January 7 2015
Another cross country trip via Amtrak………
And as always...I am a bit nervous as we wait for the train.
I am very early on in this trip….but I am going to subtitle this one….’The
Why Amazing? The time of year for one thing. A January trip is out of the
norm for me.
More often it’s Spring or Fall. But this trip was triggered by a need more
than a vacation.
And traveling in Winter is very different. From White Sulfur Springs we had
snow on the ground and frigid temps.
The snow actually defined the landscape rather than cover it. The terrain
is easier to see, side tracks are easy to follow….the black rails show clearly
in the snow.
It’s a very different view. And temps inside the car are not a worry, On some
trips the car is too hot. Not today….the front door of our coach has froze
open and we are getting a cool -2 degree breeze…..I’m OK as I dressed in
layers and like it cool. But some of the folks are cold….they passed out
some blankets. I have won the seat lottery as my ticket has two names on
it….even though I am traveling alone this leg of the trip.
It’s is almost dark as we board…..so VERY little sightseeing until daybreak.
To bad too
as I really enjoy seeing parts of the New River as you can only see them by
train. A guy that got on at WSS sets up his laptop and brings up the movie
‘Big Lebowski’!! I love the film...we talk about it some….watch it. Find out he
lives in Chicago and has lived in Charlotte. Small world. We move quickly
and are nearing Huntington WV where the train has a ‘smoke stop’ and I
have folks waiting on me!! Just short of the Huntington Station we stop.
Frozen switch so a CSX crew has to come out and free it up. Only takes 10
minutes or so. Underway again. My Daughter and two Grand Daughters are
waiting to see me. Catie will fly to San Diego Saturday for business….then
we will ride the train home together a week later. I get off the train and she
has a bag with some snacks and two Diet Cokes (train only has Pepsi
products). I give the grandkids each a hug….it’s like 7 degrees here…..they
want to get on the train with me! I get back on the train and in my bag is a
big burger from Cook Out…..a new place my youngest son is working at. As
good a meal as I’d get anywhere. After I eat I decide to catch some sleep. I
sleep from about 23:00 until our stop at Indy where a group of noisy folks is
replaced by a more noisy group getting on. I sleep on and off until 06:00.
Then some of the noisy folks get even more so.
It seems people have forgotten how to keep ANY personal information
personal any more. The new guy in front of me…..with a 2 year old in tow…..
talks loudly about how this trip will go to Chicago and then they will get on
another train to ‘XYZ’ and they will stay there until May. The two year old
lost him at ‘this train’ so was all the other ‘loud’ info for us?? Or was it just
‘Face Spacing’ out loud not having a device to tap on??? He soon has a very
loud phone conversation filled with curse words and about moneys owed.
The two year old was asleep by now so again…..who was all this for???
Folks...not every person on the planet needs or even WANTS to know which
#@$%%^& owes you money or how long you will be gone. TMI.
January 8 2015
Daylight now and I can look out the window. Grab the other Diet Coke my
daughter brought me, Thanks, and a cookie she packed. Sounds simple…...
but I am living the life. A few stops and we will be in Chicago Union Station.
We are running on time and other than that stuck door, going pretty well. I’
ve been on the Cardinal when we had to stop to throw folks off the train….
so making it to Chicago without anyone leaving with police is a good trip!!
As we hit the Chicago hub I get excited. No matter how many times I do this
I still love train travel. It’s not always perfect…...what is?? But It’s a mode or
travel that just fits me perfectly. I think part of it is nostalgia. Even with
‘modern’ locos and cars….we are riding a system well over a hundred years
old. And even with computers that play movies or music I can see myself
doing this in the 1920’s like my Great Grandfather, engineer for the B&O all
his life. And I insist it is a more civilized and enjoyable method of travel vs
that flying thing. It’s not for those that are part of the ‘I want it now’
generation. We had two of them on the Cardinal this trip. I call them Frick
and Frack. From the time I got on they constantly commented how slow
this train was. Too bad you didn’t read the Amtrak schedule before you
bought a ticket. It spoke to their level of intelligence IMHO.
