Last week, I embarked on a 2500 mile journey from Klamath Falls to Chicago, via Sacramento. I was originaly going to go via Los Angeles, but the fires burning in Southern California (especially the Thomas Fire, which is less than half contained and has charred an area larger than New York) has promped me to quickly call the bluff and reroute myself. Sure enough, the morning after I initially heard of the fire and the modification that followed, Amtrak has canceled the Surfliner north of Los Angeles and the Coast Starlight south of Emeryville, which, as far as I know, continues on to this day. Instead, I decided to take the California Zephyr and get off the CS at Sacramento, which also allowed me to ditch a hotel night, saving me about 130 dollars. However, I lost the RPA discount in the process, as the modification was done less than 72 hours prior to departure. On a positive note, I was able to get a refund as a result.
Last Friday, I tidied up loose ends and packed up for the marathon trip that night. I got to the station shortly before 9pm on a taxi that I hired, and checked my bags. I soon learned that the coach was nearly sold out once I got my ticket scanned, with only four seats left. Upon hearing that, I decided to inquire about upgrading to Business Class, as well as occupancy rate. I found out that there was plenty of seats available in Biz Class, and it would only cost me 12 bucks to upgrade instead of the usual 25 bucks, and I decided to upgrade. Upon boarding, I was told that Biz Class had open seating and was given a voucher, pillow, wi-fi access information, and a bottle of water. The Business Class that I was in had brown leatherette seats, and after being briefly stopped by local authorities, I got my night snack using a voucher and a small payment, then went to sleep, waking up periodically. I arrived at Sacramento almost an hour early, despite leaving late the night before. I sat and waited at the station and toured Old Sac during the layover. I boarded the Zephyr shortly before 11am, and was assigned an aisle seat, but a passenger occupying the window seat next to me offered me to swap seats, as she was due to get off at Roseville, and I never had a seatmate ever since, allowing me to having a pair of the seats to myself. The train was very crowded in coach, but most of them detrained in Reno, and the train was not full effectively for the rest of the journey. I spent most of my time onboard on the observation car, despite spending some time in the dining car (three times) and in my coach car (after dark and on day 3), listening to music, taking photos of the canyons and other scenery, and watching movies and TV shows such as Polar Express, Catch Me If You Can, and Thomas and Friends. The train ended up arriving an hour late into CUS, as well as losing an hour and a half between Elko and SLC due to broken rails. Upon arriving at CUS, I waited about 15 minutes for my bags at baggage claim, picked up my bags, and went forward to board a Metra Milwaukee North train. I got off the Metra train at Libertyville, and was picked up by a family friend, whom I will be staying with during my stay in Chicagoland. I will be making my return trip back to Klamath Falls on January 3, via California Zephyr and Coast Starlight trains. Maybe I will check out the legacy lounge then. Stay tuned.