Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Amtrak Antics – From Appealing Idea to Ridiculous Reality

About two months ago, something in Arkansas required our attention, in the form of a visit. We were in Massachusetts at the time sticking to an extremely busy schedule with a month-long stay in Belgium and a three-week house sit in Oakland after that. The trip to Harrison, AR would have to wait until our house sit was finished, but the planning occurred right then and there.

The distance from Oakland to Harrison is 2000 miles (3000 km), not something we wanted to drive twice with limited time, despite the good fuel economy of our Prius. Flights to the middle of Arkansas were expensive and still required other transportation to get to the airport and to Harrison. A one-way rental was also quite pricey and meant extra costs for fuel and accommodation. And, unsurprisingly, nobody needed an RV relocation to Arkansas.

“Why don’t we take the train?” Mark suggested and a plan was born. We booked two legs on Amtrak, leaving from Jack London Square in Oakland at 9am on Friday, July 14th and arriving in Little Rock, Arkansas, at 11:30pm on Sunday, July 16th. The first leg – on the Coast Starlight – would bring us to Los Angeles in 12 hours, where we had a one-hour layover. The second leg – on the Texas Eagle – would take us the rest of the way in about 50 hours. We reserved coach seats for $350 in total. We would not have a shower, a bed and a warm meal for three days. Mark and I love train rides, so we faced an exciting adventure; an epic train journey.

Our train for 50 hours – well, part of it

Day 1:

“We have a problem!” Mark utters, as he barges into the bathroom, where I’m just pulling up my pants. Our friend Eric would give us a ride to the metro in a few minutes. From there, we would continue to the train station, well in time for our 9am departure.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“The Coast Starlight is coming from Seattle and already has a two-hour delay. If we get on it, we will miss our connection in LA,” he says. Eric is ready to give us a lift now, but Mark is making frantic phone calls for half an hour to see what’s next. Eric starts work. We sit around, digesting the new, unappealing plan, and eventually get to Jack London Square by an incapable Lyft driver who does not know her way around the city. The 20-minute ride turns into a 40-minute one, but luckily, we took that into account.

What follows is a 6-hour (make that 7 because of an hour delay) cramped train ride inland to Bakersfield. Instead of wonderful coastal views, plenty of space and the freedom to roam and eat our lunch (Coast Starlight “privileges”), we are packed around a table with two other passengers and most of our luggage at our feet (the overhead bins are extremely narrow); our suitcases and cooler are out of reach.

Once in Bakersfield, we cram into a bus for 2.5 hours – 2 suitcases in the hold, cooler and food bag at our feet and two backpacks with electronics on our legs. The seats do not recline. Luckily, I do not get motion sick, but this is not what we paid and signed up for. My plan to write an article about the Coast Starlight is dismissed – so is the potential income.

Our next train leg from LA begins on time. We find our seats and are elated at the leg room and reclining capabilities of our “home” for two days and nights. We eat our salad dinner and try to sleep. It is hard with all the talking, coughing, phoning and strolling people in the corridor and through the heavy, sliding doors.

Day 2:

“The toilets in your car are not working anymore. Please, use the ones of the car in front of you. Do not enter the sleeper cars. I repeat…” The day has barely started when we hear the announcement. I am exhausted after a sleepless night on a half-reclined chair. Mark compares it to a night in business class, but without the service. I wouldn’t know. I have never flown anything other than economy. And that is not likely to change. I have so many writing projects to work on. Instead, I gaze through the window, catch up on my diary and visit the sightseeing car.  Each time the train stops, we get out for a few minutes.

The train has AC outlets and Mark hooks up our Wirie for internet, the AC is cranking, defying the 90°F (32°C) heat outside. No excuses to be lazy here. I manage to squeeze out some emails. “It is the weekend,” I remind myself. That helps to not feel guilty about doing absolutely nothing all day.

“PA check, PA check, PA check!” “PA check, PA check, PA check!” It goes on for 20 minutes. I’m trying to read a book. My headache from yesterday continues. “Shortly, I’m coming around to take dinner reservations. Enjoy a delicious meal aboard this train, cooked by our chefs.” He is a funny one, this announcer. Our neighbors told us about the disgusting breakfast they were served in the morning. It was cooked in the microwave. We’re glad we brought our own food.