We are in the station. Everyone jumps up as if in a hurry….maybe they are…..
but I have a four hour wait so I sit. When I do get off the train our conductor
was one of them on my ‘stuck in the Chicago yard for 6 hours’ trip in Oct
2013. Nice guy. As soon as I hit the platform all my facial hair freezes and
my skin tightens. At least -2 with -42 wind chill….. the conductor says. A
small leak on the dining car has grown to a 6 foot long icicle growing down
the side of the car….it is COLD! I get inside after a LONG walk and head
directly to the Amtrak First Class lounge…….as if I have done this forever. I
get checked in…...check my bags and find a warm spot. Pull out my
netbook and log in…..it has held the password from my last trip…..ain’t
technology grand! (I don’t say that often)
I choose not to walk around the station this leg. Nothing new….and the -2
temps are even making the inside of the station cold. I do head for the food
court for 2 Diet Cokes and nabs. Back to the lounge for some surfing. I see
you on board the Southwest Chief in my room!!!
Well….I thought I’d enter the next info from my room…...on the SWC…..but it
is delayed for ‘weather issues’ so they say. Never had the SWC late before.
So with the -2 temps and water tanks freezing easy…...I can see an issue.
At least I am in the lounge and pretty comfortable. But for the first time on a
long distance trip I am suffering ‘Phantom pain’. An ailment many folks with
amputations deal with. You get pain in [laces you no longer have…..my big
toe on the left foot is killing me….but have not had a toe since 2002. I
know….talk about TMI!!!! I have meds for it…..but until I get on the train…..
can’t do it. So I’ll grin and bear it. NEXT time…..I’ll be on the SWC….I hope.
19:00 local time we load the SWC. I get into my car 330-5 and into my room.
This car is a different vintage than all the others I have ridden prior years.
Not sure if newer or older….and not a lot different...just a little.
They just made an announcement…….we are now in a hold due to a
locomotive issue…...with NO ETA. You’d think it had never gotten cold in
Chicago before today. And as we are late...no food service yet….no
ETA……..gonna be some angry folks….glad I don’t have to deal with them. I’
m in my room…..so I’ll not get too upset yet…...could be in the lounge still!!
They say we will get fed…….so I can wait.
20:20 and we are rolling!!! Some type of power issue…..they kept dropping
the HEP. (train electricity produced by the locomotive)
Too bad it’s dark….not going to see much of Chicago tonight. We do speed
through suburbs...going maybe 50 mph or so. Things do look so different at
night. It’s like the little Christmas villages people set up. With a 2 inch snow
the ground it’s very much a display. Little snapshots flash by. An ambulance
with lights on at a gas station. Three guys walking into a local tavern. As
we get further out of town…..less to see.
They are calling us for dinner so dark will not matter! I sit with a couple on
the way to Oregon via Los Angles…...in other words the long way! But like
me they just like train travel. The fourth is a twenty-something woman who
says she is a traveling botanist going to L.A. for the Winter. She too loves
trains and has no love lost for air travel. To travel this way you have to love
it…..but once you do it’s easy to love.
Good size steak with mushrooms, wild rice and green beans. A salad and
roll too…..but no pie tonight….that sat outside while our train was late and
are rock hard…...tomorrow for sure. As always the food was great. But the
two ladies working the diner car went well beyond the norm making us
happy…..they don’t like being late any more than we do…..their service was
excellent. All is well with the world again! Finish my meal….the other 3 folks
are all going to L.A. so I tell them we will see each other later. Back to my
room, a few calls….and I’m ready for bed! Night!
January 9 2015
I woke a few times last night. If we stop I tend to wake up…...want to see
what is going on. We have slow orders over the Mississippi river, the norm,
and I sat up until Kansas City MO. It was a smoke break for those inclined…..
and a few took advantage. It was really cold and windy….and 3:30 local
time. The urge to smoke one is strong!!
Got up later than normal today. 8:00 got dressed and headed to the diner
car. Sat with two ladies, a mother and daughter, traveling to LA and San
Diego. I was wearing my AT&SF Chief shirt as I do one day aboard this train,
and the daughter commented on it right away. I told her how I had ridden
the Chief back in the 1960’s and how I feel a connection to today’s Amtrak
They were from Indiana and I told her about spending time at French Lick
resort this past summer at the Hudson car club meet. She knew exactly
what a Hudson was and told me about her 1957 VW Beetle she has owned
for 40 plus years….and she takes it to car shows,
Breakfast was scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon and a drink. The online
menu had a burrito on it…..but not this trip I guess. Good basic food with
outstanding service. Back to my room and wait for the meal reservation guy
to make his rounds….then you can walk the train if you want.
I have been trying to visualize what it will be like riding back with Catie.
One in a roomette is great. Two it becomes a circus act or complicated
dance. But I think we can make it work. Change over time is the only hard
part. That’s why travel is an adventure!!
