Superliner 5000 mile circle trip (SAS/LAX/CHI/SAS)

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by Lonestar648, Sep 16, 2019.

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  1. Sep 16, 2019 #1

    Lonestar648

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    Lonestar648

    Conductor AU Supporter

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    The idea for this long trip came from my youngest granddaughter, who was begging for me to take her on a long train trip so she could see the country side, but experience sleeping on the train for several nights. After researching the options, I chose our route, boarding the Texas Eagle (421 through Sleeper) at San Marcos, Texas, changing trains in Los Angeles to the Southwest Chief (4) to Chicago where we would stop for a few days before taking the Texas Eagle (21) to San Antonio. With the route set, I had to coordinate dates with my granddaughter's good friend in the Chicago area, so she could visit several days.

    The whole family decided to see us off, so we had dinner in San Marcos together. I selected a place where we could stay in case the train was late departing Austin. As expected, the train was an hour late leaving Austin. Being that San Marcos is an unmanned station, there are no updates, so everyone waiting was excited to get my updates on the train's progress. Soon we could see the lights of the engine in the distance, so we put on backpacks and got in position with our roller bags. As soon as we boarded, the conductor moved the train up so the Coach passengers could board. I had reserved Bedroom D which my granddaughter found to be wonderful after traveling twice overnight in the roomette with me. The Sleeping Car Attendant made down the beds before arriving San Antonio. We somehow slept while our car was switched from the middle of 21 to the end of the Sunset Limited (1).

    We woke up early so we could eat a relaxing breakfast before the Dining Car filled up and a wait list was started. My granddaughter observed the changing landscape the further west we traveled. Later, we discussed the difference between West Texas having some green, though very limited, and the desert of southern New Mexico and Arizona. She pointed out that as soon as we left El Paso, the vegetation disappeared, but there were more interesting rock formations, especially at the state line between New Mexico and Arizona. As I was posting a couple pictures of my granddaughter taking pictures in the Sightseer car, a good friend of mine contacted me that he now lived in Maricopa, the stop after Tucson. Since we had not seen each other in almost a decade, we set up the quick visit. Interestingly, all my granddaughters look forward to each meal on the train since they can order whatever they desire, including dessert. We met a couple of school teachers at Dinner who had a wonderful discussion with a my granddaughter which she talked about later. The train left Tucson an hour late, so we were even later arriving Maricopa which required three stops due to the very short platform. The Conductors were actually very cooperative about the meet, letting us off first. We barely had enough time to hug, say Hi and have our picture taken, before it was time to close the door.

    Early the next morning, about 4:30 AM our attendant was waking everyone up, so we would be ready to arrive Los Angeles a little after 5:15. Being it was so early, it was dark. Also, it is a long walk from the train, down the ramp, then the long tunnel under the tracks into the station. We located the elevators by the Rental Car counters to the Metropolitan Lounge. After tagging our bags in the conference room, we picked up some breakfast items downstairs, then went outside into the courtyard to eat. A kind of oasis in the middle of a busy city. My granddaughter enjoyed touring the station because it had been used in a movie or TV show she had seen. Before taking the subway to Hollywood, we walked around the old Los Angeles area with dozens of other people. We did as many things in Hollywood as we dared take time to do before boarding the subway back. The Lounge was standing room only, but I was offered a seat by a teenager, my granddaughter sat on the floor. Soon the Red Caps arrived with their carts to take people to the train. On the Southwest Chief we had room E, which we quickly settled into. We departed about 10 minutes late. Dinner was around 7:00 with a really nice couple from New York City. After the meal the four of us moved to the Sightseer to talk more and enjoy the evening. Once the beds were made, with the lights off, I sat up late to watch the outside pass by in the moonlight. I find these night sights as interesting as I do the daytime. My granddaughter preferred her music laying in the upper bunk.

    We were almost the first for breakfast, but before our meal was delivered, the wait list had started, in fact there was an announcement later that the list had reach maximum and no others could be accommodated for breakfast. Our attendant said that most of the coach passengers had wanted to eat breakfast but there wasn't time to feed them before getting ready for Lunch. The views of New Mexico were spectacular all day. We took so many photos, that we reviewed them that night to keep the best. The stop in Albuquerque was over an hour, allowing time to get in a long walk. In Raton, Boy Scouts got off and others got on, all heading to and from the huge Philmont National Scout Ranch in Cimmaron. The train climbed up to 7834 feet as we crossed the Continental Divide in the Raton Tunnel. We had a wonderful evening watching a beautiful sunset from the Sightseer car.