Day 3:

5am: We lost 2 hours yesterday, crossing into New Mexico and then Texas. Our bodies are sore and tired. To them, it is only 3am, when the train stops in San Antonio, TX for a couple of hours. Everyone is up and about. Our train splits up here. Part of it continues to Louisiana, our Texas Eagle (with destination Chicago) receives a different locomotive and extra cars. Mark and I get off to stretch our legs. It is pitch black out. Then, we see our train leave. “Don’t worry,” one of the Amtrak attendants says, “it will be back in 20 minutes.” We decide to have a big, unhealthy breakfast at Denny’s: eggs, hash browns, biscuits and pancakes. It is Sunday after all and we have deserved a warm meal. My headache is gone.

10am: “We are running low on ice, so I can only give you these two cups,” the employee in the cafeteria tells me. We need some ice for our cooler, not much, but more than this skimpy lot. Ice is said to be free on this long-distance train. I send Mark to work his magic. He comes back with a smile and two more cups of ice. Our (healthy) food will survive.

11:30am: “As you can see, the train has stopped. There is a truck stuck on the tracks. We have to wait until the railroad is cleared,” the conductor’s voice sounds over the PA system. I remember reading about “What to do when your car is stuck on railroad tracks?” when studying for my driver’s permit. I guess this, really, does happen. Once in a conductor’s lifetime, apparently!

12:10pm: We are moving again. The 40-minute delay could be made up later. We enjoy our sandwiches and fill our water bottles again. Drinking water is free on this journey.

1:30pm: We are stopped and the power disappears with a buzzzzz. No AC, no lights, no nothing. Soon, it becomes quite hot. The electricity has had hiccups before (ask Mark who has to re-set our router each time), but never this long.  Apparently, one of our engines has a problem. The power returns, the passengers sigh; the train is still motionless.

2pm: Our train has not budged. “We have a major problem with one of the locomotives. We have lost the compressor for the brakes. This is a serious issue. We have called in the specialists and they are on their way.” The conductor has lost his cheery voice.

2:15pm: “The compressor is fixed and we are on our way.” Mr. Cheery is back. I look at Mark in disbelief.

2:30pm: We stop again. The next announcement is inaudible. The intercom in our car must be broken. The electricity went off again as well. Our car is blocking a railroad crossing this time. Red blinking lights and ding, ding, ding. The pick-up trucks that are waiting on each side, turn around. Good plan.

2:35pm: The power comes back on. The conductor is walking around the train, outside. We are the last car. What is he doing?

2:50pm: The train moves a little bit to clear the crossing and stops again. The PA system returns to life. “We still have a problem with the compressor. The professionals are called in and are on their way. They will have a spare compressor with them in case they cannot fix this one.”

3:20pm: “The mechanics are aboard and are fixing the compressor as we speak. Soon, we will be on our way again!” We are getting used to the familiar voice – and lies – now.

3:55pm: “The specialists cannot fix the issue.  We are calling in a tow engine, which will pull us to the next station, where we will drop off the passengers for Oklahoma City and their luggage. A bus will be waiting there for them. Then, we will be pulled into Fort Worth.” We are still stuck in the middle of nowhere. This delay is huge and incomprehensible. For a moment, we think everybody needs to be transported into buses, but that misunderstanding is cleared up, once the PA system in our car works again.

6:35pm: We are moving! A freight train arrived 50 minutes earlier, to lend us an engine. It was supposed to take 15 minutes to get ready and go. Instead, it took much longer. Again, we don’t seem to hear announcements anymore in this car.

7:25pm: The train stops in Cleburne, TX to offload the passengers going to Oklahoma who take a bus from here, because they missed their connection in Fort Worth. We sit at this station for half an hour and don’t know why. This is becoming infuriating! No information, just a grumbling crowd. The way Amtrak “solves” problems is the epitome of inefficiency. On all accounts.

8:30pm – 9:30pm: We stand still in Fort Worth, where locomotives are swapped out. Mark and I eat our dinner with a glass of port and try to sleep. We each have two seats to ourselves. It is a bit more comfortable, but there is a lot of commotion in the car. We were supposed to get a good night sleep in a hotel tonight, because tomorrow is work day and we have a lot more travel to do and errands to run.