I got my meal tickets taken care of so it’s off to the lounge/dome car. On the
way I see Renee, the car captain from my trip in 2011. He was super helpful
on that trip….and that was my first trip alone anywhere since my health
issues and surgery. So his help meant a lot to me. I stop to say hello and
tell him thanks. He is surprised I remembered him. He’s worked for Amtrak
from almost the start.
I arrive at the lounge car and it’s pretty full. Full of lots of twenty-
somethings! If these kids were around when I was that age we’d called
them ‘counter culture’ or maybe even, do I dare say, hippies! They have
guitars and harmonicas out, very 70’s ish clothing and each seems to be
carrying all their worldly goods in some type of bag. I kinda wanted to ask
why the train…….didn’t know these kids knew what a train was. But now
that I’m old enough to be ‘the man’ didn’t think I’d get much info. I stay a
few minutes…..but between one old guy hanging with the kids…..trying to
not act his age and the boring KS flat lands…….I decide to return to my
Lunch!! They call us to the 12:30 meal service. I sit with a lady traveling to
LA for a visit and a guy about my age riding the train just to ride. He’s
disappointed by the scenery….thinking it was more Rocky mountains and
less arid plains. I like it all and would hate to be unhappy on a trip like this.
We stop at Dodge City KS home of Matt Dillon…..not much old west left
here. Normal this stop is in the middle of the night…..so we are seeing ‘new’
things this trip. Lots of guys trackside taking photos,,,,,,I find out our SWC is
being led by a BNSF freight diesel. Our lead unit went down last night and
they had to call in this freight locomotive. So that explains all the attention
we are getting. Wonder when the last Cief was headed up by a Santa Fe
locomotive through Raton pass??
I take another try at the lounge car. I saw about 25 of those twenty-
somethings get off the train at Dodge City…….college there or what? Less
crowded now…...but now about 15 Amish or Mennonites…..not sure which….
a bit odd to ask. They are sitting at the tables going over something. I’d
like to talk to them but don’t want to intrude either. Find a seat next to girl
early thirties. She asks right away about my prosthetic leg. I never mind
talking about it….kinda feel it’s my duty. She has an uncle that needs one
but can’t bring himself to do it. It’s a hard step….it means your leg is really
gone. I recall how hard it was touching my stump the first time….but you
got to get past the mental roadblock….then pretty easy really.
I get off at La Junta CO as it’s a smoke break. It’s a nice 32 degrees. I go
out in my ATSF Chief shirt only. I make sure and get off here as there is a
Coke vending machine! The engine crew changes here too. My car captain
points out the young lady walking by was our engineer on the last leg. Even
in this day and age I am surprised this girl that looks more like a model has
been running this huge city on wheels. I would be intimidated to do the
same…..good for her.
They start calling for dinner….I took as late a time as they had 19:15. Until
then I’ll chill in my room. Dark now so nothing to see. I have my norm of
steak rice and green beans…...and it’s pretty good as norm too. If we were
not 10 hours late I’d go to bed and we would be in Fullerton at 6:30 am. That’
s good news and bad. When I wake we will go through Cajon Pass in
daylight…..something the SWC does not do traveling east or west. I convert
my to bedroom….and out.
January 10 2015
I wake and go to the diner. I have just bacon and hash browns. They feeds
us like crazy so not real hungry. As we near Cajon Pass I go downstairs to
the loading area of the car. It has doors on both sides so I can see all of
Cajon…..not possible from my room.
Cajon Pass is a busy place. Three sets of two tracks. We are on the middle
set so I see trains above and below us. I also spot many places that
photographers have taken pictures for 50 years…….’famous’ spots if you
will. Huge smooth rocks all along the route. Of all the issues on this trip…..
this almost makes it worth it. The pass is considered a national strategic
location. Patrolled day and night to keep trains moving.
San Bernardino is a smoke stop so I get off. The temps are much
different…..maybe 55 degrees…..but it’s starting to rain too!!! Warm and rain
in So Cal??? Warm yes….rain???
Started raining harder so I go back to my room. Only three stops until
Fullerton…..but still a few hours. I stil back and watch the cities go by.
They seem to be eliminating all street level crossings…...they are building
elevated crossings at each street. Shows how busy this rail line is.
Fullerton next stop. I get all my stuff together. I go downstairs to the
loading area. We roll into Fullerton…...it’s raining hard now. I find shelter
and call Terry. Many folks look like they are lost…..is the rain that
confusing?? A few of them ask me questions about buses or taxis…...things
I never have to deal with.
