecat
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This April I'm taking Amtrak from Boston to Seattle, a bucket list trip I've always wanted to do...to see our entire country from a train non-stop. I have 3 questions. Dining car etiquette? What to do at Union Station during the 4 hour layover? Best way to get to Seattle Airport? Oh, one more. Delays. I really don't care but gave myself 10 hours between Seattle train arrival and plane departure home.
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chrisg
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All you have to do is go up the stairs cross the street and go to Union Station where you can board the Light Rail line and ride it to the end at SeaTac Airport.

Chris

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MargaretSPfan
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Trip insurance is essential, just in case. Murphy's Law, ya know! "if you don't have it, you'll need it; if you have it, you won't need it."'

Sounds as though ou will have a great time. Do please let us know how it went. A Trip Report would be greatly appreciated. TIA!

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George Harris
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Warning: Seattle airport has not heard of these things called moving sidewalks. You will do some long walks from light rail station to ticket counter and ticket counter to gate. In particular the hike from light rail station to terminal building includes a long slog across parking garages.

Between hike from train to light rail and light rail run time and walk time in the airport (allow an hour for that alone) you can easily eat up at least 3 hours of your 10.

I was there this past October - work related - so this Seattle warning is first hand.

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Brucecat
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This is great info about the Seattle Airport, both getting there and walking, walking, walking. Thanks so much!
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Geoff Mayo
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10 hours between arrival at Seattle Amtrak and departure at Seatac is a little too close for my liking. While I don't recall the Empire Builder being more than 6 hours late recently at its endpoints, it has certainly achieved over six hours late at intermediate points. Thanks to the wonders of padding it's been "only" 4 hours or so late at its endpoints after such a delay.

To echo George's comments, yes it takes time to get from downtown to the airport, then walk across a busy street, up the airport approach (thankfully reasonably pedestrian-friendly) and then do all the airport shenanigans. There are inter-terminal trains but they take time too, what with descending and ascending, waiting, travelling, etc.

Personally I'd spent the night in Seattle. Enjoy it rather than passing through. Watch the fish being thrown in the Pike's Place. Go on the underground Seattle tour. Drink some beer and coffee. Take in some live music.

As for the dining car, breakfast is usually turn up and wait to be seated. Lunch may or may not be by reservation depending how busy they expect to be. Dinner is normally by reservation only. The steward will walk the train from sleepers to coach car and finally the lounge car to take reservations a couple of hours before service starts. You'll be sat at a table with strangers or your new-found friends. Tipping, ugh, well they're paid full wages (unlike restaurants) so in theory you should only tip for great service but this is America so...

Layover in Chicago: again, your inbound train might be late so you might not have as much time as you think. Upstairs in the station there is a food court. There is the Great Hall which you can look around. There's not too much immediately outside the station but you could take in some views of the river and the tower-formerly-known-as-the-Sears-Tower.

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

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Jerome Nicholson
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As Mr. Mayo pointed out, it is not a good idea to venture too far from the station during a layover. You can't always depend on public transit or a taxi or an Uber to get you back to the station in time to catch your train, and you certainly don't want to get "Duffiled". (A term coined by travel writer Paul Theraux to describe being left behind on a stopover without one's luggage or papers). It's best to stay within a distance you can comfortably walk. My Google Map search shows what are near the Chicago station are the Sears (now Willis) Tower, and the Billy Goat Tavern.
But if you've never been to Chicago or Seattle,I don't see why not to spend a couple of nights in each city. Both are well worth spending time in!

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Geoff Mayo:
To echo George's comments, yes it takes time to get from downtown to the airport, then walk across a busy street, up the airport approach (thankfully reasonably pedestrian-friendly) and then do all the airport shenanigans. There are inter-terminal trains but they take time too, what with descending and ascending, waiting, travelling, etc.

I don't remember any street crossings between light rail station and terminal, however the light rail station is somewhat beyond the northeast corner of the parking garage, and the parking garage is HUGE. I think it is somewhere in the range of a quarter mile to the nearest part of the terminal and easily over a half mile to the more distant parts of the terminal. As said, no moving sidewalks. If there is any inter-terminal trains I did not see them, but maybe I would not have needed them anyway. My flights into and out have been on Southwest only.

The slog across the parking garage can be somewhat creepy if late at night. The light rail service is fairly frequent, but still it is not fast, so allow plenty of time for that also.

Sound Transit's headquarters is in Union Station, which no longer has tracks into it.

Sound Transit has under design a line going east that will cross Lake Washington on the existing floating bridge.

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Geoff Mayo
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You're right, George - the station is on the airport side of the road. I went via the restaurants on the far (east) side of the road and though there are stairs on that side, I hadn't realised/remembered it crossed the road beneath. Anyway, yes it's a fair walk.

As for the inter-terminal trains, it depends on the airline. It looks like Southwest is in the main terminal. The north and south satellites are only accessible by the train.