Amtrak crew and a die-hard passenger who loves riding these trains (not me)

Day 4:

We arrive in Little Rock, Arkansas at 5:10am, with a 5.5-hour delay. There, we snatch an Uber ride to get to the hotel, for a few hours of rest, a shower and work. We are exhausted. We walk to the bus station in 100° heat and take a three-hour bus ride to Harrison at 11am.  A big billboard entering town warns visitors: ”’Diversity’ by definition means white genocide.” We attend to our business as quickly as possible. Then, we have to get back. All the way to Northern California…

Conclusion:

Like most passengers on the Texas Eagle that day (and, believe it or not, but all the trains we took were fully booked), we are tempted to say “Never Again”! Long-distance train journeys have a certain appeal. Each one is an adventure. The ones on Amtrak even more so, it appears. What we have learned first-hand is that all the rumors about Amtrak are true. The company is ran very inefficiently and nobody seems to care about multiple-hour delays, reroutings or change of itineraries/schedules except for the passengers. It was an experience, but we are not jumping to do it again. Beware: anyone traveling on Amtrak’s long distance trains should have lots of time, and no connections!

Tips for long-distance train travel on Amtrak

Mark and I did a bit of research about these trips online, before we left. It is how we discovered that food on the trains is very expensive and unhealthy. As budget-minded people, we had a small cooler and a bag of food with us, which contained all our meals – cereal, milk and fruit for breakfast, bread, cheese and veggies for lunch and pre-packed salads and home-prepared Asian noodle salads for dinner. And lots of salty snacks.

First night on the Texas Eagle – late dinner of salads

Other than your preferred snacks, food and drinks, we recommend each passenger to bring:

  • Patience
  • A blanket
  • A pillow
  • Toiletries, towel and wash cloth
  • Patience
  • A sweater and socks
  • Entertainment (book and/or electronic devices)
  • A refillable water bottle
  • More patience

Have fun traveling on Amtrak. Just beware of delays and don’t expect too much!

Update: After Amtrak customer support ignored my long complaint letter for a week, we called them. For half an hour, we explained our experiences and disappointment to multiple people, requesting a refund. Amtrak’s policy is to never provide refunds after the dates of travel. We did, however, receive an Amtrak voucher with lots of restrictions. “Free train trip, anyone?” I would offer, but, the voucher is non-transferable and Mark has to be one of the passengers…

Have you ever taken a long-distance train? From Amtrak? In Europe or Australia? Elsewhere? What was your experience?

44 Comments

  1. Great adventure. I rode the trains from Charleston, SC to Portland, Oregon and back before AmTrak was born. The Portland Rose was my favorite.

    • Now that is a long-distance train ride, Scott! How long did the Charleston – Portland trip take?? Maybe the trains were better run back then as well? It sounds like an amazing adventure. I do love train rides, but, when on a schedule, it can get a bit nerve-wrecking! 🙂

  2. AAccckkk! Sorry you had such a bad experience! I have never traveled long-distance on Amtrak, and this is why. I’ve never heard good stories, unfortunately. We have used some shorter routes on occasion, but the U.S. train system will never live up to European standards. Then again, those standards differ by country as well. I’ve used those trains quite a bit, with varying results all across the continent.

    Hope your “business” in Arkansas at least went well …? You probably didn’tt have much time to see anything of interest. Hope the drive is/was fun and interesting!

    • Hey Lexie! Nope… we barely had any time in Little Rock. Here I was hoping to check out the Clinton Library or walk around for a couple of hours on Monday morning, while Mark started work, but we really needed a shower, some rest and some re-organization of our belongings. And at 10am, we already needed to head over to the bus station. We will have to come back one day, maybe on an across country road trip?

      I’m hoping to write a blog about the drive on Wednesday. One thing I can already tell now: it was extremely exhausting, combining all the things needing done every day! We are very happy to be back in Sebastopol with Lola and have the ability to work at a desk again. Stay tuned… 🙂

  3. Let me tell you Liesbet that train looks absolutely first class compared to our train and trip overnight from New York to New Orleans. What a nightmare trip!! Let me guess why the trains are so bad going down south. Disgusting!! The train was on freight lines so was very bumpy and very uncomfortable. We did book first class, the guy laughed when we asked where that was. Yes, we were stood out like a sore thumb on the train!! 🙂 All good experience! I should post about it 🙂 Glad to hear you both survived it!

    • And you did post about it! 🙂 Your trip does sound pretty horrible and I believe you about the Texas Eagle looking more comfortable. It certainly was after that inland trip to Bakersfield earlier in the day! It was pretty nice, especially the reclining seats and the sightsee car. The ride was often bumpy, but we were not surprised by that. The most interesting thing to me now, is that this whole three-day journey has become a blur. It just passed by and, since we didn’t really do much more than sit around in a sleepy haze, it is almost like it was a dream. Very weird! But, we did survive. 🙂

  4. Arggghhhh I got so stressed reading this haha. Yup trains in the U.S. unfortunately do not come close to those bullet trains in France (especially), but all over Europe, which are stellar. They are as you probably now, punctual, efficient and yes, can be fun too.