Terry pulls up and we throw the luggage in and go. We get to Terry’s house
and get settled in.
We order pizza and watch some pro ball. Pack it in for the night.
January 11 2015
We get up and decide to hit the local hobby shops and a train show at the
Anaheim convention center. We get to the train show and it’s $15 to park…...
WOW….Then it’s $15 for the two of us to get in. It’s a decent show. I don’t
NEED anything but we look. And there are maybe 12-14 layouts set up. Best
are a G scale ‘Hollow Door Central’ and a N scale single line modular set
around Cajon pass. Didn’t find anything great….and we are tired so cut it
short. We go by a few local hobby shops. Head home for the day. Watch
some TV and done. Pretty exciting yes??? I’m just happy to be there.
Neither of us are the party type, we don’t drink or like noisy clubs. So in LA
it’s best to stay home!
January 12 2015
We decide to hit Pegasus Hobbies out in Pomona. A big shop and plastic kit
manufacture. We spend about an hour looking. I find two Pegasus items. I
can find them on the net…..but these are in hand. I go to pay and because
the card is in the wifes name…..no sale!!!! I show my ID….still no. I ask if
they really think I came 3000+ miles to scam them??? I have the $20
cash…..but decide that I’ll give my money to someone else. Pegasus
Hobbies…..I am sorry that you do business in an area so crime ridden
people travel 3000 miles and 3 days to rip you off of $20 worth of plastic. A
sad place…..maybe you should consider moving??? Refuse more sales and
you will have no choice!
We head for Pasadena…..home of the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade. I watch
the Rose Parade every year on KTLA. We go to the Gamble house. A home
built in 1902 early craftsman style. It was Doc Browns house in the Back to
the Future films and just a cool house. Website said they had tours today…..
but sign says no. Oh well…...We drive over to the big ravine that runs down
the edge of town. There is a large bridge, built in the 1930’s, over the
ravine. We drive across it and park…...walk back for some photos and to
say we did!!! We drive the parade route. I see lots of homeless in the city. A
warm climate really draws them here. The problem seems so big not sure
what the ‘fix’ is. Very sad.
January 13 2015
Today is walking day. Terry and Cam walk on Tuesdays most weeks. We go
to Cam’s and then to Hunting Beach and…….IHOP. I’ll get in trouble going to
IHOP….but they go there each week…..so who am I to interrupt this
tradition. Eggs, potatoes and bacon…...sounds familiar.
After we eat down to the HB Pier. We park and walk out to the end of the
pier. I only go half way…..still nursing a foot issue. Terry and Cam keep
going. I sit on a bench…..watching a co-ed volleyball game, wearing a T-
shirt on January 13?!?!?! NOW I remember why folks put up with the
crowds, pollution, costs and aggravation because this is not January in
New Jersey for sure!!
We finish up or walking and head home. We all go out to eat at a little local
Mexican restaurant Terry’s Dad likes. Good meal…...home...more
January 14 2015
Today was amazing ………
As I stated earlier that was the title of this trip.
Today was proof.
My daughter is in San Diego for a education conference. She has been
there since Saturday when she flew in from Charleston West Virginia. Part
of the reason I am on this trip is so I could drop down from LA and visit mid
week. This is a new job for her and she has never been away from her kids
more than a day or so. She will then ride the Surfliner, when she is finished
this coming Saturday, to Fullerton and we will stay with Terry and ride the
SWC back home Sunday.
Terry and I got up a little early and went to breakfast. IHOP. I am really in
My wife loves it….but we rarely go. So I’ll pay for it when I get home.
Then to the Fullerton Amtrak Metrolink station. We ride the Amtrak
California Surfliner to Old Town San Diego. It’s just a two hour plus trip….
we could drive….but this will be more fun, more relaxing….and look how
GREEN we are being!!! First stop is Anaheim and the new transportation
center…...a large bubble topped building. Near Disneyland, Ducks and
The Surfliner runs through neighborhoods at a pretty good speed. Some
peoples homes are within 20 feet of the right of way. And this train runs
many times a day. I love trains but not sure I want to live this close!
Soon we are running along the coast. Through the Marine base and nuclear
power plant. We get to Old Town…...not much old to see. It’s a relatively
new trolley, Amtrak, Coaster and bus station. It takes us a few minutes to
figure out where the bus we need will stop and how to get a pass to ride.
