Southwest Chief: Chicago to Los Angeles - October 2017

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by SarahZ, Nov 4, 2019.

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  1. Nov 4, 2019 #26

    SarahZ

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    (To be continued after work today. I was up way too late last night.)
     
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  2. Nov 4, 2019 #27

    anumberone

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    I was hoping you wouldn't end it with Alfred Hitchcocks Hollywoods hall of fame Star.
     
  3. Nov 5, 2019 #28

    Sauve850

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    That's really quite a good trip report. Thanks. Look forward to the rest!
     
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  4. Nov 5, 2019 #29

    SarahZ

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    The following day, @trainman74 and I tried out for a new game show. I have intense stage fright when not part of an ensemble, so I was pretty tense when I arrived. Still, it was kind of cool to be in Burbank. He pointed out the building where they host Blizzcon (I used to play World of Warcraft), and I saw where they film "The Price is Right".

    The tryouts weren't nearly as glamorous as I'd expected, and I wasn't expecting that much. It looked like any old office building. Honestly, it felt more like a job interview, which put me at ease. There was a couple in the waiting area with us, along with a receptionist of sorts. We soon received a quiz, which really put me at ease. I love written tests, and this one had lots of fun trivia, so I felt much better by the time we got through it.

    After she took the quizzes away, we were called for our audition. The room was small and dark. We stood against a backdrop with one of those umbrella lights, not unlike the finest J.C. Penney portrait studio. There was a "host", and she stood next to a video camera on a tripod. That was it. FANCY.

    The game show was loosely based on the British game show "Pointless". To keep it simple, it's the opposite of "Family Feud". You're asked a question, and the goal is to guess not only the correct answer(s) but also the answers the fewest people guessed. The team with the least number of points wins.

    For example, if you're asked to name five U.S. Presidents, you'd want to choose Fillmore, Tyler, and Pierce over Washington, Jefferson, and Obama.

    We each had a turn to answer one question. They gave us 30 seconds to list off as many answers as possible, and when we finished, we had to work as a team to choose the best answer.

    J's was: "Name as many types of berries as you can". I think we went with Marionberry.

    Mine was: "Name as many Disney animated features as you can". I'm positive we chose "The Black Cauldron".

    Both answers were correct and scored low, but we did not get a spot on the show. (Womp womp.)

    I forget how it came about, but J found out I'd never been to IKEA. They have one in Burbank, so he suggested going there for lunch. The smorgasbord was fabulous. I thought the food would be more expensive, but I got a filling, tasty lunch for about $7. I had meatballs, of course, along with potatoes, veggies, a roll, and yogurt for dessert.

    After we finished lunch, we wandered around so I could check out the actual store. I have no idea how people manage to choose one design for their kitchen or bath. I found seven I wanted.

    I mentioned enjoying my trip to Amoeba Music in 2006. J informed me they're still open, so we drove back to Hollywood and wandered around. This place is HUGE. This photo captures approximately 1/4 of the building:

    fullsizeoutput_10c7.jpeg

    From there, we went to Paramount Studios, where his friend L works as an archivist. The original plan was simply, "We're picking her up for dinner," but then he told her I'd just gotten my Masters in Library Science, and she asked if I'd like to see the archives. (Are you joking? Of course I want to see the archives!)

    We went through the fancy gate, gave the fancy security guard our names (we're on the list), and then received our fancy visitor stickers. Then we parked in the fancy parking lot.

    This is a picture of the parking lot and water tower. We were not allowed to take pictures on the grounds, which I completely understand. If you go to the Paramount Pictures website, though, you can see various images of the lots they use. (That link will go to the "Chicago Set", but you can click around from there.)

    The parking lot is sometimes painted blue so they can use it as a giant water tank. That huge backdrop at the bottom right serves as a generic sky.

    fullsizeoutput_10c9.jpeg

    L showed us around her building, which had lots of costumes and movie posters stored in various areas. I cannot possibly remember everything, but I do remember seeing the jackets the Pink Ladies wore in "Grease" and Gomez's suit from "The Addams Family". Then she took us on a walking tour of the lot. We saw the generic "New York Street", which features a row of brownstones, along with an alley and sound stages. They were filming something for Nickelodeon as we passed by, but I have no idea which show it was. I also got to see the exterior of the building where they filmed "Cheers" and "Frasier" umpteen years ago. I would have loved to see those sets back in the day.

