amtrak

Train trip home

by grace on November 12, 2019

The train arrived at the station right on time on Sunday morning, Sept. 22nd, and left promptly at 9:50.

Here’s a picture of the river as we left the station.

I didn’t take any more pictures most of the trip home. It was a fine trip, and we met some more interesting people. Here’s the only picture i took – these are the two nice guys in the roomette across from us – i can’t remember their names, and i’m not even sure we found that out? they napped quite a bit.

After we’d been going for a couple of hours, we were sitting at lunch, and the train came to a stop in the middle of nowhere. They announced that we had engine problems. Oh boy. they kept making different announcements about what was going to happen; at some point i recall they said that one of the two engines was bad so we were going to go to the next town and swap it out? I think that’s what they said. I just know that we sat around on the stopped train for about three hours or so.

But it wasn’t bad – I like being on a train, it’s all good in my opinion. I think they did swap out the bad engine for a freight engine which doesn’t go as fast as a regular engine, so we were really really delayed.

Our sleeping car attendant was a woman exactly my age named Stephanie. On our other train trips the attendants were fine; i don’t remember anything about the guy on the trip out to Glacier except that he didn’t seem too keen about his job, but he did a perfectly ok job.

But Stephanie, oh my, Stephanie – she had stuff taped up on the wall, things like a menu and some kind of decorations, and she had lights all around her beverage station. the beverage station in the car is the place where you can get coffee and water and juice in the morning. She also had books you could borrow, and she had some kind of contest – she had people think of the most songs about trains that they could, and the winner got…a t-shirt? i wish i could remember more. I know that everybody who participated (and luckily kevin had entered) got a nice little cup full of candy.

Stephanie was short and cheery and just a little bit crazy. It turns out that her mom grew up in Springfield, not that far from where my mom grew up. I immediately called mom and asked her, but she didn’t know Stephanie’s mom, who is the same age as mom but she’s not doing well, about to go into a nursing home?

I don’t think the sleeping attendant has much of a chance to sleep on the trip; we were scheduled to get into Chicago at 3:55 p.m. on Monday afternoon. But because we’d sat around not going anywhere for such a long time we were very very late, and because she hadn’t slept much, Stephanie started getting kind of punchy. she kept wandering up and down the car muttering, “I have to make up 20 beds, I have to make up 20 beds,” because she had to make all the beds and take down all her stuff before the train started up again with another attendant.

We offered to help her make up the beds, but then she said she liked doing it after everybody was off the train, so she could relax and listen to tunes as she did her stuff. She sang a little bit of some Barbra Streisand songs; her favorite movie is “On a Clear Day,” starring Babs, and she started singing the title song. The thing is, my mom starred in that play here at our local Muni when i was a kid and i knew the song, too, so we sang together. Then one of the guys across the way found the song on his phone and we watched it with glee.

Stephanie also told us she’d done a series of podcasts about her experiences on Amtrak called Stephanie’s Train Travels. And that’s why it’s taken me so long to write this last post; i wanted to wait and listen to one before writing. Today I listened to two of them, and they’re terrific! She did 13 in all, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of her stories. I highly encourage you to listen. they’re about 30 minutes apiece.

So anyway – we were going to take the 7:00 P.M. train from Chicago to Springfield on Monday night, but of course we didn’t make that connection.

When we finally got off the train at Union Station we felt crazed from being on the train for so long. About forty of us had missed connections, but the people at Union Station were ready for us. we were told to go to the Amtrak counter, where they would give us hotel vouchers and new tickets for tuesday.

Because i am me, we were first in line for the vouchers. We were all then escorted outside to a waiting coach; it was like a really big fancy van. They shuttled us all the way out to a far suburb 30 miles away, and on the way to the Holiday Inn i looked it up on trip advisor and of course it had wretched reviews.

When we got there, at around 11:00 at night, the place seemed fine – but the two women at the front desk said they had no idea were were all coming. Uh oh. They kept saying stuff like “i don’t know if we have enough rooms,” which seemed a little odd because it was a huge hotel out in the middle of nowhere and i couldn’t imagine they were going to suddenly get an influx of guests.

I called the Union Station Amtrak number on the voucher and the Amtrak guy on the phone said that of course they’d set it up, and then he called the hotel and there was lots of back and forth as the hotel people waited for an Amtrak credit card number and all kinds of nonsense like that.