Everything is geared to smart phones…..and neither of us have one…...so
we stumble about like old confused men. We find a ticket machine and get
our one day pass for $7.00…...not exactly cheap public transportation…...
but cheaper than a taxi! We then track down our bus stop. We ride out the
to resort hotel my daughter’s staying at and where the conference is being
held. The resort is right on the bay. A very nice place…….maybe built in the
1960’s or so. Catie meets us in the lobby and gives us her room key. She
still has an hour or so left. Terry and I walk to her room. It’s an almost mid-
century modern looking bungalow. We go in and it’s been completely
remodeled. VERY nice…..with a patio that opens out onto the bay. It’s
basically a very nice apartment with multiple rooms. We just sit and rest for
Catie shows up and we all sit a talk some…...she tells me about her week.
The self doubt she had was gone. She told us of a meeting she was in
where the presenter said West Virginia was leading the country in child
development effort. She then asked if any one was from WV. Catie said
yes…...and I head that department! I think from there she knew she didn’t
have to worry about weather she belonged at this conference.
We pick an Italian restaurant to go to. Recommended by the resort staff. We
ride the #8 bus to the end of the line and the driver asks us where are we
going. We told him the restaurant and it was about 100 yards to the left. We
were having a late lunch or early dinner…..so few other were in the place.
Catie ordered a small pizza and Terry and I ordered Chicken Parmesan
sandwiches. The food was good and the portions huge. None of us ate our
whole meal. We had it bagged to go. The whole time we sat at our table a
guy on the street was ‘performing’. He was maybe 50+, short shorts, no
shirt, bleach blond hair styled into a point on his forehead. He was a good
35 pounds overweight and very tan. The entire time we sat there…...he did
something. It was a cross of modern dance, ballet and drug withdrawal
convulsions. Catie commented on the ‘different’ folks she has seen on her
visit to So Cal. We tell her she ‘ain’t seen nuthin yet’!
Catch the bus back to Catie’s resort. We sit up front and the driver say we
must be tourist. She says regulars sit in the back and will not talk….we are
talking. She does the normal ‘where you from’ and then asks if we’ve eaten
yet. We tell her where and she tell’s us of a BBQ place we have to go to. We
tell her thanks but not that we will leave in an hour. But Catie says she and
some friends will check it out. We get back to her room. Sit for a while
talking until time to go. Catie said she wants to ride the bus down to the
transportation center so we all go. The bus is running late so time is
becoming a factor. We arrive at the center and say our goodbyes. Now we
have to find the track the Surfliner will arrive on…...there are 4 tracks and
little signage…...and each track is a good walk. We stand at the wrong
track when it arrives and we miss it. All the info at the station is check your
phone……….I hate phones. I call Amtrak…..they have no idea. Then we spot
a transit cop. We are on the wrong track…….so down the stairs and back up
to the other track. Surfliner arrives on time…..we find the same seats we
had in the trip down and settle in. A kid gets on and sits across the aisle.
He looks like Spicoli from ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’. I expect less. But
he’s from Alabama and came west to surf. He’s working his way up the
coast. Beach and/or Surf bums still exist. He has all his worldly possessions
with him. We talk some…...he is blown away when he finds out Terry and I
have been friends for 52 years…...does sound like a long time when you are
only 20 years old!!!
The ride aboard the Surfliner back to Fullerton was quite and due to the
time of day…..dark! Terry and I were the only riders without our face buried
in some type of device. Everyone else is looking into a glowing screen…...
with headphones on…..an Amtrak rule (the headphones).
We just sit and talk some. We arrive in Fullerton and head home. I was glad
we rode the train to San Diego rather than drive. It was a great ride….and
another Amtrak train to mark off. I did ride from LA to San Diego about 1965
when the Cub Scouts went to the zoo…...same tracks…..different train.
Once home we do the norm….a little TV and off to bed.
January 15-16 2015
These days are combined…..because much like the ‘Seinfeld’ TV show…..
nothing happened. We did a few things but nothing noteworthy. On past
visits we crammed as much as possible into each day….but left little time
for just sitting around. So this entry is a pretty accurate reflection of the
two days. But we agreed it was ‘a good thing’. We did decide to drive a
short distance to Orange Ca to find the store run by ‘Storage Wars’ Brandi
and Jarrod. We find the store and go in. Lots of items shown in the show.
Jared and a helper are trying to drill into a beam to mount something. Two
women come in and go nuts that Jared is up on a ladder! I find a metal train
bank…...and for $3 I buy it,,,,,,so I can say I’ve been here. I tell Jared I enjoy
the show…...seems like a decent guy. Kind fun seeing people I have
watched on TV.
