Here is the account of my return trip to Massachusetts after visiting with family over the Thanksgiving holidays. I had intended to check my large suitcase through to Worcester. I typically travel with three pieces of luggage: a large suitcase with wheels, a smaller bag where I keep clothes and things I need overnight on the train, and another black bag with a shoulder strap where I have reading materials, maps, and other odds and ends. But there was a long line at the station counter that didn't move for ten minutes or more, so I changed my mind and got in the line for Business Class passengers to board. Still, the train was late boarding because of some back-up moves to detach two private cars. Even with the late departure, we seemed to soon get back on schedule. The attendant passed out snack packs and offered wine or soft drinks. I sat on the west side and was thus able to enjoy views of the ocean and beaches, especially near San Clemente.
At LA we pulled into the station such that we could simply walk across the platform to board the Southwest Chief. I was again in the 31 sleeper and it was the exact car I had coming west. I know this because I usually record the car number displayed over the inside doors. Plus, it was still somewhat cool and the upstairs toilet always flushed two times when you pressed the flush button, as it had on the trip out. There was a different attendant, however, a lady with the unusual name Armona. The dining car steward came through to collect dinner reservations before the train left the station.
When I went to dinner, I ordered the one special that was offered: Salisbury steak. It came with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The vegetable offering seems to be the same on all the trains I've traveled this year. Three vegetables, one of which is carrots, are cut into long strips and combined in a colorful medley. Another point regarding the dinners: not long ago when you were seated for dinner, salads were put down in front of each person before orders were even taken. No longer. Now you have to ask for a salad. Often the waiter doesn't even mention that it's available. They do still bring rolls, however.
The next day we arrived at Albuquerque about an hour early, making the stop there quite long. I walked around some outside, but it was cool. As usual Native Americans were offering their wares, though fewer tables than usual. I did not see a burrito stand, as someone asked in the comments to my last post. Maybe that's a summer thing. The same thing happened next morning with a very early arrival at Kansas City. We sat there all through my breakfast. I would have preferred watching the passing scenery while eating.
I have a loose-leaf notebook in which I've assembled sections cut from topographic maps with the train route highlighted, and sometimes I sit following these while watching things out the window. I like being able to identify towns we pass and know the names of streams, lakes, etc. Occasionally I took a picture to add to my collection for the SW Chief route.
Arrival at Chicago was unfortunately early. I say this because it just lengthened the time I had to wait until the Lake Shore Ltd. departed at 9:30 PM. As usual, I bought a couple newspapers, did the crossword puzzles, got something to eat at the Corner Bakery and walked around looking at the Christmas decorations in the Great Hall. Here I finally checked my bag to Worcester, as there is not much room for large pieces of luggage in the Viewliner sleepers.
The train boarded about 45 minutes early and I got set in my roomette in the "Boston sleeper". The attendant this time was a rather loud-spoken gal named Lashawnda. The train kept pretty well on time until a long delay somewhere in eastern New York state making us about an hour late. Whereas on the trip out we were bused from Worcester to Albany, this time we detrained and boarded an all-coach "stub train" that simply runs back and forth between Boston and Albany. I was told that maybe after February the sleeper would run again to Boston.
As you all know, you meet some interesting folks on the train, mainly at meals. During a trip in September I met a girl from Paris with whom I'm still in touch via e-mail. On this train, after we got into Massachusetts, there was an unusual encounter. I had been sitting doing nothing for a while, staring out the window. I woman who was sitting alone across the aisle had been dozing lying in her seat. When she sat up, I noticed her glancing over my way. Suddenly she moved across into the seat next to me and said "You look a little bored, so I'm going to teach you a card game we can play". And we proceeded to play on the trays that come down from the seats ahead. We ended up visiting for the rest of the trip, including going to the cafe together for sandwiches. She was from near Rochester, NY and was getting off at Worcester to meet her sister who was driving down from New Hampshire. We exchanged e-mails and at Worcester I conducted her through the cavernous Union Station to the front sidewalk where her sister would drive up. Yes, such things can happen on the train! When my wife was still living, we met a couple on one trip, and on a later trip we stopped and visited them in Scottsdale, Arizona and had supper at their house. I often wonder what interesting people I don't meet simply because I'm not seated with them at a meal in the dining car.
My next trip will probably be in June. My one granddaughter, who lives in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN, is graduating from high school. Amtrak just informed me that I'm now at Select Plus status. And I have enough Guest Rewards points so I can probably travel free one way on that trip.
As you probably know, you can click on the first one to make it larger, then proceed through the rest, reading my descriptions underneath.
Posts: 120 | From: Worcester, Massachusetts | Registered: Jan 2007
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Thanks for remembering the burrito stand, Bob. On a similar subject, we were offered salad and rolls on the CS north and southbound recently: neither came automatically. Another cost saving measure I suppose.
-------------------- Geoff M. Posts: 2426 | From: Apple Valley, CA | Registered: Sep 2000
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