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Trip report - Bucket List - DEN/PDX in a Roomette

Trip report - Bucket List - DEN/PDX in a Roomette

Old Jun 23, 16, 11:04 am
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Trip report - Bucket List - DEN/PDX in a Roomette

Trip Report Ė Bucket List Roomette DEN/PDX

I finally did it. For years and years, Iíve wanted to travel the rails longhaul. Iíve had enough Amtrak points from sign up bonus + a few points moved in from Chase to book a roomette pre-devaluation. But first, I needed an Ďexcuseí to start travel. As luck would have it, I had a meeting to attend in Denver. Ok, so now what. Where should I start the trip? Denver or the Northwest? I wanted to get a long ride for my money/points. After discussion with jackal and CMK10, it was suggested the ride west from Denver would work best for my trip. I planned on heading all the way to Seattle, but I was told the ride north of PDX wouldnít be worth the extra train time.

The California Zephyr arrives Denver at 7:15 am, and departs an hour later. I wanted to be there to see the train arrive, and arrive it didÖ backwards. #5 backs in at DEN. The Conductor looks out of the back door of the train with a walkie talkie, as he guides the train in ever so slowly.

Adjacent to the track is a sign for Sleeper passengers. I was #1 on the line. The conductor first checks in coach passengers, then sleepers. I figured this was to allow extra time to prepare the rooms. Nathan was old time railroad. Working since 1979, he was like one of those perfect flight attendants you get every once in a while. He explained everything to me. He had coffee prepared first thing, otherwise youíd have to wait to get a cup in the dining room, where all meals are free to sleeping car customers. Mid-day, he put out some cookies and candy for his passengers. I didnít see that in the other sleeper cars. He also had some books out.

Iím told to board the second car, room 8 upstairs. The pictures Amtrak provides on their website are just like hotel pictures. They make everything look so good. Truth be told, it was better than I expected when I look back. The two seats are extra wide, with lots of legroom. Water and trip information are provided. I headed to breakfast. More below on the meals.

We pulled out on time, making our way slowly out of DEN. The next several hours west were spectacular. Iíve been to Colorado several times. Iíve driven I-70 and the highway travels adjacent to the Colorado River and Amtrak right-of-way. It was good viewing since I didnít have to worry about the road. The snow covered mountains, lakes, river, and greenery were making this trip a wise decision. We crossed the Continental Divide as we headed through the Moffat Tunnel.


I was logging in arrival times the entire trip. We were on time or just a few minutes behind. I canít say that about The Coast Starlight, which was 70 minutes late arriving in Sacramento. If the wi-fi ever worked (except at a station), I could have posted this earlier.

At the beginning of the trip, the Conductor explained it all. Wanna drink in your room, no problem. Wanna drink your booze in public, sorry, weíll kick you off at the next stop. He was clear about this.

I did bring reading material. Big mistake. Every time I started to read, I missed something. After doing this a couple of times, I stayed glued to my seat in the car with the nice big (almost) floor to ceiling windows. I met lots of nice people this way. There was a tour group of 70 Ė 80 year olds that boarded the evening before in Omaha. Most of them were very nice. Some were a hoot. When they got off in Reno the next morning, it got pretty quiet, and all of a sudden, the parlor car had available seats.

Iím from New York. I was surprised to see someone say a prayer before lunch. Maybe I shouldnít have been surprised. After lunch, a large group of Amish got off in Colorado Springs. There were close to 50+ Amish at the station. I thought how expensive it must be to feed a family multiple meals on the train if youíre riding coach. Maybe the sleeper pays for itself.

As we approached GS, you could see rafts riding the Colorado (they always waved at the train), and people on bicycles adjacent to the river. We did that about 15 years ago as the 5 pulled into GS. Thatís how long I wanted to take this trip. I did ride without my wife. If she would have seen the upper bunk, she would have been a litlle upset. FYI, you canít look out of the window from the upper. I slept pretty well on the train. There are no locks on the compartment, unless youíre inside it. When I said to Nathan < eek>, he told me not to worry.

You can read between GS and Grand Junction. I didnít think the ride was anything special. As we approached Green River, I thought how depressing this town is.

Bathroom/Showers

The bathroom on board is like an airline bathroom. There are a few in each sleeper + 1 shower. On the Coast Starlight, I found a bathroom that was about 50% bigger than the one on the Zephyr. Same goes for the shower. The Zephyr was 2.5 x 2.5. The Coast Starlight was 3.5 x 3.5. I measured. The shower room was slightly larger too.

The first morning I went for a shower at 6:00am. I had to go to 3 cars before I found a vacant one. I wanted to get a jump on the other pax, who all beat me to it. The next morning I went at 7:30.

