Fall is the best time for the leaf peepers, but my friend and I decided to go in August. Our decision was based on the Amtrak fares for August vs. Fall months. My walking abilities have severely decreased, as has my ability to breathe, so this was my first experience going as an accessible passenger. Our home station is Bloomington, IL (BNL) and for the first time, I advised the station agent that I would need the lift. This wasn't as stressful as I thought it would be. They set up the lift with the ramp into the coach, you get on the lift, they raise it and you just walk in (I use a walker). I was surprised that it was on a manual wind-up as I had expected something easier on the Amtrak personnel.
We took the Lincoln Service from BNL to Chicago. This was my first time in the new Metropolitan Lounge. It was nice and the snacks served were an extra bonus. When the time came to board the Cardinal, the Red Caps were readily available and the boarding, including the lift, went smoothly.
There were a lot of firsts for me and my friend. She had never been on a long-distance train, and this was my (our) first time in the H room. I was amazed at how spacious the room was. Having made a lot of trips West for the past several years, I was happy to see this as my friend would be on the top bunk. She's claustrophobic and I had concerns after seeing so many comments about the "coffin" on the Superliners. The Viewliner is great!
We were three cars from the dining car and walking was more difficult than I expected. By the time I got to the dining car, breathing was difficult. But that's just me with my severe breathing difficulties.
In the dining car we experienced the worst server, Ever. One of the pax told us that the food is loaded in New York and is not re-stocked until it is once again back in New York. I can understand that, but I can't go along with my friend asking for cereal and being told "we don't have any milk". When she sighed and said she was hoping to have cereal, he suddenly remembered that there were one or two glasses of milk left. He forgot to give me the salsa that was supposed to be included in my breakfast, but remembered it for the lady across from us. That type of thing happened for all four meals. When lunch was announced at 11:30, when we entered the diner he said it would't open for 15 more minutes. This is when another Amtrak employee really lit into him and he came and took our order. It went on like that and culminated for our final meal on that train. At dinner we had the same dirty, sticky paper on the table as had been there for the past three meals. He was just plain lazy. In contrast, our SA was very good. He was always there with the latest updates. He was conscientious and helpful.
NYP was not the fire breathing dragon I had expected. A Red Cap took us through some routes that I don't think many have seen. He took us down one floor on an elevator and then took us to another elevator. This second elevator brought us to the receiving area of NYP. He took us to the street and hailed a taxi for us.
We stayed overnight in North Bergen, NJ. The taxi fare was expensive, but the hotel was nice. The following morning we took Uber back to NYP and the fare was half of the taxi fare. I'm now completely hooked on Uber. It my first time and it was great.
The next morning we went to the Uber ap, which defaulted to the 8th street entrance of NYP. Thanks to help and advice from other AU members, I knew to asked the Uber driver to drop us off at the 7th Street entrance by the Taxis. At the station, we waited several minutes by the elevator for a Red Cap, but decided to just tough it out and get to the Amtrak waiting room ourselves. It wasn't "tough" at all. The buttons on the elevator were up and down. Nothing else. No floors to try to decide. The elevator took us down to the concourse,which was exceptionally well marked and we had no problem finding the Amtrak waiting room.
The Red Cap took us and several others down to the train, which required no lift as the platform is train level. We boarded the Ethan Allen in BC and traveled along the Hudson. A few hours later we were in Rutland, Vermont. The reason for wanting to go to Vermont for my friend was that her ancestors took a covered wagon from Rutland to Illinois. My reason was that it was the 49th State I have visited. The platform was at train level and again no lift was necessary. There is no ramp, but there are two staircases for the 3 or 4 steps down to the street. One of the stairs was more narrow and had bannisters on both sides. This station was unmanned, but the Amtrak personnel on the train helped with taking care of the walker and the suitcase and backpack so I would be less encumbered getting down the stairs.
There were no taxis at Rutland, but a police officer called a cab for us. We stayed two nights in Rutland, during which time we rented a car to see the beautiful Green Mountains. The mountains were like mounds of solid green carpeting everywhere you looked. It was amazing. Also amazing was going from Point A to Point B took twice as long as we expected. We wound our way along mountain roads staying within the 30 to 40 MPH speed limits. Curves were 15 MPH. It took us two hours to go about 55 miles to the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory. But we made up for the time spent by trying a couple of their new flavors.
The following day, which was our second and final day in Vermont, we drove to The Vermont Factory Store in Weston. After spending more money than we should, we headed for the Amtrak station in Albany. We dropped off the rental car and went to the Albany station, which is spacious and comfortable. This was my second time there and for some reason it seemed larger than I remembered it.
The Lake Shore Limited departed on time and we had great crew members. Our SA was on top of everything and the dining crew was efficient and friendly. On detraining in Chicago, the SA gave us a business card with his name, our train number and instructions on how to contact Amtrak with feedback on him. I had never seen this before and thought it was a great idea. I'm always derelict in getting names and always regret not being able to give comments. My friend and I both sent positive feedback for him.
Back in Chicago we have several hours until our train back to BNL. We took a Wendella lake and river tour, which was great for timing to see part of the Chicago Air and Water Show. To get the boat tour we had to go to Trump Tower. That's was a first. And a last. I don't expect to see the inside of any Trump hotel anytime in the near or distant future.
After lunch, once again at Gold Coast, back at the Metropolitan Lounge I tried to get my Kindle back on the Amtrak wifi. I don't know what I did wrong, but my Kindle showed several different wifi's available; One for each of the previous lounges, stations and trains we had been in or on. I guess it got my Kindle confused because it just wouldn't get on the web.
The announcement for the Lincoln Service back to BNL was called too early and Red Caps and train attendants weren't ready.
The train was packed. A lot of the college kids were heading back to school. One curious incident we saw was after the conductor had announced that outside food could not be consumed in the cafe car unless it was purchased in the cafe car, we observed a lady standing between cars eating her "outside food". The conductor told her she could not stand between cars. She moved into our car and sat on the floor and spead out a little picnic for herself. The sardines smelled terrrr, well, they smelled like sardines.
After many miles of previous Amtrak travel, I learned a lot of new things. Accessible travel by Amtrak is secure, safe and well done. I even felt pampered! When traveling in Vermont, expect to take twice as long to get anywhere. Towns are far apart and mountains are slow-going. NYP was not bad at all. It was light, airy and didn't feel like it was down below the street. It is very well marked to get you to the Amtrak waiting room When in New York, use Uber if you're going very far or expect to pay a lot in taxi fare.
Edited by Everydaymatters, 01 September 2017 - 10:19 AM.