Ms. MARC and I had a nice weekend planned in New York that got cut short, but we had good service from Amtrak, despite the snow, and then I got to ride to DC on Sunday and deal with Julie while riding the MARC train.
Sound confusing? Well, on Friday morning, the cab picked us up and took us to Penn Station Baltimore for our trip north to New York on the Vermonter. I was using one of my AGR Companion coupons, and we had booked Business Class. On the Vermonter, business class is the 2x1 seating. Very nice and quiet, and a free cup of coffee for each of us. The train ran fast, but running over switches at 125 mph, it felt like we were going to fly off the rails. I'm not sure whether it was because we were the rear car on the train or whether the car needed some work. We arrived at New York's version of Penn Station right on schedule. A not-so-quick cab ride to 77th and Broadway on the Upper West Side to us to the Hotel Belleclaire, which was a nice deal at $135/night for a "deluxe queen" room. Anywhere else bu New York such a room would be considered a closet, but it was a nice room, clean and all of the fixtures were relatively new, and. most importantly, the heat worked fine. (I shudder think what the $111 basic room they offered was like, perhaps it was the size of a Viewliner roomette.)
After an afternoon walk, we took a nap, and then went out for an early dinner in a local joint (nice hangar steak for me, salmon burger for my wife.) Then, off to 72nd street, where we saw how the MTA turned the simple act of buying a couple of tokens into a pain in the neck set of multiple credit card transaction in order to buy paper single-use farecards that didn't want to work in the turnstiles. Then it was the 1 train to 50th st., where we got off, looked down Broadway at the glittering lights of Times Square, then turned around and headed up to Studio 54. Not the disco, it's now a theater where we had scored discounted tickets to the new Broadway version of the 1942 Irving Berlin film "Holiday Inn." A great show by the way, I believe it's closing on Sunday. It's been years since we've seen performances at that level, great singing, incredible dancing. The theater was cool, too, the local cinema multiplexes just aren't made like they made those theaters in the 1920s, which was when this place was built. After the show, back to the 1 train and back to the hotel.
When we woke up in the morning, we saw that snow was on the way, but also Ms. MARC found she was a bit under the weather, and thought it might be best if we cut our weekend short. The hotel was very gracious and let us check out a day early without financial penalty. A fabulous croissant and coffee at the French Patissierie around the corner, and then the front desk called us a cab. (I should say the doorman went out in the snow over the Broadway and got the cab to turn down the street to the hotel. By the way, it seems like New York cabs can be summoned by an Uber-like app called "Curb," but there are so many cabs in Manhattan, who needs it, at least at that place.) Anyway, this cabbie saved us about $4 on the fare compared to our trip up by taking us to the West Side Highway and 12th Avenue past the cruise ship terminal, the Intrepid, Hudson Yards, and the High Line.
Soon we were in the Club Acela, and I got our return tickets changed by the attendant there. "You're lucky, it's a companion coupon, I can help you. If it had been a points redmeption, you would have some problems." We got booked for the 12 noon Acela to Baltimore. It did cost me $28 more than the original booking I had made a month and a half ago. Oh well, I guess I get 56 extra AGR TQP for 2017. We had about an hour and a half to wait, so after a while I decided to go out and check out Penn Station. It was its usual crowded noisy self, so i was glad I had asked for a redcap to take us to the train. When the time came, we found that we weren't the only one, one redcap was handling about 6 of us. He loaded our bags on to a dolly and had us follow him for pre-boarding. As the crowds parted for us, it occurred to me that here's one "kindergarten walk" I didn't mind at all. He took us down to the LIRR level and we sort of escaped the crowd, except for the other redcaps who had their own groups of regular passengers. And a few cognoscenti who know about the LIRR level gates. Unfortunately for them, that included an Amtrak gate dragon who made them wait for us and then had them show their tickets. Once on the platform, we found our seats in the car behind the cafe, and the redcap came in and hoisted our bags into the overhead bins. The tip was well worth escaping the NYP zoo.
Our train had been a little late coming in from Boston, which wasn't bad considering the incipient blizzard forming up to the north and east of us. But they loaded us quickly, and we departed only about 3 minutes late. When we popped out of the tunnel, it was really snowing. There's nothing like riding a train through a snowstorm, and the wake from our speed really blew the snow around even harder than it was actually falling. We stopped at Metro Park and skipped Trenton. We hit 135 mph between Metro Park and Trenton. I didn't want to fool around with carrying on food, so it was off to the cafe car. An Amburger for me and a pizza for my wife. They were nuked, but the attendant took the trouble to toast the burger roll and set the final burger and pizza on plates. It was perfectly adequate, if over priced. I splurged on a bottle of Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA, which pretty muck conked me out after we left Philly. We arrived in Baltimore pretty much on schedule.
Because I now had a free Sunday, I decided to go to Washington to the orientation session for the Transportation Research Board annual meeting that I had planned on skipping. I got to Penn Sation about noon, and all the Amtrak train s were running late because of the snow, but it looked like Northeast regional 143 was going to arrive in Washington before the MARC train, so I bought a ticket. Then, right when they were announcing last call for the MARC train, I saw 143 was slipping some more, so I ran downstairs and decided to ride MARC. Then I realized I hadn't cancelled my reservation, and before I could do anything else, we were off. When we finally got out of the tunnel and I could use my smartphone, I found that you can't use amtrak.com to cancel a ticket you bought from a quicktrak machine. So then I called Julie, who wouldn't stop and let me talk, but once she got my reservation number, she dumped me into a holding pattern to talk to a live agent. This finally happened about the time we got to Odenton, but not before I was steaming and stewing over having to listen to 20 minutes of phone-mail announcements of the same things over and over again.
When I was done with TRB for the day, I made my way back to Union Station. (Thanks Metro for having every single line on extremely limited service. On the coldest night (so far) of the year I got to stand on Massachusetts avenue for 8 minutes waiting for a Circulator bus. But soon I was back at the Club Acela where I asked for a ticket home on 183, which would leave at 7:20, and to please use my e-voucher. Well, after he fussed around for a bit, he found out I had an additional e-voucher that I had forgotten about! So he wrote down the number for me, and then sold me my return ticket with the evoucher from my aborted trip on 143. Then he told me that the train was leaving from track 3, but gate D was closed off because of a private event. This would have meant having to join the cattle line at the gate, but, again, a "kindergarten walk" I could live with, he took us out to the platforms through gate E and sent us on our way. Service above and beyond the call of duty. We left on time, and arrived back in Baltimore on time, and so much for my week on the NEC, seeing all the track between New York and Washington.
Well, it's off to Boston later in the week for my annual ski trip to the White Mountains. I think there's lots of snow up there now, but the weather report is calling for rain Thursday and Friday.
Edited by MARC Rider, 25 January 2017 - 01:58 PM.