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Newbie - Bucket list train trip happening in spring 2017!


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#1 Austruck

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Posted 29 September 2016 - 06:10 PM

Hello! I'm Linda, and I'm a writer in Pittsburgh, Pa. I write mostly humor essays and novels (usually humorous).

 

At the top of my bucket list for most of my adult life has been a cross-country train trip. I've never been on a train, except a short jaunt from London to Stratford about 8 years ago. And the little choo-choo at the amusement park when my kids were little.  :giggle: 

 

My goal for the trip was simply to take the trip. Oh, and to write about it. A collection of travel essays, from (probably) a humorous and fun perspective. I've already had my cartoonist hard at work on the cover art (see below).

 

ANYWAY, due to a perfect storm of events, including having received a little Amtrak credit from a friend who can't use it (but which expires next summer), I'm actually going on my bucket list trip in the spring!

 

So, I'm here reading all sorts of travel reports from you fine folks, and I'm sure I'll have a ton of newbie questions. I'm a bit nervous about doing all this on my own (I'm 55 and feel silly even saying that), but I'm so excited I can't even express it properly. And I really gotta stop going to the Amtrak site and using the little 360-degree animations for the sleeper cars. It's pathetic of me.  :wacko: 

 

 

TrainofThought4_zps63iadv0m.jpg



#2 pennyk

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Posted 29 September 2016 - 06:33 PM

Welcome.  It sounds like a great adventure!!


Amtrak miles: 215,971; Routes: Silver Meteor, Champion (1973), Silver Star, Auto Train, Capitol Limited, Empire Builder, Lakeshore Limited, Adirondack, Vermonter, Cardinal, California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle, Missouri River Runner, Acela Express, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, City of New Orleans, Hiawatha Service, Maple Leaf, Keystone Service, Northeast Regional, Downeaster, Piedmont, Carolinian, Lincoln Service, Autumn Express 2013, Empire Service, Sunset Limited, San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor, Pennsylvanian, Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg, Autumn Express 2015, Ethan Allen Express, AEM-7 Excursion, Pacific Surfliner; Lakeshore Limited (BOS-ALB), Autumn Express 2016, Palmetto.

VIA miles: 4,584; Routes: The Canadian (westbound), Ocean; Alaska Railroad Denali Star: 356 miles


#3 the_traveler

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Posted 29 September 2016 - 07:25 PM

Welcome aboard!:hi:

Many people say I just go around in circles myself! (Don't know why? I get there eventually!:giggle: )
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!

The view is much better at 3 feet than it is at 30,000 feet!

#4 Bob Dylan

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Posted 29 September 2016 - 07:28 PM

Outstanding! Welcome to AU and we look forward to reading about your adventures!

Perhaps you'd like to take a few short train trips on the Pennsylvanian to Harrisburg, Philadelphia or even New York to experience what it's like before you're dream trip? You could also ride the Cap Ltd. to Washington.

Edited by Bob Dylan, 29 September 2016 - 07:30 PM.

"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
".. I ride on a Mail Train Baby, can't buy a thrill.."--I said that!
 
"..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#5 Austruck

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 12:17 AM

It hadn't occurred to me to do something like that (a short trip), but I like it! Reading so many posts in here makes me a bit nervous about the logistics of such a trip -- missing connections, not knowing the protocol for ANYTHING, and being an introvert by nature. (Socializing in the dining car will be essential for the book, but it'll wreak havoc on my introverted self.)

 

I'll have to look into this idea... I have friends in various cities here on the East Coast and could find an excuse to go visit one.  :)



#6 Mystic River Dragon

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 02:15 PM

Hi Linda,

 

Here is a medium-length long-distance trip that you might try to get used to it and see how things work before you try a cross-country one:

 

Pennsylvanian from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg.

Overnight downtown in Harrisburg (there are a couple of decent hotels just a few blocks from the station).

Harrisburg to Philadelphia on a Keystone.

