Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Amtrak Is Worth The Time, Money

When my family wanted to go to my parents' house in Shreveport, LA., over the Christmas holiday, we went online to look at prices for me, my wife and my three children, two of which are now adults. It would have cost most than $3600 round trip on even the cheapest airfare. So, we looked into Amtrak. The price was almost, to the dollar, half the price. The only issue was it would take almost three days each direction.

After talking to the kids, and using the word, "adventure" it was decided it would be fun. We made the reservation and did add the cost of something called a "Roomette". That would accommodate two of us with the other three having to ride coach.

I'm writing this at my parents' home and have to say that the first leg, Sacramento-Oakland-Santa Barbara-Los Angeles-Marshall, TX. (home of boxer George Foreman) was a great experience. We did have to take an Amtrak bus between Oakland and Santa Barbara which wasn't a great experience and don't recommend that, especially overnight, but the trains were great.

First, the seats were spacious, could be made to recline so you can sleep comfortably and thus not be tired. The roomette was just fine for us to take turns so there was a nice quiet compartment to sit in, snooze, read, place games, etc.

The train stops frequently enough that if you want to step off to get some fresh air, you can. The food was much better than expected and service was good (an occasional jerky steward on a couple stretches, but the rest of the stewards/conductors were quite nice). I would also recommend the roomette or a regular sleeping room. There is a shower, but it's small and the water wasn't hot, but maybe it was because I may have followed a couple people in the shower.

And, to top it off you meet some really nice people. You cannot have a table to yourself. They call it community seating in the dining car where you are sat with one or two other passengers. I sat with Al, a retired film editor with MGM, Candy, also a community college teacher who lives 30 miles outside of Tucson in the desert by herself, Max, a cowboy who like me went to high school in the Denver area, but now lives on a ranch near Walsenberg, CO., and has a foul mouth (i.e. with my son, Max, sitting with us, he remarks that beers cost $4.50 apiece on the train so they better have naked women that come with the can).

There was also Connie, who was on her way to Oklahoma City to visit her sister, a minister of a Methodist church and to deal with their mom, suffering from dementia. And, the most interesting, Hammish, a South Afrikaner, who loves to travel the world. He was really fascinating. I loved his deep English accent and his dry humor. He was a true gentleman, too.

Though I'm looking to opening presents on Christmas morning, me and the entire family are looking forward to traveling home to Shreveport on the California Zephyr.

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