Summer is my primary time for Amtrak travel. I'm employed in the high school office of the school district where I live and have vacations that correspond with school vacations. That gives me 2-1/2 months of potential travel time in the summer. Here is my itinerary as it stood when I began my trip:
CITY TIME DAY DATE CARRIER SVC. CLASS DEPART: MILWAUKEE 12:35 PM SAT 06-14 HIAWATHA UNRESERVED ARRIVE: CHICAGO 2:07 PM SAT 06-14 AUNT COMING FROM CALIFORNIA DRAKE HOTEL 140 E. WALTON PLACE CHICAGO, IL 60610 DEPART: CHICAGO 1:20 PM THU 06-19 EMPIRE BUILDER STD BEDRM ARRIVE: PORTLAND 8:55 AM SAT 06-21 2730-07 DEPART: PORTLAND 2:30 PM SAT 06-21 COAST STARLIGHT STD BEDRM ARRIVE: SACRAMENTO 6:10 AM SUN 06-22 1132-03 REVISIT CALIFORNIA STATE RR MUSEUM DEPART: SACRAMENTO 1:20 PM SUN 06-22 CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR COACH ARRIVE: SALT LAKE 4:50 AM MON 06-23 NATIONAL RAILWAY HISTORICAL SOCIETY CONVENTION LITTLE AMERICA HOTEL & TOWERS 500 S. MAIN STREET SALT LAKE CITY, UT 84101 DEPART: SALT LAKE 1:05 AM SUN 06-29 CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR STD BEDRM ARRIVE: EMERYVILLE 4:55 PM SUN 06-29 0533-05 DEPART: EMERYVILLE 5:10 PM SUN 06-29 THRUWAY BUS ARRIVE: SAN FRAN. 6:00 PM SUN 06-29 WESTIN ST. FRANCIS HOTEL 335 POWELL STREET SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94102 BEGIN: SAN FRAN. 8:15 AM MON 06-30 GLOBUS TOURS - CALIFORNIA END: SAN DIEGO BRKFAST SUN 07-06 COAST VACATION TOUR # AD0628 DEPART: SAN DIEGO 10:20 AM SUN 07-06 SAN DIEGANS UNRESERVED ARRIVE: OCEANSIDE 11:15 AM SUN 07-06 VISIT AUNT AT HER HOME DEPART: OCEANSIDE 6:09 PM SUN 07-06 SAN DIEGANS UNRESERVED ARRIVE: FULLERTON 7:33 PM SUN 07-06 DEPART: FULLERTON 9:15 PM SUN 07-06 SOUTHWEST CHIEF STD BEDRM ARRIVE: CHICAGO 3:15 PM TUE 07-08 0430-10 DEPART: CHICAGO 5:08 PM TUE 07-08 HIAWATHA UNRESERVED ARRIVE: MILWAUKEE 6:45 PM TUE 07-08
This isn't quite the itinerary I had originally planned. Upon leaving the convention, I intended to take one of Steve Grande's suggestions and stay overnight on the 4th floor of the Jack London Inn before riding the Coast Starlight to Oceanside the next day. I was to spend almost two weeks with my aunt at her home, but it developed that she would be too busy for company then. I was already psyched for some time in California, hence the motor coach tour. Before my trip ended, I was to experience a few additional changes.
I live approximately 160 miles from the closest Amtrak station, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which poses an access problem. On my first Amtrak trip, I decided that a 2-1/2 to 3 hour drive was even less desirable at the end of a vacation than it was at the beginning. Consequently, I pay one of the bus drivers from my school district to drive me to and from Milwaukee in his car. This time my usual driver, Orlan, was in a car accident (not his fault) about a month before the end of the school year. He was off work for two weeks, returned too soon, and was off again the last week of school. Since I was leaving that Saturday, I made arrangements with another driver, Gary.
Gary arrived at my house at 9:00 AM. We made good time enroute, arriving at the Milwaukee Amtrak Station at 5th and St. Paul at 11:35 AM. I enjoy watching other passengers arrive, which I spent the next 45 minutes doing. The Flexliner was operating on the Hiawatha during part of the month of June, but it wasn't on this particular run. I was slightly disappointed, but it had seemed too good to be true that I might be able to experience the equipment trial on this remote segment of Amtrak country! The Hiawatha consist normally includes single-level passenger cars with an F40PH engine in push/pull mode. There weren't the crowds to which I have previously become accustomed when boarding the Hiawatha in the summer. Perhaps they opted for the Flexliner runs.
The conductor, R. W. Jones, helped me board with my 26" rolling upright suitcase, which I wheeled in at the facing seats that were the first inside the car. I eagerly dropped my purse, shoulder tote, and overflow Eddie Bauer tote bag. There were plenty of available seats in the car, so it wasn't a problem that I was occupying four seats. I like to travel light, but everything hadn't fit into my suitcase as it should have. Before I left Chicago, I would have to UPS some clothes home that I wouldn't need for the rest of the trip.
The Hiawatha left on time at 12:35 PM. From my previous trips, I recognized the conductor who came through the car to take tickets. His name wasn't displayed on his jacket lapel, and I was remembering only my own name at that moment. He flipped through the array of ticket stock that I handed him and commented, "Oh boy, you're a traveling fool, aren't you!" "I sure am," I replied.
The relatively short trip to Chicago went uneventfully, while I amused myself listening to rail communications on 160.77 on my broad coverage Amateur Radio 2-meter handheld unit. After Conductor Jones made his P.A. announcement about arriving in Chicago and collecting your belongings, he entered the car and asked me if I had heard the announcement. I took my earphone out of my ear when I answered him. He then made some excuse about wondering if the P.A. was working in our car. While I was putting my radio away, it occurred to me that perhaps he thought only I might not have heard the announcement. I had kept my radio out of sight in my tote with the earphone wire leading to my ear. Could he have seen the earphone earlier and thought it was a hearing aid?
We arrived on time into Chicago's Union Station at 2:07 PM. I caught a cab at the Canal Street entrance to take me to the Drake Hotel where I would be staying with my aunt until the following Thursday. The cab driver said something about a bridge being up, causing me to envision an enormous cab fare. Instead, we went all the way to Walton Place off Michigan Boulevard for only $6.60.
I arrived at the hotel a couple of hours before my aunt, who was flying in from California and had a ride from O'Hare Field. This gave me a chance to settle into the room and explore the hotel before she arrived. We are both originally from Chicago and would be spending the next several days attending a variety of functions and visiting familiar places.
Copyright © 1997 by Carol Larsen