Meanwhile, the natives were getting restless. We were, of course, the first people in line at the hotel, but some of those in line were older folks who had been traveling on long tours and they started getting irritated. Eventually a handful of them ended up going to the front of the line and saying they’d pay for their rooms.

this seemed a little bit silly to me, but these folks seemed like they were entitled and didn’t care about forking over their own money for rooms.

and like i said, we were all a little bit crazed and overly-tired.

But by midnight kevin and i were in our very nice room, whew! You can’t always believe what they write on TripAdvisor.

the shuttle was going to pick us up at 9:30…no free breakfast at the hotel, but we got twenty bucks of fruit and toast to go.

we boarded our bus and got back to Union Station and here’s a short video of the nice new Metropolitan Lounge. The train was on time, the ride home was uneventful, and we were back to our kitties, just one day late!

gee, i can’t believe i’ve come to the end of the photos and videos.

ok then,

the end (of this adventure),

grace hughes

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After a good night’s sleep, we spent all of Wednesday on the train to Glacier. They let us off the train sometimes, mostly so the smokers could light up. it was nice to get out in Shelby Montana, with about three hours to go before reaching our destination.

Shelby didn’t look like it had a lot going on. But of course they had a casino.

Kevin spotted this tan building, saying it was probably a police station. he spots things like that.

We were going all the way to the far side of Glacier, to the town of Whitefish. But first the train stopped in East Glacier, where we’d leave from when going home. the funny thing is that this photo looks nothing like the station when we boarded on our last day…maybe this is what the station looked like from the other side of the train. because when we got on the train to go home, we were right across from the Glacier Park Lodge. Hmm.

maybe the lodge was hiding behind this other train car! because it was funny that all we could see of East Glacier was this big ugly train.

we passed the tiny town of Essex, and we did see a few houses dotted around. a very remote place to live, for sure.

We arrived at the Whitefish Train Depot right on time, at 9:00, and were exhausted and kind of cold. We were staying for two nights at the Chalet Motel in Whitefish; it was only about a mile and a half from the depot, but even though i’d initially said we could walk there, we didn’t want to do that because like i said, cold and tired, plus we had so much luggage.

for some reason i’d pictured a bunch of taxis waiting outside the Whitefish depot. It was a major town outside the park, right? Nope. No taxis. The other people who got off the train had clearly made plans for getting somewhere, but at first we weren’t quite sure what to do. I didn’t have the Uber app on my phone, so i couldn’t call an Uber, but i had written down the name of two cab companies. I called the first one and the guy said it’d be an hour wait. no way. but the second guy said he could be there in three minutes, yay for that.

he did, indeed, arrive quickly and we were relieved to load our luggage into the back of the car.

but then, the man appeared quite mad. he almost immediately starting long diatribes about this and that, all kinds of things, a constant stream of crazy coming from his mouth. oh brother.

even though it was a quick ride it seemed to go on forever. when we arrived at the motel he kept talking and i quickly ignored him, bustling around getting out our bags. finally, he went away. whew.

I had originally reserved a room at a fancy hotel there in Whitefish, one that would have picked us up at the train station. but I ended up modifying our trip, and we were going to stay there two nights instead of just one, and realized that this motel was about half the price.

besides not having a shuttle for the train station, the Chalet Motel was lovely. It’d been around for a very long time, maybe the oldest motel in Whitefish? But a charming woman named Eva bought it a year ago and clearly poured all kinds of energy and money into making it a charming place.

Here’s the cute red fridge in our room.

and i couldn’t believe the print on this chair – we have the same print on a throw on one of our chairs.

Everything seemed brand new and nice. Plus she served a little continental breakfast down in the tiny reception area, including homemade banana bread.

Whew, we were glad to go to sleep that night.

ok then,

mrs. home from vacation hughes.

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Heading off to Glacier National Park

by grace on October 4, 2019

I got back from my trip to Denver for my friend Christine’s funeral on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 7th.

Three days later, Tuesday Sept. 10th, Kevin and I got on the train in Springfield bound for Glacier.

so i had two days to pack. It was a crazy couple of days.

As I started packing on Sunday, Les was right there helping me. He’s always so darling on top of a suitcase!

