Train travel for Dummies – part one.

Some months ago, the pending arrival of a new grandchild was announced by our son and daughter-in-law in Seattle. My wife, Susie began making plans to visit the Northwest to see the baby when it arrived. ‘It’ became a ‘She’ a few weeks later after an ultrasound revealed the baby’s gender. I still marvel at this technological miracle because when our children were born, there was no way to accurately predict the baby’s sex until the actual birth.
One day, long ago, while I was painting the room where our first child would call home when he or she was born, I remarked to Susie that if I could figure out some way to identify a child’s gender in the womb, we could get rich.
“How would you go about doing that?” she asked.
“I don’t know, mirrors maybe.”
“You’re not getting around me with any mirrors, Buster. You can forget that.”
Oh, there were some old wives tales; a favorite of mine was “she’s carrying it high, must be a boy.” I never figured out what ‘carrying it high’ meant so I never bothered to keep any data on the accuracy of this particular belief because I wasn’t sure exactly where the boundary between ‘high’ and ‘low’.
But enough chit-chat. Getting back to visiting Seattle, we decided to take the train because our daughter, Julie and our granddaughter, Riley Marie wanted to go along and see some of the U.S.A. in the bargain. The train would allow us to do that so a couple of weeks before the baby was born, I made the reservations for the four of us.
I used the Amtrak website to book the tickets even though it’s a bit cumbersome. Example: the schedules are PDF files. Still, it is less time consuming than using the 1-800-USA-RAIL number. There can be long waits trying to reach a sales clerk. Still, in the past, on previous trips, I always called the sales number because I was more comfortable talking with a live person but I have learned to trust the website. I’m still a little bit leery about the identity thieves, though.
Train travel itself is not expensive. It’s the add-on of meals and any other things you might need to make the trip comfortable that drive up the prices. Amtrak offers Senior Citizens a 15 percent discount on coach seats which Susie and I took advantage of and our AAA membership card got us 10 percent on the other 2 tickets. The seats are roomy and quite comfortable and unlike the airplanes, a train car has plenty of leg room and the aisles are wide so it’s easy to stretch your legs. The seat also has enough in the way of attachments to help you almost make a single bed out of a seat but I should emphasize the word ‘almost.’

train coach car

train coach car

Which leads me to a nice segue on the other of the 2 travel options that AMTRAK offers. The other option is a sleeping berth which is also where you sit when the bed’s not made. Our 2 Coach seats were 340 dollars but a 2 person berth would have added around 500 dollars to that price. One consideration when looking at that price – the berths do include 4 meals each in the 2 night 45 hour trip which, if you ate them all, would be worth 60 to 70 dollars each. The sleeping berth prices vary with the length of advance bookings and I suspect, the season in which you’re traveling also plays a part. There are no discounts on sleepers, at least none that I know of.
We elected to ride Coach and rough it during the night to save money. After all, how bad could sleeping in the seat get? The answer to that question is easy. It’s pretty damn bad. Amtrak used to provide pillows and you could buy a cute little AMTRAK blanket to keep warm. They don’t do that anymore. I am assuming that Congress messing with the AMTRAK appropriation has something to do with it but don’t quote me on that.
Food was another way in which we planned to save some money. We planned on eating only the evening meal in the dining car on each of the 2 nights we were on the train. The other meals would be taken care of by food that we prepared or bought ready to eat.
Both the coach seat choice and the food planning did not go as well as planned but I’ll explain that on the next post. Right now, I’m still adjusting to that 3 hour time difference on the west coast and it’s way past time for bed.


About geetwo

I am a 69 year old (in 2009) retired I.T. consultant. My wife, Susie and I travel in an RV 6 to 8 months a year. I write a humor / travel column for several print publications on a weekly basis.
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1 Response to Train travel for Dummies – part one.

  1. Andrea Pratt says:

    As usual, another great informative article from the G..Thanks Gordy!!

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