Lie On Your Back and Make Sure the Shades Are Drawn at the Station.
December 10, 2007
Amtrak Adventure for Thanksgiving
For my PTO adventure this past Thanksgiving, I returned to New York City via Amtrak rather than chance another bumpy airplane ride, delayed luggage and airport delays.
On the printed schedule I could see that a once-a-day bus from Waupaca, 13 miles away, would connect with every-two hour service in Milwaukee, to get me on the evening train from Chicago to NYC. Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited is their name for the old New York Central's Twentieth Century Limited, of Broadway show fame. The route was Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse-Albany-New York City. On the schedule at 21 hours travel time, two hour longer than the best schedule of the New York Central RR.
However, for the return trip, the Amtrak representative wanted to book me on the Cardinal, service from New York City to Washington, then Washington to Chicago, via Cumberland, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. I said this was odd, and they informed me that the Lakeshore westbound would be running late and I would miss the once-a-day bus out of Milwaukee. My first dilemma developed. I decided to ditch the bus, drive to Milwaukee, adding mileage and parking fees to the trip and take the Lakeshore roundtrip.
I also decided to go first class, in a roomette. The roomette is an expensive option, even with the two meals and a light snack which is included; and a night's sleep, if one could sleep on the train.
I traveled extensively in the old Pullman style roomettes of the 1970s. The Southern Crescent, Southwest Chief, Texas Star, Silver Meteor, the City of New Orleans were all trains I rode on during the late 1970s. The new roomettes are different, but similar. They are actually built for two, not one as the old ones were, and are thus very economical for families.
The food service was a micro-waved prepared meal presented on a plastic plate. I learned that the full service diner was removed at the end of last year. For dinner I had the salmon, and on the return trip the chicken caesar salad and liked both.
Reading while seated in the roomette was pleasant, sleeping was a different matter. The track condition made the car rock, and thus sleeping on one's back was the safest method. If you prefer to sleep on your side, as I do, then one is rocked to such an extent that you could experience bruising. Also, the curtains in the room need to be tucked into a slot next to the glass, to eliminate the aisle lights which remain on all night and can reflect right onto your pillow placement. And as the toilet is en-suite, do make sure your shades to the world are drawn in case you come into a station, or pass a track work crew.
Sadly, Amtrak experiences second rate service, waiting on sidings for fast freight trains, thus affecting the on-time reliability.
Both Chicago and New York offer lounges for First Class passengers which were nice.
Would I do it again. Yes.
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