Philadelphia to Florida on the Silver Meteor in a roomette. (Stopping and staying for a few days in any town on the route you like; I am partial to Winter Park because it is quiet and charming and not Disney-touristy, even though it is near Orlando.)

 

I suggest this trip for a couple of reasons:

 

First, except for the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg part, I've done it (in segments), so have experienced the routes and trains, and have found them passenger-friendly, especially helpful for a first long train trip. The Keystone is low key--no café car, for example--and you pass lovely Amish farms around Lancaster. You can take an early one so you can get the Florida train the same day, get into Philly 30th Street Station (which is lovely in itself--very historic) and, as a sleeping car passenger, use the Acela Lounge and get free snacks, soda, etc., in there or leave your bags with them and look around the station. They will take you down to your Silver Meteor train from the lounge, and the lounge attendants (at least all the ones I've met) are highly organized and extremely pleasant.

 

Second, the Silver Meteor has a traditional dining car (unlike several other Amtrak long-distance trains right now). You will be seated with others, and (as an introvert myself til I started traveling on long-distance trains and also found my AU friends here), you will find it easy to converse with your tablemates. A simple "Hi, I'm Linda" and "Where are you traveling to?" will get just about anyone started, and most people will take it from there....you can pretty much just sit back and listen.

 

The one thing that you won't encounter on this trip is the Superliner double-decker, so the Capitol Limited might be another route (as Bob Dylan suggests above) to try, since cross-country will be mostly those.

 

Other people here might have other "test" routes for you to try--this is the one I know best. Whatever trains you take, let us know how you like them!


Edited by Mystic River Dragon, 30 September 2016 - 02:21 PM.


#7 oregon pioneer

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 05:22 PM

You will have a fantastic time on the big trip! As a Little Old Lady (LOL, 10 years older than you, and 5'2"), I have traveled solo across the country and back on Amtrak, and loved it. I did a lot of "me" time reading, writing and editing in my roomette, and I loved the people-watching as well. I have even made a few friendships that have lasted longer than the train trip!

 

Try going to the Sightseer Lounge car on the Superliner (double-decker) trains. It will be full of families, couples and singles having fun. You don't have to converse, just choose a seat and start people-watching. In the dining car, as has been said, a short introduction and simple "Where are you headed?" will start most meal companions talking, and they will pause just long enough to ask you the same (to which a simple reply usually suffices).

 

You should be able to find humor everywhere you look, but I'd especially recommend observing the staff and/or asking them about funny situations they've been in. Amtrak staff are often gregarious and open-natured. Otherwise, they don't last long in this public-contact job!


Jennifer

 

I'm a "little Old Lady in Tennis Shoes" (LOLITS) from Eastern Oregon. I love to travel by train, though I live way out in the toolies, far from the nearest Amtrak station (Chemult). My station would have been Baker City, but they cancelled the Oregon Pioneer just before I took my first long-distance train trip as an adult. I've taken most trains in the West, but I'm still exploring new routes in the east.


#8 Austruck

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 06:27 PM

So much to think about! These replies are inspiring (and fun).

 

Mystic River Dragon, I appreciate your idea, and it gave ME an idea, too. I have family in Florida and it never occurred to me to possibly head south. I thought perhaps visiting a friend in Grand Rapids, Michigan, might be a fun short-ish trip, too.

 

I'm still torn (a little bit) about doing a test trip beforehand. Part of the fun of the book will be precisely because I'm such a noob and will be soaking everything in for the first time. In any case, I'm mulling it over, and will be saving my pennies for the big trip. And reading more posts in these forums. :P 



#9 Austruck

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 06:32 PM

Oregon Pioneer, I'm definitely a people-watcher. I think most writers are. I'm looking forward to that part. And everything I'm reading certainly does make it sound as if train travel can be a charming experience. And I intend to take full advantage of it.  :)



#10 Shanghai

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 06:40 AM

If you want a cross country trip, you may want to consider the Capitol Limited from Pittsburgh to Chicago 

and the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco.  It is a very scenic trip through the Rocky Mountains

and the Sierra Nevada's.  We have a daughter living in San Francisco and make the trip a couple of times

each year.  I like to go in March when there is snow in the mountains plus there are usually less people

traveling and the cost is less than in the summertime.  On your return, you may want to take the Coast

Starlight to Portland and the Empire Builder to Chicago.  Happy Travels.