January 17 2015
Another reason for doing little the past two days is today is a busy one. We
have a Hudson car show to do out at March Air Force Base. Someplace I’d
never heard of or knew anything about. And on top of that we have Catie
arriving from San Diego at 15:45 too. So we leave the house about 8:30 and
head toward Riverside in the 1949 Hudson. It’s a little over an hour drive
with good traffic. The number of cars seems like a lot to me…..but Terry
says it’s pretty light. We make it to the AFB and are the third car in. About
20 show total….I’ve seen many of them before so we go to the museum on
site. Inside they have a SR-71 spy plane and some displays on how March
came about. Outside there are a bunch of great planes. B-17, B-29, KC-97
and a few Phantoms of Viet Nam era. There were many many other planes
but I saw what I wanted.
After the show we all went to Farmer Boys restaurant to eat. NOT
impressed at all. They have a big sign upfront…..’Fresh cost more!!”.....never
a good sign. We all eat….I call home to check in...and back to home base.
The drive is a little slower than going out…..but not bad. We get home and it’
s almost time to go to the Fullerton Amtrak station to pick up Catie. She’s
coming in on the Surfliner train. Carie’s train is right on time….we load up
the tons of baggage and head to La Palma to show Catie where I lived as a
kid. We drive right to Anthoney Circle and our house Mom and Dad built in
1968. Not much to see…...looks much like it did…..but she gets to see
where many of my brother Dan’s and I stories happened.
Now we head to one of Catie’s goals in So Cal…...In and Out hamburger!! We
head over to the one near Valley View Blvd. Cheeseburgers, fries animal
style and drinks…….she says it’s as good as rumored! After we eat we head
for the house. We sit for a little while after settling in and Catie says she’s
really tired and heads to bed. I check on her in ten minutes and she’s out
cold…..she was tired. I now realize I am too……..and go myself. Sunday…..
our last day in So Cal…….and things I hate.
January 18 2015
I say it every time I come to California and have yet found a really good way
to deal with it. After a stay and normally a busy visit….I am excited to get
back on the Amtrak Southwest Chief and my roomette…...but then that is
crushed by the reminder I am leaving So Cal. I’m ready to go home….not
ready to leave. Excited to get back to family and home….hate to leave
almost life long friends 3000 miles away. With Catie with me it’s a little
easier. I am looking forward to her riding a train for 3 days and seeing what
it is like. We have talked about all of us taking a long train trip….this is the
first test. But before we ride the train...we have a full day……..train is at 19:
Goal number two for Catie was Disneyland!! A stop at IHOP….shhhhh…..No...
we are not going to try and go to the park and make the train. But Terry has
a good method of getting to Downtown Disney, parking close and being
cheap. It’s a very busy day at Disney but we get to our parking place and
walk toward Downtown. Our first stop is the Disney LEGO store for some
loose brick purchases. We have no LEGO store near us….and each store
has different items….so it pays to visit them all…..that’s my story!! I buy
what we need and we all walk down the ‘street’ shopping. Catie is looking
for some items for her girls and me a few other items. We also walk through
the huge lodge type hotel….only $300 a night….so we just look! Catie finds
all we need and we decide to walk up to the old front gate of Disneyland…...
you can see inside there…..a cheap visit. We can’t even get close to the
front gate. The crowd is backed up going through security check point. We
decide to leave after I get run over twice by people with strollers. They don’
t look anywhere at all….just run you over! Back to the car and home. We
have some final packing to do and then to Fullerton station.
The Southwest Chief starts it’s run to Chicago at Los Angeles Union station.
Fullerton is stop number one...so hopefully it’s on time. We all load up and
drive the few minutes to the station.
Riding the train home with Catie will be….interesting. Myself alone on the
train….I do what I want when I want. Two of us in a Superliner roomette will
be a test for sure. The SWC is about 2 minutes late…..not bad. We say
goodbyes and hugs. Load the tons of baggage we have and the train rolls. It’
s dark and has been…..so not much to see. They are holding a 20:15 dinner
spot for us….which is fine. Catie and I figure out how to make a roomette
work for both of us. The bulk of our stuff is in luggage storage…...but you
need to keep daily stuff in the room. We make it work….but I think I know
what the Space Shuttle astronauts deal with!!! Not much room to spare!!