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

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Brucecat
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I've just looked at a map of SeaTac and see where the lightrail station is. If I have my 10 hours this is doable. It's good hearing descriptions from all of you as the Google info was real confusing! Plan B (4 hours instead of 10) is get a cab for $40. Plan C (0 hours), book a hotel and enjoy Seattle. Never heard of the term "Duffiled"...no wandering in Chicago.
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Vincent206
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Allow 10 minutes to get from the Amtrak baggage carousel to the International District Station (it's behind the other train station across the street). Light rail takes about 35 minutes from IDS to the airport. Allow about 10 minutes to walk from the light rail station to the check-in counters. If your flight leaves from the North or South Satellite add another 10 minutes for the shuttle train. During busy times I recommend checking in early for any flight at SeaTac. TSA is chronically understaffed and the process can be very slow.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Vincent206:
Allow about 10 minutes to walk from the light rail station to the check-in counters.

Uuh: I would have said more like 20 plus, maybe even 30 minutes, but then I was really tired the last time I did it.
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Brucecat
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Thanks to all of you Seattle is looking good! My family and friends all say this trip sounds so neat. Many have also wanted to do this and have requested a daily commentary. I just found out there's no free Wi-Fi unlike the Northeast Corridor. Glad I checked so that issue can be dealt with. (i.e., I pay)
I'm also glad I booked (for a roomette)for this April adventure back in January as now I see all the roomettes are taken! It's only February

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RRRICH
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Bruce -- I assume you will be riding the Lake Shore Ltd from Boston to Chicago, then the Empire Builder Chicago to Seattle. Please understand that there is NO (ZERO) wi-fi on either of those two trains, free or pay.......
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Brucecat
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Oh no! Photos it will be then with commentary when I get home.
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Geoff Mayo
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Cell phone signal, and even more so, data, is non-existant along vast swathes of the Empire Builder's route too.
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sojourner
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Oh, dear, I would have overnighted in Seattle myself just to be sure to be sure. But hopefully all will be well.

No one posted on your Chicago layover question. Lakeshore is likely to be late, but still, you should have time to walk down to Michigan Avenue and see Millennium Park and the Lake. Also, the view of the skyline from there is the best. If you want lunch, the Berghoff on Adams has very good German food, closed Sundays, http://www.theberghoff.com/cuisine-menus-certified-gluten-free/berghoff-restaurant-menus/

If you have the good fortune to be near to on time in Seattle and want to eat, there's a terrific little Italian deli not far from King Street Station called Salumi, weekday lunch only, http://www.salumicuredmeats.com/storefront/SalumiFallWinterMenu2015.pdf
It has some seating (including communal, which is fun) and also does takeout.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Ms. Sojourner, I must ask if you were at Berghoff, prior to, or after 2006, as at that time, even though still owned by the same family, there was a radical change at the restaurant.

Prior to '06, any superlatives associated with Berghoff stood. But, after a one year closing, it reopened, and based upon my experiences, it became "just another Loop lunchspot".

Miller's Pub @ Adams and Wabash is "just the way it was" when I last worked Downtown during 1981. More leisurely (and more $$$) is Rhapsody, Adams & Michigan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Berghoff_restaurant

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=20438

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yukon11
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I find it interesting the number of food products and restaurants that advertise "gluten free".

From what I've read, only about 1% of the population have a true gluten allergy (autoimmune) and around 6% have a gluten sensitivity, meaning not a true allergy but can develop bloating or other symptoms. Some of the 6% may not involve gluten but a sensitivity to certain complex carbohydrates.

Richard

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sojourner
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SEE UPDATED POST BELOW--Berghoff stop AWFUL!!!

[previous post]
I heard what happened at the Berghoff in 2006 and did not go for many years not only because I'd heard it had gone down foodwise but also because of the way longtime employees were treated. However, when I stayed in Chicago in 2014 the Berghoff was very convenient one day, and I was with someone else who wanted to go, so we did, for lunch. I thought it was excellent, just as good as I remembered from years past. Maybe they heeded the complaints and reverted somewhat to the old days?

This reminds me: a great thing to do in the Loop is to take an architecture tour with the Chicago architecture folks in the old Santa Fe Building cattycorner from the art institute on Michigan Av (corner Jackson and Michigan). However, that's hard to do unless you are taking the SW Chief or City of New Orleans (or overnighting). It would be really hard from the Lakeshore, even if on time, to make the 10 o'clock walk. But those tours are great. Well, Chicago is great. . . .

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sojourner
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Berghoff Update: I stopped here for dinner and it was AWFUL. I guess that good lunch meal was a fluke because we had simpler food.
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Vicki
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:


Miller's Pub @ Adams and Wabash is "just the way it was" when I last worked Downtown during 1981.
http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=20438


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DonNadeau
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At King Street Station, unless you have mobility issues, head toward the front entrance, but before reaching it, turn right and take the stairs up to the street. At the street, turn right to the other side of Union Station.