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#11 shelzp

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 06:49 PM

Linda,

I'm an older gal than you and have traveled maybe 35m on Amtrak and every long distance mile was by myself. I always get a Roomette or bedroom and have never had any problems at all. Well maybe a few weird encounters in the dining car and I do eat in my room now but they weren't anything to complain about. I simply prefer to have meals brought to me by the room attendant although I will 'go out for breakfast' sometimes. One morning a man knocked on my door and said 'Hi neighbor-do you want to go to breakfast with me?' I was so surprised I said yes. I've never felt threatened in any way and I don't even bother to lock my room when I'm in there. Maybe I should though as I've had people yank the door open more than once as they were heading to the wrong room.

As far as connections-if Amtrak sells you a ticket that has connections you're in their care and they're obligated to take care of you. They're used to it and deal with little situations every day. Recently I had it go wrong in Pittsburgh :) as I was supposed to get on the Pennsylvanian but the train I was on ran late so there was an Amtrak employee with a clipboard who met the train and led us to a bus. Wound up meeting up with the Pennsylvanian in Harrisburg and made my way to Philadelphia. I think there were about 25 people who were affected that day.

I think you will enjoy traveling on trains if you're in introvert because you get the amount of interaction you prefer.

Welcome to the board and prepare for some fun.

#12 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 07:02 PM

Linda, I too, am "of age" (1/2 way between you and Oregon Pioneer) and have traveled solo on Amtrak several times starting in 2012.  Mostly to go to the annual gathering (of members of this forum).  Alas, I'll be flying this year due to time constraints.  I can't wait for my next LD train trip.  

 

When I was preparing for my first trip, I kept looking at those 360 degree pictures of the interiors of the trains.  :)


2011: Jun: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER) // Nov: WIL=>WAS=>CHI=>PRO (NER=>CL=>CZ)
2012: Apr: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER) // May(NTD): WIL=>PHL=>WIL (NER) / PHL=>PAO=>PHL (Keystone) // Aug: WIL=>WAS (NER) / BWI=>WIL (NER) // Oct(Gathering): PHL=>WIL (NER) / PHL=>HAR=>PHL (Keystone) / SEPTA, NJT, PATCO, River Line, Princeton Dinky
2013: May(NTD): WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER)  // Oct (Gathering): WIL=>CHI (Card) / CHI=>MKE=>GLN=>CHI() / CHI=>JOL=>CHI () / CHI=>WIL(CL=>NER) / CTA, Metra. SEPTA (WIL=>NRK) // Nov:  PHL=>PHL (Autumn Express) 
2014: May(NTD):  WIL=>PHL=>WIL(NER) // May:  WIL=>BOS=>WIL(NER) day trip

2014: Oct(Gathering): WIL=>NYP=>TOL(pd-NER=>LSL) / TOL=>CHI=>LAX=>EMY(pts-LSL=>SWC=>CS) / EMY=>CHI=>TOL (pts-CZ-CL) / TOL=>WAS=>WIL(pd-CL=>NER)
2015: May: CHI=>CIN(pd-Card) / CIN=>WIL(pts Card)
2015;  Oct(Gathering):  WIL=>WAS(Acela) / ALX=>WAS(NER) / WAS=>BAL(Acela) / WAS=>WIL(NER)

2016: Mar: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER)  // Oct:  WIL=>NYP=>NYP=>WIL (Autumn Express) 


#13 Austruck

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 09:41 PM

Oh good, so you're saying I'm not the only one then? (I do that at least twice a week. Pathetic!)  :)

 

When I was preparing for my first trip, I kept looking at those 360 degree pictures of the interiors of the trains.   :)

 






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