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About reefgeek

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    OBS Chief

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    FIsh, Coral, Unix, Vending Machines, Trains.
  1. reefgeek

    A Short Walk In The Hindu Hush...

    I was prompted by your post to obtain copies of Eric Newby's books which I had NOT read, and I will be running those through my Kindle. Paul Theroux has pretty much pooped out at this point.
  2. reefgeek

    A Short Walk In The Hindu Hush...

    Very much enjoyed Eric Newby's books, especially The Big Red Train Ride.
  3. On one of the first Amtrak trips I took (1980 maybe), I was approached by a seatmate with a sad story about how she had been robbed of all her money, didn't have a buck to her name etc. I gave her $20, which was half the money I had. Later I felt I had been scammed. Years later, maybe 2002, I sat next to yet another young lady who told me an almost identical story, with the implied request for funds. I offered to buy her a hot dog.
  4. I generally prefer traveling westbound. For one thing, you avoid losing hours due to the time change.
  5. reefgeek

    (NYC > Chicago > SF) Foods to bring?

    My usual thing is Smokehouse almonds and a bottle of scotch. Sometimes I bring a couple oranges or apples, nice for a snack.
  6. Many (30) years since, but... Very good accommodation in Malaysia, you can really go down the entire peninsula in comfort. Indonesia is fine but more primitive IME, third class local as slow as a bus, plenty of livestock sharing the car, wicker seating and fans. People quite friendly.
  7. reefgeek

    Best blanket for travel

    I hate the AmBlankets. I'm a big guy and I feel like they don't cover me enough. Lately I've started to bring a twin size comforter, lightweight, bigger than the blanket and I'm always warm enough. I got mine from Amazon.
  8. reefgeek

    Beatin Dead Horse Subject - Ice in Sleepers

    When I was on the Cardinal in August, the ice was stocked in the coffee station. But on the SW Chief it was not. What I did was I brought a 1-quart thermos. My car attendant (Paul) brought me a small cardboard bucket of ice which stayed in good shape in the thermos for several days.
  9. What Ryan said. There is a convenience bonus. That said, rental cars in FL, particularly in Miami and Orlando are sometimes very cheap and then the Auto Train seems like a waste. I like to take the Auto Train south, off season, see my friends in FL and drive home. That way the fun gets started right away.
  10. reefgeek

    Ottumwa to Eugene, and back

    Thanks for posting your trip report. I enjoyed your writing as much as the details you included, which is to say, very much.
  11. reefgeek

    San Francisco to NYC (CS-EB-LSL)