That shortcut up the stairs will save you some time.

From that same Link station to the airport, you can also take trains in the other direction to the heart of downtown Seattle.

If you're a walker head down to the waterfront for some Ivar's clam chowder and fish and chips.

Enjoy your trip!

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

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Mike Smith
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I will second the suggestion to visit Ivar's House of Clams Restaurant. The views of the bay as you sit and eat some fine seafood are excellent
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DonNadeau
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Although not sure if it's open all year, Ivar's has a takeout option adjacent to its restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the harbor.

Delicious and not expensive.

You'll can also enjoy its white chowder aboard Amtrak Cascade trains between Eugene, OR and Vancouver, BC via Portland and Seattle. I am addicted.

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@DonNadeau

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Brucecat
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One more week and I'm off, April 4th from Boston. Getting excited now. Just now I printed all of these postings as they have been so helpful, especially food suggestions for Chicago and Seattle. I also printed Amtrak's guides for both routes and a USA Amtrak route map. Between that and just meeting fellow passengers, my books for reading might not be needed!
One minor glitch happened two weeks ago. The sleeper car from Boston was eliminated so I ride coach to Albany and pick up the sleeper car there with the NYC riders. That's OK.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Brucecat, the BOS-CHI Sleeper and Coach lines have been eliminated now for some time. The ostensible reason is realigning the tracks through the ALB station. I believe the reason those lines were restored during '07 after they were eliminated during '04 is that some political "heavy" leaned on Amtrak to restore the service, but from an operational view, it resulted in both a Sleeper and LD Coaches (A-II in forumese) tied up out in left field; no spare cars, no mechanical expertise.

If the "heavy" is still around to do some leaning, the through cars will be restored. Otherwise, in the name of operational efficiency, gone...gone...gone.

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Vincent206
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There's a lot of construction going on between King Street Station and the Seattle waterfront. The Viaduct is scheduled to come down in a few years (maybe sooner if we have 7.5 or greater earthquake in the meantime) and most of the waterfront is a construction zone. Ivar's is still open and the view is still there, but your trip to the restaurant won't be as charming as in years past.

The light rail line has also been extended northward from downtown Seattle. Capitol Hill and the UW are now accessible via light rail. Seattle is currently in a state of near delirium about the new light rail service. A bus trip from the UW to King Street Station formerly took at least 30 minutes and driving wouldn't be much better. Now the trip can be done in 10 minutes.

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DonNadeau
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The line Vincent mentions will also drops you at a station close to Pike Street Market - well worth visiting.

From there you can walk down to Ivar's on the waterfront.

Unless you are physically challenged, the walk back up should present no problem. Otherwise, it's a very, very short taxi ride.

Use walking and transit options on Google Maps for directions.

One more tip: By the time you reach Everett, be on the right side of the EB. From there, you run along Puget Sound nearly all the way to King Street Station. Nice views!

Thank you for your nice comments and enjoy your trip to the fullest!

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

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Brucecat
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I completed my "trip across the USA" last Thursday and decided to give all of you helpful people a trip report. One word - Wonderful! The train gods were with me. Left Boston Monday in an April snowstorm making the ride through the Berkshires magical. Wifi worked all the way to Chicago so I was able to post photos and comments to facebook. Arrived in Chicago on time with clear blue skies so I did venture out for a walk and a visit to the top of the Sears Tower. Great photos. Wifi ended after Chicago but my cellphone worked so calls home to husband were possible. We arrived in Seattle EARLY...wow! Also, perfect weather in the 70's. I'm an active retiree so left luggage at station and headed to waterfront. Yes, lots of construction. Found Ivar's, very popular. Used the Marriott to finish my trip postings. The only tour was Duck Boats from the Space Needle so I walked there and booked a seat. Quite good but hokey jokes. Then back to Pike's Market. I was having so much fun I just stayed in Seattle till it was really necessary to head to airport. Ugh! TSA lines, checking in, etc. None of this on the train! Friends and family loved my postings and don't be surprised if Amtrak ridership increases as now everyone wants to do this. One perfect trip, I was sad it ended. Favorite train view? The plains of North Dakota.
Thank you all again.

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Vincent206
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Glad to hear that all went well. I must have missed you at King Street Station by just a few hours--I was northbound to VAC last Thursday. If you've got some photos you'd like to share, please post a link.
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Jerome Nicholson
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So glad to hear about your trip. Tell your friends about us. Even though we are tragically diminished by one now, we have a great collection of knowledge and experience that we are willing to share, and all we ask for in return is a trip report!
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DonNadeau
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So good to know! Thank you for the update. When the Empire Builder's involved, one worries. [Smile]

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@DonNadeau

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