Speaking of the scenery, I was disappointed with the northbound Coast Starlight. In the northeast, weíre use to seeing lots of greenery, rolling hills, and pine trees. Think Catskills or Adirondack Mountains. Also Northern California. Well, thatís all I viewed from Klamath Falls to PDX. It was nothing special (to me). My setamate at lunch, who was from SoCal, told me heís never seen anything like this before. He was enthralled with the scenery. Go figure. YMMV.

Meals were plentiful and filling. The breakfast of French toast one day, and an egg special the next, were better than some local restaurants. Whatever I asked for, the server brought. Itís all free in a sleeper. Donít forget to tip. For lunch, they always had a special, which was sold out at 12:15 on the first day, and 1:00 on the next. The hamburger was pretty good, as was the ďI never wanted to orderĒ veggie burger. Everything is included, except the booze/wine.

Dinner was a pleasant surprise too. While the $25 steak isnít worthy of a NY Steakhouse, it much better than I ever expected. Tasty and enjoyable. Iím not sure Iíd pay that price on a train, but less expensive items were always offered. The menu did get boring, and I felt bad for riders that were east coast originating.

One last thing for now, at lunch everyone talked about how much they paid for their ticket. The guy next to me told the other 2 people at the table that he used points. He went on to talk about the Chase credit card. Thatís when I asked him if he was a Flyertalker.

I used 15,000 points for the Roomette. The bedroom would have been 20,000 (all pre-devaluation).

I'd like to thank everyone for providing helpful answers to my many questions, when I began this journey, and booked last fall. You guys rock.

Dan

Last edited by dhammer53; Jun 23, 16 at 11:16 am
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Old Jun 25, 16, 2:09 am
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Ready to bring the 32" hd flatscreen on your next trip? I perfected my mount now it mounts to the upper bunk in about 30 seconds.
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Old Jun 25, 16, 3:40 pm
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Originally Posted by MutilationSalad View Post
Ready to bring the 32" hd flatscreen on your next trip? I perfected my mount now it mounts to the upper bunk in about 30 seconds.
It was nice meeting you onboard. I should have included the television in my report.

I tried e mailing you, but I must have written the address incorrectly. Hope you enjoyed the wine and cheese as we approached PDX. The guy from Brooklyn (server in the parlor car) really knew his wine.

Dan
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Old Jun 27, 16, 10:45 am
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Very nice trip report! One minor correction: The Amish family was likely disembarking in Glenwood Springs, not Colorado Springs.
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Old Jun 27, 16, 11:30 am
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Thanks for posting!
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Old Jun 29, 16, 4:24 pm
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Nice report!
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Old Jun 29, 16, 10:32 pm
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Originally Posted by MutilationSalad View Post
Ready to bring the 32" hd flatscreen on your next trip? I perfected my mount now it mounts to the upper bunk in about 30 seconds.
Are you AKA Mr. MeatPuppet? If so, weren't you going to bring a microwave with you onboard? How did that work out for you? Hot popcorn on the Transcon?
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Old May 13, 17, 6:01 pm
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Can't believe I missed this report! Great write-up in true no-nonsense dhammer53 style.

Glad you enjoyed. Maybe next time, try the train south from SAC. It gets pretty once you get to my old hometown of Paso Robles and then along the coast.

(I still think the ride between Klamath and Eugene is quite nice, though.)
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Old May 15, 17, 8:07 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
Can't believe I missed this report! Great write-up in true no-nonsense dhammer53 style.

Glad you enjoyed. Maybe next time, try the train south from SAC. It gets pretty once you get to my old hometown of Paso Robles and then along the coast.

(I still think the ride between Klamath and Eugene is quite nice, though.)
I'd like to do that ride one of these days. My next trip is on 30 CHI/NRO this Wednesday. Capitol Limited.
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Old May 20, 17, 12:51 pm
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Just for the record; if anyone is pondering long distance train travel, do it longhaul on the California Zephyr or similar western trains. The trip on the Capitol Limited is no Zephyr. I'll write a report when I have some free time.

Maybe my problem was that I rode Amtraks premier run, and then rode 30/148 CHI/NYP/NRO.
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Old Jun 18, 17, 12:32 am
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Dan, your report made me chuckle. I ride the Southwest Chief to/from Lamy NM (Santa Fe) and San Clemente or Oceanside in CA. Also once in a while to NYC. It always costs more than flying, but my daughter can pick me up by driving about 15 minutes instead of an hour or more to SNA or SAN. No security hassles, and I only have to drive 45 minutes to Lamy instead of 1:45 to the airport in ABQ.

I always get a roomette on the lower level, it's more quiet downstairs and better access to the shower and WCs. On super scenic sections (between Lamy and Raton eastbound or Albuquerque and Winslow westbound) I go to the observation car to get the panoramic views from both sides of the train. There are also lots of Amish folks on the SWC, I've been told they travel to and from Mexico (Tijuana) to see relatives and access medical care.

Meals in the dining car are always interesting for single passengers, since the staff seat everyone at tables for four. I've met some very interesting people over meals, always lively and friendly conversations.

Thanks for your report.
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