    We took a sleeper train across France, South to North and had a private compartment with “beds” and slept to the clickety click of the train wheels throughout the night. We still took our own food though…French picnic, you can’t go wrong.

    We took another train a different trip, from the South of France to Barcelona. Hassle free. Another time my train from Belgium to Paris was stopped due to a suicide and we all had to get off after 2 hours of waiting, and board buses to Paris! Ha!

    Amtrak from all reports I have ever heard is archaic and to be avoided if possible. You definitely just confirmed that! Ah well, sure makes for a good story. You two are definitely troopers! ( Still smiling and all…)

    Peta

    • We just had to experience it all for ourselves, as I know you can certainly understand, Peta. 🙂 We figured a little bit of a delay can’t do us much harm and we prepared well with the food. Of course, we never expected a 5.5 hour delay. If the previous nights had been OK sleeping-wise or if we would have a relaxed day on Monday, we also would not have cared as much. A sleeper is certainly the way to go.

      Going with the flow is the best way to deal when taking an Amtrak train. Maybe that should be their motto? Having expectations kills all the joy! The interesting thing (to us, anyway) is that all these trains were fully booked. They are a great alternative for long-distance travel for people who can’t afford plane tickets or don’t have a car, as we have discovered.

      You train trips in Europe sound quite enjoyable. Except for the delayed one. You hear about a suicide on Belgian train tracks once in a while, unfortunately.

      If there is one thing we actually don’t need right now, it is more stories… I truly can’t keep up, with the blogs, the book and living through them. 🙂

  5. Reading your updates on Facebook I could feel your frustration. Seems like a large suitcase of patience is in order. I think you two did amazingly well. Not sure sitting up for three nights would have been very easy. Hope the business in Arkansas went well after the journey to get there.

    • I tried to contain my emotions a bit on Facebook, but didn’t totally succeed. Then, when exhaustion set in, it all didn’t matter as much anymore. Do you think Amtrak counts on that? 🙂 The business was quick, which was good, Sue, the quickness anyway. But, there were some serious disappointments at first, some of which were dealt with the following days. Wednesday: the big reveal!! 🙂

  6. Yup Yup and YUP! I’m sorry to hear that you had such a miserable experience. But I seem to remember sharing similar stories before you left. In retrospect, its good to collect a few more funny stories, but at the time, I was miserable!

    You both were so wise to bring a cooler with your own food. I was on my way back from long-distance hikes so my only gear was my pack with dehydrated food and candy bars. And lots of incredibly overpriced microwave dinners (as you mentioned).

    Glad you made it though!

    • Gabe, I’m sitting here, waiting for the “I told you so!” 🙂 I guess in your case, it was an extension of your long hiking journey – the food and no shower portions anyway. But, it must have felt awesome to have a soft cushion under your bum and zone out for a bit, mind tuned in on nothing but the views out the window, slowly realizing you were going back to civilization! Surreal, probably. And that is how I think back about the experience right now as well: quite surreal. It was a flash experience; a funny story to tell.

      We always seem to make it – the problem is what has been sacrificed during, or right after the exhausting experiences… Not something I ever thought about or realized when I was having adventures like these in my twenties!

  7. OMG, stressed just reading that! I don’t like travelling by train much in the UK, but as Peta points out above there are some good routes in Europe. I have fantasies occasionally about doing the Trans-Canada or one of the Australian long distance ones, but then I remember I would probably get bored and frustrated not being able to do anything active.

    • Boredom doesn’t seem to be the problem, Anabel. I compared the journey to a long, overnight plane trip, where, after a few hours, you are so exhausted you don’t feel up for anything. That, I found a total waste of time, really, and for three days. I wanted to do so much, from reading to writing, and you get in this funky state where all you can do is veg. A pity. If one would be able to sleep well at night, it would be a totally different experience and much more enjoyable and productive!

      I once rode the train all the way from Sydney to Broome – east coast to west coast – in Australia in my twenties and that was quite an adventure. The only thing I remember about that one is the awesome views, the crappy seats (they did not recline) and meeting interesting travelers along the way. I think that was a three day, two night one, but I stopped in Adelaide for a bit to break it up, I believe. It was such a long time ago.

      You can always walk the length of the train a few times a day to stay active! 🙂 And, read a book if not too tired. I initially saw it as a luxury to have so much time at my disposal to read and write… but miserably failed.