    She also showed us Lucille Ball's former bungalow. Paramount was originally Desilu Gower Studios before Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball sold it in 1967. Many of the publicity portraits were actually taken in the little park in front of the bungalow, giving the illusion they were relaxing at their family home rather than a studio lot.

    Screen Shot 2019-11-04 at 8.48.12 PM.png

    Screen Shot 2019-11-04 at 8.48.34 PM.png

    I really enjoyed seeing the yellow and pink bikes everywhere. L told us people would grab one, head to another area of the lot, and then leave it near a building. It's much easier to get around on bikes than a golf cart, though they have their uses too.

    The entire place felt whimsical. I'm not one to get starstruck and hunt down celebrities, but I do enjoy learning about how movies and scripts are developed, how special effects are achieved, and other "behind the scenes" magic.

    We had an enjoyable dinner at some burger place. Everything was delicious, and I had a root beer float for dessert. The weather was actually a bit cool for a change, which was wonderful after suffering through temperatures in the high 80s all week.

    After dinner, J took me to a tiki bar since I had never been to one. I tried a Hurricane, and then we went to his place to watch movies. Unfortunately, I took the wrong allergy medicine, so I ended up falling asleep on his couch. I was supposed to fly out the next afternoon, so when I woke up and realized what had happened, I hopped on the Southwest app to change my flight (no change fees!) I also called the hotel to book another night and called Hertz to extend my rental.
     
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  5. Nov 5, 2019 #30

    SarahZ

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    We had dinner with J's friends that night (which earned me another friendship that continues to this day). Then I drove back to my hotel and packed. I didn't have to bring the rental car back until 3:00, so I decided to sleep in and take it easy.

    I'm one of those really annoying people who leaves for the airport ridiculously early, but it paid off. I had planned to return my rental car to the Hertz counter at Hotel A. When I got there, I couldn't figure out where to bring the car. They had absolutely zero signage, and I'm not one of those people who gets lost in their own backyard. I travel frequently, so when I say there weren't any signs, there weren't any signs.

    I managed to flag down a person in a vest with a nametag, and he told me to park on the fifth level and then go to the hotel lobby.

    The fifth level was full and didn't have any signs designating "Rental Car Parking Only". I didn't see any logos, arrows, painted parking spots, etc. So I went to the sixth level, found a spot, and hopped on the elevator to the hotel lobby. Once there, I didn't see any signs for the Hertz counter. I asked another vest-and-nametag person where to find the counter, and he said, "Go around the corner, down the hall, and around another corner." Again, no signs.

    Once I got there, I saw a tiny Hertz logo propped up against a computer terminal. The counter looked deserted. They didn't have a bell or even a sign that said "Back in 5 Minutes". I flagged down yet another vest-and-nametag person and asked if they could find the Hertz rep. They said, "Oh, just leave the keys on the counter. I'll tell them where you're parked, and they'll check in your reservation."

    Yeah no.

    So, I bailed. I ran back to the car, drove out of the parking garage, and pulled into a somewhat legal space so I could get on my phone and look for another dropoff location.

    This time, I scored. I went to Hotel B, where the vest-and-nametag person manning the driveway directed me to the appropriate lot and then told me to look for him when I came back. Sure enough, when I walked back to the main driveway, he told me to go in the lobby and enjoy some free water. The Hertz rep was at the front desk, ready to check me in. When I went back outside, Mr. Vest-and-Nametag asked where I was headed. I told him I was going to LAX, and he said, "Don't call for a ride. Just use the hotel shuttle." :)

    By the time I got to LAX, I had 90 minutes until my flight left. It only took 15 minutes to get through security, surprising for a Sunday afternoon. Then again, there were very few families and lots of single/business travelers. They also had almost every lane open, and the TSA agents were efficient. There was virtually no dawdling on anyone's part.

    IMG_9802.jpg

    Since I still had about an hour to kill, I went to the food court and grabbed a smallish thin crust pizza with spinach. Then I relaxed near my gate while charging my phone.

    fullsizeoutput_1ba3.jpeg

    This was the first time I'd flown Southwest, and I was seriously impressed. I'm pretty loyal to them now. After my flight, I posted something nice on Facebook, and they dumped 3000 points into my account. :)

    The flight home was quiet, comfortable, and uneventful. I'm 5'5", so I don't suffer from leg room issues. I had a window seat, so I was able to catch some scenery until it got dark. The middle seat was empty, and the guy in the aisle seat read the entire time. We used the middle seat to stash our coats. It was honestly one of the most peaceful flights I've ever experienced - no screaming kids, no loud adults, everyone had headphones on, and the lights stayed dim from sunset onward.