We get settled in and arrange our ‘stuff’. They call us diner. I am a creature
of habit…….steak, rice, green beans. Catie has veggie lasagna which she
says is great…..I taste it and it is. Cheesecake and she understands part of
why train travel is so great. They treat us very well.
Back to our room and we sit a while. I tell the car captain that I will convert
the room when we are ready. He has no issue with that!!
The ‘dance’ of me and Catie getting the room changed over was different….
but not as hard as I had feared. And this is where I saw traveling with Catie
was going to be different. She had taken a photo of her upper bunk and
posted on social media with the comment ‘looking forward to my trip on the
SWC but that bunk is high!’ Amtrak spotted the post and sent her a video
of how best to get into the upper! Live customer support at 75 mph! Been a
long day and we fall asleep.
January 19 2015
This day was pretty much a normal day on the SWC. Catie was getting used
to walking between cars…….something I recall doing all my life…..but a
challenge to her. There is a knack to walking between two massive rail
cars at 75 mph. At breakfast I order my norm….eggs, potato and bacon.
Catie orders the fruit and oatmeal. Her meal is huge. Orange slices,
grapefruit and strawberries. Some bacon and whole wheat biscuit and big
bowl of oatmeal with raisins and milk. She is surprised…..so am I as I have
never seen anyone order it before. The train is running with very few
passengers. Not that rail travel is off…..Amtrak says there is a real drop
every year late January. This means they sit me and Catie alone at our own
table…...nice but no interaction with others…...but nice one on one time
with my daughter.
We walk the car some. Go to the observation car. The car is full of
Mennonites sitting with kids or working on some type of plan. Debating
zipper use?? We return to our room. get off at each ‘smoke stop’. It’s neat
to get off the train as often as we can…...see different parts of this vastly
different country. And as it seems like we always do when we travel
together…..we make up nicknames for our fellow travelers. This started
when I would take her to Marshall U. During parent student orientation a
few of the parent student pairs had…...nicknames. One was a pair that at
every break would bolt outside and smoke 3 cigs before returning. They
became ‘The Father Daughter Smoke Team’. So this trip we started back...
not missing a step. One passenger at each smoke stop would leave her
kids on the train, exit the train in PJ’s. She became ‘Smokin Mom’.......
Another lady would announce that the ‘fresh air should cure this cough I
have’ then smoke as many cigs as possible before the train pulls away.
She was ‘coughin Ma’. Another one never had cigs or a lighter…….she was
‘Begging Mommy’. I say we were mean…..but most of it was just the truth. I’
m sure some figured I was awful…….having a ‘wife’ young enough to be my
daughter. (we do get looks).
Dinner was steak, rice and green beans for both. Catie understood why I
always order it. Just basic good food. Last night on the SWC and Catie has
big plans for Chicago. Catie has been posting our trip on social media…...
many folks are unaware travel by train at this level was available…...most
thought it was just a big Greyhound bus. So having folks comment realtime
on our trip was something new for me…….and I think we made some
converts. Once dark….we set up the room for sleep. Chicago up next.
January 20 2015
We get up and eat a light breakfast. We get into the station about 30
minutes early and head to the Amtrak lounge. Catie’s media friends have
convinced her we need to go to a real Chicago pizza place. So she has
found the nearest one to the train station. It’s a 1.4 mile walk. She will order
the food as she leaves the station to be ready when she gets there. It’s a
warm 35 degrees today…...I stay in the lounge as I can’t keep up with her.
She has been running some mini-thons and can do better without me. I stay
in the lounge net surfing and reading e-mails. This period of low ridership
shows in the lounge today…..almost empty.
Catie gets back with a deep dish sausage, pepper and onion pizza, two
Cokes and pastry from a shop next to the pizza place that the guys in the
pizza place said she hard to go. We got a table in the lounge and dug in. It
was great. Each slice was heavy and full of toppings. The crust was
somewhat a sourdough and crisp. We eat about half and closed it up. We
will carry it on the Cardinal as they only have a cafe car and not a dner.
The lemon bars were very good. Crisp and chewy with a good taste but not
too sweet. A great meal. We are cleaning up and Amtrak calls the Cardinal
early!!! Our bags are still checked, we have to get them, and we will need
Red Cap service as our car is as far away as it can be and still in the
station. We grab a Red Cap and he grabs our bags. Even he comments that
Catie’s book filled suitcase is heavy…...get that one on a plane!! He drives
us in his little cart at exciting speed through the station and onto the
platform. As we are first class our car is at the front of the train. He gets us
there in quick time and I am happy we choose to go Red Cap this time.