    I thought of one thing I left out. If anyone is curious about the "Turkey Meatballs" lunch entree, you can purchase it in your local supermarket as the "Mama Mancini" brand. We eat a fair amount of meatballs in this house, and I can assure you that is what they are serving.
  12. Had a very nice west coast trip recently. Flew first class to San Francisco. The less said about that the better, except to say that domestic FC food on United is worse than any of the food on Amtrak. My brother’s girlfriend and her friends are all bartenders, so there were several tours of the city’s lush life. San Fran is a city full of interesting bars. All the bartenders in SF know each other! I think I strained my liver. The Philosophers Club is a particular favorite, and next-door is the unassuming Bulls Head, a place with zero atmosphere and excellent pricey steaks. On Super Bowl Sunday there were several parties to visit, and then back to the good old Riptide in the Sunset District. The next day we went for dinner at Water Bar, a fancy seafood place. One of my friends maintains the huge aquariums there. I thought the food was interesting, but all fish tastes pretty much the same to me. The oysters were great! Okay, the train part starts here. I got an Uber car from my brother’s place over in the Sunset to the Ferry Building “Amtrak Station.’ ($20, much less than a cab). Took the bus over to EMY. Coast Starlight was maybe 20 minutes late due to some mechanical issue, but eventually we were off. The CSA greeted me by name at the door. On this trip, all three SCAs greeted me by name, it’s a nice feeling. Attendant Nate had my bed made up when I boarded (around 10). That was actually the first time I ever boarded the train at night and went to bed. Woke rather well rested and had breakfast while watching the beautiful scenery, including the snow-covered mountains called the Three Sisters. Due to trackwork, we were bus-bridged from Eugene OR to Portland. The dining car did a quick lunch service before Eugene. The bus was a large comfortable bus (Prevost, for the bus-fan crowd) but I will say I’ve seen Oregon from the train and Oregon from the bus, and I much prefer the train. The buses were quite full too, so almost everyone got a seat buddy. The bus beat the train’s scheduled arrival time, getting to Portland Union Station around 3:45PM. I really could have tried to switch to that day’s Empire Builder, but I followed my original plan and took a cab to the Paramount Portland Hotel. The staff was ridiculously helpful, the bellman took my suitcase up to the desk and by the time I got there they said “Mr. R___! Welcome! We have your reservation right here!” Nice room, 15th floor, $139. I bought some gifts in the nearby Pioneer Mall, rode the streetcar, resupplied some things at Rite Aid and generally availed myself of what Portland has to offer. Dinner was at Tasty n Alder, which has creative bartender and good small plates. Packed and noisy, though. I had a Wagyu beef steak frites and some smoked trout. I would go back there if I return to Portland. Rained pretty hard the next day. The hotel loaned me an umbrella so I could wander around until the 12-noon checkout time. Went back to the station and checked my bag in the first class lounge. I then set about buying some provisions (whisky) for the long train ride ahead. There is an excellent liquor store on Lovejoy St. only a short walk from the station. Liquor is pricey in Portland compared to California, and not many stores sell it. Beer and wine are sold on every corner. Mission accomplished, I returned to the station. People in Portland are so acclimated to the rain that most of them just tough it out with a hat or jacket, or just get wet. Umbrellas don’t come out till later. It was raining pretty hard at that moment I got back, so I decided to have a leisurely lunch at Wilfs in the station while I waited to board. I had a burger, a salad and a cup of salmon chowder. It was good except that there was a well-dressed drunk lady sitting nearby who kept attempting to (loudly) socialize with me and the few other patrons. This went on for some time (comments about her food, observations about our food, did we have any cats, all about her cats.). Eventually the manager told her the restaurant was closing and 15 minutes and she would have to leave. That was patently untrue, but it seemed to satisfy her, and I was grateful when she left. I made friends with one of the drunken lady’s other victims, a blackjack dealer from Pasco, and we drank beer and made smalltalk until it was time to board the Builder. I was in roomette 7, my SCA was Terry. He was adequate, about grade “B.” There is no ice provided in the sleeper anymore, you have to ask the attendant. Which creates a problem if he ignores the call bell and you must drink your scotch without ice. Next trip I will bring a small, disposable cooler. Terry said it was “because of the FDR.” Coffee was real coffee, although it was not always available. My room was not very clean when I moved in. There were used kleenex and candy wrappers on the floor. I used half a box of tissues wiping black grime off the windows. At no point during the trip did Terry empty the trashcan. I had the cold salmon dinner box coming out of Portland and was not wowed. The fish was tough and the sides seemed old. Went to sleep and slept pretty well until my alarm went off the next morning. I got up early so I could eat breakfast then take photos of Glacier National Park. I had the vegetable and cheese omlet, and the chicken sausage, tasty. It was cloudy in the park but still beautiful, and I got some great pictures. Mission accomplished! We got stuck at East Glacier station for a while due to high winds and freight traffic. While we were there, the sky cleared and there was even a rainbow for a while! More pix. It’s a little nerve-wracking, because how long does the wind blow for? Fortunately was maybe an hour, and we were on our way. Actually the train was only about two hours late the whole way, gradually reduced by padding. We left the park and the terrain flattened out. I ate lunch with a man and his teenage daughter who talked between themselves and were not friendly. It’s okay, I have a smartphone too. The scenery at this point is not that remarkable. There was a lot less snow than I thought there would be, and temperatures were mild. I had dinner with a lively couple and a man who runs the history museum in Cut Bank, MT. He told us about all the bomber crews which trained there during WWII. I slept well. I had lunch with really nice couple headed into Chicago for a weekend of jazz and blues clubs. The man told me his father had been a dining car waiter on the Great Northern, and that that was the best job a black man could have at the time. He said he owed everything he had achieved to his father and to the railroad! Good story. He tipped lavishly. The rest of the ride into CUS was uneventful. Saw a lot of people ice fishing in Minnesota. We arrived 45 minutes late and I checked my suitcase at the Metropolitan Lounge and went off to find some dinner before the Lake Shore Limited’s 9:30PM departure. I ended up at Dylan’s, an AU recommendation. Excellent Buffalo wings and a fine hamburger. While I was there I met a fireman/paramedic and his pals visiting from Texas. I’m an EMT for a volunteer fire department, so we talked about that, and anyone who does that is automatically not a stranger. I bought them a round of drinks and we wandered off to find a strange unmarked bar they heard about. That place was called Unititled and was huge and underground, with hundreds of stylishly dressed people and two bars mixing up fancy libations. I only had time for a single Manhattan (it was awesome) before I bid my new friends goodbye and headed back to the station. We had wandered around the loop looking for the place, so I used the Uber app and got a quick ride back, less than $6. I could have had another cocktail, because the train was a little delayed, and we ended up leaving around ten. The SCA on the LSL had the bed all made up, and I gratefully crashed out after a few minutes of reading. I think some of the best attendants end up working on the Lake Shore Limited, maybe because it’s so popular. There was plenty of ice provided at the coffee station. I guess the Lake Shore Limited didn’t get the memo about ice. I think I have changed my mind and now prefer the Viewliner roomette over the Superliner. The bed is more comfortable. Here came the artic landscapes I thought I would see the whole way but didn’t. Snowy and bleak. We did some fast running through the snow. Ice on the Hudson had reached arctic proportion. I was a little worried about my final leg back to NJ when we went through some snow showers, but down in NYC it was clear. I made a brief stop in the Club Acela before I boarded NJ Transit for the trip to Denville and my home.
  13. reefgeek

    Nearby liquor store in LA

    Not sure why Google would say 4.2 miles -- Little Tokyo is only a few blocks south of Union Station (see map below -- the Japanese American National Museum is in Little Tokyo). Pretty sure the closest "full" supermarket to Union Station is the Ralphs at 9th and Flower, which is about 2 miles away. I had Google show the walking directions, but it's easily reached via the subway (Red or Purple lines) -- it's 2 blocks south of the 7th Street/Metro Center station. Note that per Los Angeles city ordinance, if you don't bring your own bag to the store (any store), they'll charge you 10 cents for one. Thanks. Here I was congratulating myself for walking eight miles roundtrip. Didn't seem that far. Wish I had known about the Walmart!
  14. reefgeek

    Nearby liquor store in LA

    I had to walk quite a ways into Japantown to find a meager selection of booze. Someone said recently there was --what---A Whole Foods? Or something close to LAUS.
  15. reefgeek

    How to Keep the Outside Windows Clean

    Which makes me think: Would they have a fit if you magnetically mounted a Go-Pro camera to the outside of your window? Would they notice, even?