    Angeles National Forest:

    IMG_9820.JPG

    Aliens:

    (Seriously, though? What are those shiny, silver things to the right of the solar panels? This is in the North Mesquite Mountains near Nipton.)

    IMG_9838.JPG

    I had my phone on Airplane Mode to conserve battery power, so it didn't pick up the geotag. I'm almost positive this is part of the Grand Canyon:

    fullsizeoutput_1b9c.jpeg

    Uncompahgre National Forest:

    IMG_9855.JPG

    Peaceful flight:

    IMG_9859.JPG

    I knew we were close to Chicago when I couldn't see any city lights and the view turned to this - rain at 600 mph:

    IMG_9871.JPG

    This was my first time flying into Midway, but I didn't get a view of the skyline thanks to the low cloud cover and pouring rain. No matter, it was still a fun landing. We were close enough to read the prices at the gas stations along Cicero and Archer. :)

    This was taken shortly before switching to video mode to capture the landing:

    IMG_9881.JPG

    Here's a video of the landing, for anyone curious. I apologize for the shaking. I tried to stay as still as possible, but there was a lot of wind. Also, Midway has short runways, so while the landing was textbook perfect, we still had that "stop on a dime" sensation. It was fun. :)

     
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  6. Nov 5, 2019 #31

    SarahZ

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    Upon arrival at Midway, I had to wait for my bag, which didn't take too long. I was on a pretty tight schedule for the South Shore, though. I had completely misjudged how long it would take the Orange Line to get downtown, something I honestly should have planned for. But again, I also hadn't planned on arriving home late Sunday night rather than mid-evening on Saturday.

    I knew I could probably take a bus or rideshare from the airport over to the Hyde Park stop, which would buy me more time, but I wasn't entirely sure about the safety of that station at that time of night. I've been there with friends before but never alone. I'm sure it's probably fine, but it was also pouring rain and I didn't feel like standing outside.

    I ran most of the way to the Orange Line and managed to catch one just before it left. I kept a close eye on my phone the entire time, willing it to go a bit faster. If I missed the 11:00 p.m. South Shore from Millennium Station, I would be stuck until 12:45 a.m. As it was, the 11:00 train would get me back to Dune Park at 12:20 a.m, which meant a 3:00 a.m. arrival in Kalamazoo. (Did I mention I had to work at 9:30 the next morning? I really did not want to miss that train and end up getting home at nearly 5:00 a.m.)

    As we got closer to the Loop, I realized we weren't going to make it. Not even a little bit close. I hopped off the L at the State/VanBuren ("Library") stop and then ran to the Van Buren Street station. Despite my raincoat, I was absolutely drenched, and I did my best to lift my suitcase before running through puddles.

    Once I got to the Van Buren station, which I've never used, I couldn't figure out which tracks were correct. There were South Shore schedules and fare signs everywhere, but nothing clearly stated if I should stay on this side of the tracks or use the pedestrian bridge to go to the middle platform. Google was no help. Eventually, a young lady came down the stairs. I asked if she knew, and she said, "I'm pretty sure this is the right side." I fretted a bit, realizing I wouldn't be able to run up and across in time to catch the train if it boarded on the middle track.

    Two minutes later, I saw the train approaching in the distance. As it got closer and closer, I still couldn't tell which track it was on. Eventually, it was close enough to see it was on the track closest to the station, but I couldn't see the switch position. The train slowed to a crawl, and I caught myself thinking, "Please don't switch... please don't switch... please don't switch..."

    It didn't switch. :)

    The ride on the South Shore was interesting. When we arrived in Hyde Park, two gentlemen boarded. They were around my age, and one of them was dressed like a stereotypical pimp. I am not even joking. He had on a zoot suit, a long fur coat, shiny wingtips, a big hat, and an honest to god walking stick with a silver ball grip. I tried so hard not to stare at him, but he radiated a magnetism that I could not avoid.

    He was polite and soft-spoken and spent most of the ride talking to the conductor. They were obviously familiar with each other. (How could you not remember this guy?) I kept sneaking quick glances. I wish I'd had the nerve to take a picture, but as cool as I found him, I did not want to invite conversation. He and his friend departed in Hammond.

    I arrived home around 3:00 a.m, as predicted, and then completely forgot to write this trip report.
     