  8. Nice to see smiles on your faces in spite of the debacle. A great place for the US to start in infrastructure in investment would be her rails. There is so much beauty to see in the states and the AMTRAK crews are very dedicated. I have traveled across the US and back via rail and was fortunate not to have your experience. The best rail ride for me was through the Rockies.

    • You are right about the Amtrak employees, Lisa. They are really into their jobs, especially the conductors. I never realized that announcements on trains sound like someone is going to win the lottery, or go for a fair ride. They are so cheery and they use a very uplifting voice, as if one is having the best time of their life. Funny!

      Riding a train through the Rockies sounds amazing! The landscapes in the US are truly spectacular. Such a diversity, depending on where you cross, though. I truly love the concept of train travel across the country, but, unfortunately, all those rumors about Amtrak are true. And, thing is that the current administration wants to get rid of these long-distance train journeys (they cost too much government money), so you would think that Amtrak would up their game a bit to get the public’s support…

  9. Wow what an interesting account of your Amtrak adventure Liesbet. Thanks for sharing. Very interesting to see the differences between US and European trains.

    • Yep. The differences are quite big. But, I think the price difference is as well. Trains in the US are the “cheap” way to travel long distances, especially to places that are not plane hubs. I’m curious to find out how this journey compares to the Trans-Siberian Railroad… That one has been high on my list since I was 16. 🙂

  10. I’ve taken 12+ hour train rides in China (where if you aren’t amongst the first to use the toilet you deeply regret it)! I wonder if that experience will prepare me for Amtrak? Great post!

    • After experiences like these in China, you are prepared for Amtrak journeys, believe me, Donna! 🙂 The bathroom stories I have from China are not to be outdone anywhere else.

  11. Thanks for your detailed review of the Amtrak journey…loved the way you broke it down journal-style by time. I have never traveled by long-distance train in the United States, but have done so countless times in western Europe where it is the preferred method of travel and have loved every one of those trips. On the other hand, I have also traveled by train in India where many of the same issues you encountered cropped up. As you say a great deal of P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E is required to get through the ordeal!

    Also, you mentioned it as an aside, but is there really a billboard with that message in Little Rock, Arkansas?

    • Yep. That billboard exists, on the way into Harrison, Arkansas (not Little Rock) – a big, bright green sign with black letters and a hashtag (#) white genocide on the bottom. Disgusting!!!

      I’m looking forward to do some extensive train travel in Europe one day, and my “dream” has been to do the Trans-Siberian Railroad through Mongolia one summer as well. I do remember some awful train rides in India, but, as a westerner, it was not expensive to upgrade to a higher class… With the right mindset everything is possible! 🙂

  12. The only time I’ve ever been on a train was a commuter from Baltimore to DC…and what happens? we’re delayed 30 minutes because of a track malfunction (it’s normally a 45 minute commute). Union Square in DC is a really cool station with lots of shopping and amenities, none that I had time for! I had booked the bus tour for a day checking out the monuments. Your trip sounds horrific! My dad and step-mom always take the slow train from Sacramento to San Diego–takes 12-15 hours!! After reading your account, I’ll fly or just drive…patience may be a virtue I don’t have…for trains! Good luck on your next journey!

    • Isn’t it unbelievable how long that train ride from Sacramento to San Diego takes? The same is true for the Coast Starlight. When we booked the tickets, we were wondering why it would take 12 hours from Oakland to LA, while it is 6 to drive! Anyway, we would have been fine with it, since we expected it to be long. What we didn’t expect was not getting on that train at all!

      You’ll have to go back to DC to do some shopping in Union Station! A lot of cities seem to have a Union Station – people are very creative with names here… 🙂

  13. Kudos to you both. I don’t know how you endure all that traveling, lol. For me, I just want to click my heels and be wherever it is I’m going. Too much hassle. 🙂

    • Easy does it, right? To be honest, that is why we enjoy this house and pet sitting lifestyle so much – it is comfortable and convenient to live in a house with all its amenities, after all these long journeys. Traveling is, indeed, tiring, and one needs a (long) break from it once in a while. 🙂 I have often thought about that kind of heel clicking travel as well, Debby, since the destination, to me, has always been more important than the journey…

  14. Wow – what an awful sounding “adventure.” I’ve taken Amtrak many times but it was years ago on the East Coast, mostly Washington DC to NYC. Once my sister and I took one up to Montreal. Long trip, but no real hassles. Sounds like I would not enjoy present-day Amtrak.