Last spring when i put my winter clothes away, i put some of them in one tub and labelled it “Glacier?” We were already planning the trip then, and i had the foresight to put aside a bunch of clothes that i might want to take. i didn’t take all of them, but it made packing a whole lot easier. too many times i’ve put off packing til the last minute, which has made me rush around like crazy trying to grab things, and sometimes i’ve cried. no tears this time.

Tuesday morning Amy drove us to the train station.

well, she was going to drive us in our car, but all of a sudden we didn’t know where the keys were. i thought i gave them to her, but neither of us had them and there were several minutes of panic as searched frantically.

they were in her purse. whew. kevin ended up driving and we arrived safely in plenty of time.

we waited for the 8:30 a.m. train surrounded by piles of luggage. looking at that picture now it does seem like way too much stuff, but one small suitcase was just filled with snacks for hiking. and we did end up eating most of them, plus the suitcase was an old one that kevin had for many years, and it sort of fell apart during the trip so we just left it there in montana.

the train was on time, we settled down in our seats, and it was nice to sit there on the train to chicago, no more rushing around. Aaah.

we arrived right on time, at 12:20, and our train for Montana left at 2:15. When we got off the train we headed for the first class lounge at Union Station, but it had recently moved to a bigger location in the great hall of the station, and it was quite nice and spacious. Crowds of people were camped out there, but after a while i saw a kid go up some stairs and realized there was a second floor. we went upstairs and it was almost empty, plus it was on street level so there were big windows. Comfy sofas and chairs. nice.

an older gentleman was sitting across from us, and told us about a trip he’d taken to Glacier many years ago. he wore a hat and turquoise jewelry and seemed like he had many stories to tell. at one point a lounge attendant came over and shushed him, which seemed kind of rude, but at least they don’t allow loud talking.

I decided to get myself an egg mcmuffin so i whizzed out to the food court.

I then figured i’d pop outside and walked around a bit; it was quite warm that day. but i thought about how we’d spend the rest of the afternoon plus all the next day on the train and i wanted to get a little bit of walking in.

I tried to find our lounge from the street but i couldn’t figure out where it was so i went back inside. I stopped to take a photo of the Amtrak route map. i added the giant arrow to show you which route we took; looking at it now i realize just how very close we were to the canadian border. someday we’ll go there, but not this trip.

As i returned to the first class lounge i heard the boarding announcement for our train! Uh oh. I made it back to Kevin, who didn’t realize it was our announcement and we rushed out of the lounge and ran into a line of people headed from the lounge to the tracks. we were at the front of the line, and soon boarded the train.

Our tiny roomette was fine, just about the same as others we’d stayed in. the bathroom was down the hall in the car, but there were a total of four bathrooms in our car, so that wasn’t bad.

We settled in and soon realized that there was no WiFi on the train, even though it had clearly stated online that there would be. We had a small data package, so we couldn’t play our online games. kevin started reading a book he’d downloaded, and i’m pretty sure he read a few books during our trip. i’d brought an actual book made of paper, i’d downloaded a few books to read offline, I had a sudoku book, a few catalogs and a journal.

i ask you, when will i ever learn not to take all that stuff? i think i realized it was pointless a few trips back; i have a distinct memory of taking a few New Yorker magazines with me to europe, and the magazines got to travel with us but i never even opened one.

of course i didn’t read or listen to anything on the train to montana. i did play one game on my ipad that i could play offline, but what else did i do? why didn’t i at least write in the journal?

because that’s just the way i am. oh well. no worries.

i did go to the observation car because a guy was going to give a talk about the Mississippi River, which we were following. I listened to his talk for a little bit but it wasn’t super interesting. here’s a photo; on my phone it said we were in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

we had an early dinner. throughout our train journey we always had to sit with two other people at our table, and i told kevin that i think he talked more during our trip than he ever had his whole life.

that first night we sat across from a couple of women who were on some kind of guided tour. they had taken a bus to chicago and were taking the train…somewhere…and were going to get on a River Boat later in the evening. so even though it was a tour they got to mix it up a little. they were friendly and interesting.

we went to bed early, and i always like to sleep on a train, lulled to sleep by the rocking of the car.

ok then,

mrs. h.