  7. Nov 6, 2019 #32

    dogbert617

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    I've so far focused on reading the early posts within this thread so far, and skimmed through the later posts, but I do PROMISE I will read every word of all posts here in this thread very soon! Thanks for finally posting your trip report when you rode the Chief, since very soon I wouldn't mind doing a SWC trip of some sort for myself. Probably to Albuquerque and also Santa Fe(via the New Mexico Rail Runner), likely sometime in the first half of 2020. I also sometimes debate if I should ride a little further west, i.e. to Gallup or to Winslow, AZ, then back east to ABQ to do that part of the trip? I don't know yet lol, since right now I'm trying to debate logistics in my mind about how later this month I may do a Cardinal trip into West Virginia to admire the fall leaves scenery.

    And funny you posted a pic of Amoeba Music in LA, since early next year in February I will be doing a trip to SF with a friend. I hope to finally visit Amoeba in SF this time, since unfortunately on my only other trip to SF(back in spring 2014), I sadly didn't quite get over to Amoeba Music despite that I did a brief trip into Haight-Asbury(the neighborhood it's in, as Amoeba is more on the western edge of that neighborhood I didn't quite see). Also I am going to begin to post my trip report from when I rode the Empire Builder this past summer(June and July 2019, though it was more in July) to Glacier National Park, so I hope you enjoy reading those posts about the Builder that I will soon post!
     
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  8. Nov 7, 2019 #33

    dogbert617

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    I love Southwest, and've never been disappointed with my experiences flying with them! I remember when I flew back from Las Vegas in February 2019, that we flew over northern Arizona likely not too far away from Grand Canyon, and just like your flight coming back from LAX.

    Also if I was trying to return a rental car, I wouldn't have trusted that guy you finally encountered at 'Hotel A' either! And had kept looking elsewhere(even if I had to leave Hotel A) till I found a real Hertz employee.
     
  9. Nov 7, 2019 #34

    SarahZ

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    Some of my pictures were taken over Vegas, so it was probably the same flight path. There likely isn't too much variation between LAX and MDW, barring a storm front or something. :)

    The guy at Hotel B directed me toward a parking lot and then told me to head inside. He never told me to just leave the car, unlike the guy at Hotel A. Had I not seen the Hertz desk once inside, I simply would have left and gone somewhere else.

    That, and while I didn't mention it, the parking lot did have clear "Hertz Rentals Only" signs along one row of spaces.

    For the life of me I can't remember why I couldn't return it at the airport. That would have been my first choice.
     
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  10. Nov 7, 2019 #35

    SarahZ

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    Interesting. I've been to Haight-Ashbury twice but had no idea they had an Amoeba. I checked Google Maps, and it looks like I was within a couple blocks but never quite made it down that far.
     
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  11. Nov 7, 2019 #36

    anumberone

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    As I replied earlier, I enjoyed your train trip out. What I'm impressed with is the amount of places you visited and things you were able to do while here. All this after your experience with the $28 Airnb. Cabana with a view of the Hollywood Sign, I think that may have put me on a bus back to Kalamazoo. Thanks for taking the time to share your trip.
     
  12. Nov 7, 2019 #37

    SarahZ

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    Nah. I'm pretty good at rolling with the punches. I was irritated at the time, but it takes a lot more than that to ruin a vacation.

    I actually forgot about a few things I wanted to see, so they're on the list for next time.

    Oh! I did forget one thing... When J and I drove around after dinner that last night, he took me along the drive by Griffith Observatory. It was much too crowded to park, but I did get to see the view for several seconds. :)
     
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  13. Nov 7, 2019 #38

    dogbert617

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    We both did that same thing, while exploring Haight-Asbury lol. Never walking west enough in that neighborhood, to where Amoeba Music actually was located!
     
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  14. Nov 7, 2019 #39

    anumberone

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  15. Nov 7, 2019 #40

    SarahZ

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    I’m not sure if we drove past the Hollywood Bowl. I don’t recall seeing it.

    That’s definitely on the list. I’ve heard you can attend rehearsals for free.
     
  16. Nov 7, 2019 #41

    anumberone

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  17. Nov 7, 2019 #42

    trainman74

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    I don't think we got near it. You can't see the Bowl itself from the street anyway. (When you were on the Hollywood Walk of Fame near the Chinese Theater, you weren't too far away.)

    Re the game show we tried out for: there's still been no sign of it actually getting produced.
     