    • It appears that the Amtrak trains in the Northeast of the US are better organized and on time, because they are more frequent and more people use them – to commute, mainly. Reading and listening around, once you leave the DC/NYC/New England area, things fall apart… 🙁

  15. This completely discourages me from every taking a long distance train ride. It appears as expensive as flying (when you figure in food and other expenses) and anything but relaxing.

    • I still have high hopes that this trip was an exception… Flying certainly is much quicker and that means it is easier to recover from. We have learned our lesson, but have a hard time spending $1000 on plane tickets if the – slower and more tiring – alternative costs $400.

  16. Well, you’re still smiling in your photos, but we’ll chalk that one down to experience 🙂 🙂

    • I think the smiles were all from the first day. 🙂 Then, the eyes became droopy and the hair greasy – the expressions zombie-like. 🙂

  17. Wow! What a shame that Amtrak doesn’t measure up when it comes to long-distance train rides. I’ve done some of the most epic long-distance train rides in the world (I even wrote a book about it), but not so much in the States, other than the 400 mile “commute” to visit my grandparents when I was growing up.

    • It might be interesting to do one of these Amtrak trips in the US, Nora – for old-time’s sake or for comparison’s sake. They do not live up to the European standards, though. But, they are an experience nevertheless! Are you still in Grenada??

      • No, I left Grenada years ago. Spent 3 years apprenticing with a shaman in Peru then doing “shaman-things” in Ecuador. Now, I’m house-sitting in Japan, and headed for Bali next week!
        But…yeah. Maybe an Amtrak trip could be interesting. I took the Via Rail train across Canada in 2007…that was fun. Hmm….food for thought!

        • If one has no time restrictions, I think these long train journeys are “the thing”, especially if one gets enough rest to be productive during the day. 🙂 Awesome about the house sitting in Japan and Bali. We hope to go international with the pet sitting at some point as well, when “business” in the US has been taken care of.

  18. Aargh. I can’t believe I didn’t respond to your post earlier, Liesbet. Please forgive me. I could have sworn I wrote a comment. (It’s a scary thing when I write in my brain, convinced I’ve done it on paper!)

    Your Amtrak trip sounds beyond awful. Thank you for sharing this cautionary tale. Trains in Canada are remarkably pleasant by comparison, although I have to admit that I say that with only many one-day train rides to go on. I’m sure that the multi-day ones, even if better organized than Amtrak, would still feel unending. So glad that you’re home.

    • Thanks, Karen. It was still an interesting experience… “Home” for another two weeks, then on to the next month-long house sit in New Mexico, a state where I have never visited or lived yet. I am excited! I’d love to go on a long train ride in Canada. The country sure lends itself for such a journey. If only I could sleep during the nights, I wouldn’t mind spending days on trains with nothing else to do but read and write (and watch the scenery go by). It all sounds more romantic than it actually is…

      I know what you mean about the “head writing”. I do it all the time. Sometimes to the point whether I don’t remember whether I also did it for real, like you. And, it always sounds much better in my brain than if and when I eventually try to reword it on the screen. 🙂

  19. You have completely burst my bubble about the charm of riding the rails. YIKES! I’ve taken a few short train rides up the coast and they were delightful… but only a few hours long. A girlfriend and I rode the trains in Europe several years ago and they were great. I’ll definitely think twice about taking Amtrak anywhere on a trip that includes an overnight journey.

    That billboard is disgusting… and the fact that apparently it’s OK to put it up is even more disgusting.

    • Sorry about bursting that bubble, Janis, in regards to Amtrak train rides and some of the people and communities in this country. 🙁 I think as long as you don’t do overnight trips and, ideally, don’t have a connection to catch, train rides in the US still have their charm. Hey, we have to believe in that, now that we have a voucher that expires in one year. 🙂

  20. You are so brave to do this in coach! Sorry for all the issues with the train.
    A couple of years ago we took a 50+ hours Amtrak trip from Portland to Denver with a 5 hour layover in Sacramento, but in a sleeper car room with a shower and toilet. (There is also a more affordable roomette option with showers/toilets in the car. Meals are included.)
    The trip was great! Both trains were on time. There were edible options on the menu, and the scenery was AMAZING.

    • Hi Lynn! I’m glad you had a more positive experience on Amtrak. Having a cabin in the sleeper train (with or without shower and toilet) seems to be the wiser, more comfortable and more enjoyable option. I can imagine the scenery was spectacular, especially when approaching Colorado. We just drove through the Rocky Mountains for two days this weekend and it was amazing. Must be even better to watch that scenery through a train window. 🙂

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