    At Breakfast, while sitting Kansas City, we learned we would be taking a detour due to a derailment on the main line which would delay us a couple hours getting into Chicago. We spent the day traveling through Missouri farmland before crossing the Mississippi River at Quincy. My Granddaughter found the endless fields less interesting, so she took to reading as we spent more time in our room. We arrived Chicago just under 3 hours late. We took Uber to our hotel, The Palmer House. I wanted my granddaughter to experience what an old hotel could be like. She loved it, especially the second floor lobby, all the elevators, how people sat in the multi-story lobby. After a quick dinner, we relaxed in our room. Suddenly, there was a huge crack of thunder, then the downpour, causing people to run for cover which my granddaughter found funny.

    Early the next morning after breakfast, I picked up a rental car to drive my granddaughter out to Crystal Lake to spend several days with one of her best friends. I took this opportunity to spend a day watching my oldest grandson practice with his World Class DCI Team outside of Rockford where they were staying overnight on their two month summer tour. I also took a full day to spend at the Illinois Railway Museum, the best Railroad Museum I have ever visited. They had several active displays to ride, one on their own five mile track and back. The barns were four tracks wide, one about 300 feet long. There were organized into categories, Passenger, Trolley, Steam engines, diesels, etc. There was a detailed display of railroad china. I took several hundred photos, this place was amazing. They are in the process of building a small village to enhance the experience. One day, I took my lunch to sit at a park to view Lake Michigan on a perfectly clear day and read. I used an inexpensive Hampton Inn in Hoffman Estates as my base.

    On Tuesday morning, I picked up my granddaughter at her friends. After some sad goodbyes, we headed into downtown Chicago to turn in the rental car at Union Station. We checked in at the Met Lounge, leaving our roller bags in the baggage room. On the Mezzanine Level of the station we found Pret-a-Manger with fresh sandwiches that we took up to eat along the Chicago River at one of the many tables. Many tour boats of all types go by. Another beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. We waited in the new Lounge until the Texas Eagle was called. We had Bedroom E again for our trip home. This part of the trip my granddaughter had been on twice previously, so wasn't as interesting as the other trains. She did enjoy seeing the cars on I-55 racing the train as were were going full speed. I had my Garmin on the window which she had enjoyed through out our trip. My cell also had a speed app we used when not in the room. Crossing the Mississippi into St. Louis was just as the dun was setting.

    During the night as we slept, the train lost several hours. We ate breakfast on the outskirts of Little Rock. Ft. Worth was a very short stop, just long enough to service the train. Being so late, I calculated we would not arrive San Antonio until well after midnight. After consulting with my granddaughters parents who were picking us up, they suggested that they drive all the way up to San Marcos which could save two hours off arrival, and they would be downtown San Antonio so late at night. The Conductor said he already had work at San Marcos, so adding us was no problem. We were met 4 hours late. When I checked the train arrived San Antonio even later, so we were happy with the decision.

    My granddaughter traveled 5000 miles on the train, sleeping 4 nights in a row. She and her older sister love travel by train. Both are asking when their next trip will be.
     
  2. Sep 16, 2019 #2

    OBS

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    OBS

    Conductor

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    Aren't you a wonderful Grandfather! Thanks for sharing
     
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  3. Sep 16, 2019 #3

    Lonestar648

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    Lonestar648

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    I have taken all of my grandchildren on Amtrak, two loved the train, two were absolutely bored and couldn't wait for the trip to end, the others enjoyed the trip, were glad to have gone, but have not asked to go again. My oldest granddaughter and I have taken several long trips together.
     
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  4. Sep 16, 2019 #4

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Conductor

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    What a great trip! :cool:My Grandaughter has taken a few trips on Amtrak and the Hill Country Flyer with me and is always ready to go again when her School Schedule allows!

    I live in South Austin but have caught the Eagle and de-trained several times in San Marcos( same Fare) since, due to Austin Traffic, its quicker to get to/from the San Marcos Amtrak Station.( People in North Austin use Taylor for the same reasons)

    And Northbound you get Breakfast served in the Diner ( Austin is technically Last Call for Sleeper Passengers if the Train isn't too Late which Lately is a 50/50 thing).
     

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