Conductor tells Catie her bag sure is heavy…..I think her bag is heavy!! We
find our roomette. It’s a little different than a Superliner roomette. It’s
actually a tiny bit bigger and has a sink and toilet…...and it’s right out in the
room….so be close friends! The upper bunk is different and there is much
more storage on this Amfleet roomette. Different but nice. We settle in and
they offer us a table in the cafe but we have pizza for later so pass. Dark
now….so we sit and Catie brings up a ‘hotspot’ on her phone so we can
internet a little before bedtime. I figure out the room change over…..it’s
easy...and off to sleep.
January 21 2015
We wake at about 03:00 as the car captain is telling a passenger to quiet
down and go to his room. Seems he wanted to smoke and we were not at a
smoke stop. Seems he had found a few beers too. Catie asked if we need
to check on what was going on…...I said ‘the door is locked, drapes pulled,
Tom (car captain) is handling it just fine. No more noise the rest of the
night. I had not said anything to Catie…...but I spotted this guy in Chicago
and knew he was trouble. I am pretty sure he was well lubed before getting
on. No luggage another hint. Not knowing anything about trains, they do not
get from Chicago to Cinnci in 30 minutes, the final strike. A very minor jump
on a great trip. Amtrak Tom was great.
When we wake we go to the cafe car. Still not hungry from our pizza night
we want a light breakfast. We do get the ‘No he didn’t’ look from four older
ladies at table near us….I tell Catie she’s getting the stink eye…..just adds
to the lore of the trip! We order a croissant and cola. Our waiter is also the
cook on this trip. We get these huge airy soft hot rolls. Also some fresh
strawberries. A great light meal for the last meal of the trip.
Catie will be getting off at Charleston while I will continue onto White Sulfur
Springs about 2.5 hours more ride. We are running on time so we will be in
Charleston fairly early. After breakfast we get Catie’s stuff gathered. Pulling
into the station we hug and say our byes. Catie’s mind is set on seeing her
girls…..she’s been gone 11 days….a long time considering her longest trip
has been overnight. I watch as she walks down the platform…..her girls
running up to her. A classic scene….almost as if from a movie! They all turn
and wave as the train starts up for the final leg of my trip.
The Cardinal runs along the New River gorge for most of it’s time in
southern West Virginia. Some areas are only seen by this train or by canoe
so a great ride ahead. You can see Hawks Nest from the river…...a different
view from across the river. You also ride under the New River bridge…...but
hard to see anything from the train. I take some photos while I clean up
and gather my stuff. Right by the women's Federal prison at Alderson
WV…...Martha Stewarts home for an extended stay. Through Ronceverte
WV….a stop at one time but no longer…..WSS next. We pull in about 20
minutes late…..not bad for the Card! Roslyn is waiting for me with her lumox
of a dog
We load up my luggage and head for home. Another 6,000 mile trip
complete…...this one with a side train trip…..and not alone.
So was it the ‘Amazing Trip’ as I stated back on the 7th? Even with the
delays on the way out in Chicago…….it was. Amazing because some people
from the conference Catie attended took 3 days to get home due to storms.
They sat in airport terminals…..we a private room or dining car!
Amazing because all our planning of Catie flying out, our trip to San Diego,
bus rides around San Diego, Catie’s ride on Surfliner, getting around So Cal,
Disneyland and our trip home…..all went off without much notice. No delays
or issues that disrupted our plans…..today that’s amazing. Amazing to get
to travel with an adult child on a trip this long and seeing this much of the
USA. Amazing is sharing my love of rail travel and a twenty-something
Grades. Amtrak did a pretty good job overall. The shop crew that aloud a
cold front to surprise them, it is Chicago, and catch them off guard and ill-
prepared was an issue…...but I spent the time in a nice warm lounge…..so I
can’t complain much. The Amtrak on board crew all around was super.
Diner crew, car captains, conductors, all gave 100%. Until Amtrak is given
what it really needs……..they do the best possible. Give them a B+. Only
better funding and new equipment, due soon, will get them an A.
Amazing it was then. I am blessed that I get to take trips like this…...and
see the things I get to see……..have the friends I have (for 52+ years) and
have kids and grandkids that understand an old man that loves train travel.
Blessed I have a wife and other family that supports these outings. I hope
these 3 trips are not my last…….but if for some reason they are….at least I’ll
leave behind these memories. Thanks for reading………...