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  18. Nov 8, 2019 #43

    SarahZ

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    I forgot: we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art and played a fun, four-player version of ping pong with water hazards. :) The art was cool, but the ping pong was my favorite part. I'd forgotten all about it until he reminded me this evening.

    I also walked around a corner at one point and saw the beautiful stained glass window at The Magic Castle. That was a nice surprise. I'd heard of it way back when but didn't realize it was in L.A.

    66791162_388835258489704_247502481363026800_n (1).jpg

    Then I saw another cool castle-like building while driving around, and J was like, "No. That's not a neat hotel. That's one of the Church of Scientology buildings." :D

    3-scientology-celebrity-center-international_0_en.jpg

    Final Note: I don't know why I find palm trees so magical, but I swear I take 100,000 pictures of them when traveling. Lots of pictures didn't make the cut, or they're just random shots of pretty houses and things that no one else cares about, and 90% of them have palm trees. I especially love the way they look at night against the skyline and mountains.

    I have no desire to live in Los Angeles, mostly due to the weather and traffic, but I enjoy visiting and hope to return soon. I have to visit New York City first, though. Somehow, I've never been there. Even I'm surprised at that, considering all the traveling I do. I've been on hiatus for a couple years or so while paying off my car and student loans, and I feel like I'm withdrawal. I need a fix. Soon. :cool:
     
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  19. Nov 9, 2019 #44

    dogbert617

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    There are definitely certain US cities myself, I'd like to FINALLY do a visit to myself! I.e. LA, Miami, and also Boston as well. Don't forget Portland and Seattle, and to a lesser extent I've wondered about Salt Lake City and Boise myself. Too bad for SLC, that the arrival times are not great, especially if you're riding east into that city(like 3:30am on the California Zephyr!, although 11:30pm going west isn't as bad).

    Also, too bad there isn't a train like the Floridian anymore, that'd make it easier to take Amtrak from Chicago and directly south towards Florida. And would help, in that you wouldn't have to travel east on the Capitol Limited east to DC, to catch one of those trains south to Florida. At least you can take the Cardinal east to Charlottesville and transfer to the Crescent, but it's unfortunate that Cardinal only runs 3 days a week.
     
  20. Nov 9, 2019 #45

    anumberone

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    Then I saw another cool castle-like building while driving around, and J was like, "No. That's not a neat hotel. That's one of the Church of Scientology buildings." :D

    Where did you shoot this from. I drive right past it on Bronson and never notice it, Sort of looks like you are above it. You are not far off thinking it was a castle, the link below explains.
    https://www.kcet.org/history-society/the-chateau-elys ee-scientologys-celebrity-centre-


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
  21. Nov 9, 2019 #46

    SarahZ

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    The picture isn’t mine. I forgot to add the credit. I grabbed it from Google images. It's from the Scientology website (and a bunch of other mirrors). I can't find the original photographer's name.

    You can see it from the 101 (or is it called the Hollywood Freeway?), but I was driving and the angle is bad.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
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  22. Nov 9, 2019 #47

    Palmland

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    Thoroughly enjoyed reading the report, well done! It may inspire me to write one about our recent travels.

    Totally agree about Southwest. We wanted to stay another night in New Orleans. Southwest website says there was no change fee but I would be responsible for any fare difference. So, with trepidation, I made the change. I got a $138 credit! Since Charlotte is our airport, Southwest often requires a plane change to our destination. But their terminals, such as Houston Hobby are always attractive with good restaurants. The exception is Newark - where they are pulling out.
     
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  23. Nov 9, 2019 #48

    SarahZ

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    I was a bit surprised when I received a credit. I thought a last-minute Sunday flight would be expensive, but I ended up with approximately $35 refunded to my card. I was also surprised to receive an actual refund rather than a credit toward a future flight.

    Also, as of October 2019, your points earned will no longer expire. That was a relief to me since I haven't flown since this trip and my points were close to expiring. I'd love to get their credit card, but I really don't need anymore. ;)
     
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  24. Nov 10, 2019 #49

    Barb Stout

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    You got cell phone coverage in Lamy!? I haven't been successful with that.
     
  25. Nov 10, 2019 #50

    SarahZ

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    Yes. We both had Sprint and never had an issue. We only had coverage for a brief window, though, hence calling the second we got to Lamy. After that, we usually didn't have coverage again until we got closer to I-25 and the pueblos.
     
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