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the nice thing about disembarking from the Queen Mary is that it’s fast and efficient.  we walked to our assigned place for disembarking…it was the Winter Garden again.  Our scheduled departure was 9:50, but when we got that at 9:30, they started herding us out!  we stood in a huge customs line once we were in the terminal, but then got called out of line and into a tiny little line because we’re American!  yaaay for being american!

We climbed into a cab, and he was a speedy driver who knew what he was doing, and soon we were buzzing up the west side, and got to Penn Station by 11:00!  amazing.  we found an elevator to get down to the main level – we’d had to try to maneuver up the escalator with our too many bags when we’d arrived in NYC on the way to wales.

We dropped all our bags at the Amtrak lounge and walked over to the High Line, a relatively new park in NYC.  the first part of it was opened in 2009, and the final section in 2014.  here’s what wikipedia sums up about it:

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line.

it was kind of cool, and here’s kevin, before we started encountering masses of people.

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on the left is a cool part on top of the street – there are steps on it that you can sit on, and watch the traffic go underneath you.  there’s a clip on the “saturday night live” opening of one of the guys in the show hanging out there.  we didn’t see him.

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this gives you a better idea of all the people, and there were even more as we continued to walk.

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the view from the steps.

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it was a hot day, and got hotter, and we walked around a while and stopped into a vintage poster shop because they had a poster in the window of a vintage “grace line” ship poster.  it was $900.  we didn’t buy it.

more walking, more heat…we just wanted to get on that train!  we got a delicious burger a some outside food happening near penn station, then went inside and relaxed til our train started boarding.  we were happy that this time we’d checked our bags all the way to springfield, so we didn’t have to deal with them.

we got into our tiny cabin, and this fabulous pick was resting there.  i just saw it in my bedroom the other day, because i took it home.

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the train pulled out of the station, i think it was about 3:30, whoo hoo!  but after about ten minutes it stopped. and then they had to pull it back to the station!  i don’t know what was wrong with it.  we decided to go to dinner even though i wasn’t hungry at all, because the train was full and the train steward said there would be a stampede for the dining car later.

the power went out a couple of times as we ate, but our waiter was prepared and gave us a glow stick.

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a little less fancy dinner than those on the queen mary!  dessert was no-sugar vanilla pudding.

we were still sitting in the tunnel, mind you, but the train finally started moving at six.

we passed the scenic Hudson River, and there were lots of people out enjoying the day, and i realized it was Labor Day weekend (only because i saw it on the news).

we went to bed very early.

when we got up on saturday, i realized that we were three and a half hours behind schedule – there seemed to be no chance that we’d make our 1:45 train from chicago home to springfield.

i wonder why i took this photo?  maybe because i was thinking about all the beauty we’d seen, and how ugly this place was.

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ditto this…this is when we were heading into chicago, i believe.

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and now, sitting here exactly 364 days after we left for our trip last year, i can’t even remember what happened when we got back to chicago.  i think we just sat in the sleeper car lounge and hung out for a while.  ate some food.

here’s the last picture from that day, the clock on the wall says 9:40, relaxing with a glass of wine and Winne, who was glad we were home.

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later in the evening, winnie was happy to move to kevin’s lap.

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and the next morning things were back to normal, with lester trying to relax as usual.

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whew.  i can’t believe it was so long ago, i can’t believe this is the final posting, i can’t believe i actually finished posting before a year passed, but also can’t believe that it’s taken me this long.

in my journal on the last day, i wrote that i’d love to go back and walk other parts of the coast path.  i know it’s supposed to get more challenging the farther north you go, but i did manage to survive many up and downhills.  we could do it, and it’d be fun.

but then there are also so many other places we could go…

we’ll just have to see.  and i’ll have to start planning.

ok then,

mrs. finally finished posting about wales which was an entire year ago hughes.

 

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Wales Day 2 – Sunday, 2 Aug, 2015

September 23, 2015

this day was mostly about the train ride, which was nice and relaxing.  kevin spent a lot of time reading; he brought a few books with him, and got through at least two by the time our train trip was done.  what was he going to read the rest of the trip? i, too, brought […]

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Wales Day 1- Saturday, August 1, 2015

September 22, 2015

it’s convenient that the first day of our trip coincided with the first day of the month. we got up early cause the train was going to leave at 9:30 SHARP. First, we had to pet the kitties a little more.  so sad to be leaving them for five weeks!  but at least they had […]

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