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Amtrak Helpful Hints From Nancy Taylor
www.trainweb.com/travel/general/nancyhh.htm

Hi Nola - Sounds like you have a really cool trip planned. I'll try to answer all of the questions you posed:

re: I love the flavor of the way you wrote you travel.

Thanks! I guess all of those English classes paid off!! :-)

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re: I'm leaving early Sat (5/10) morning to Amtrak from San Diego to Wash DC. I'm so excited.. it's something I've wanted to do for over 40 yrs I've never slept on the train. I'll be going solo and have an econ sleeper on the CA Zephyr to Chicago and also to Wash DC from Chicago. Are you familiar w/those routes?

I've taken the California Zephyr from Oakland before - brace yourself for gorgeous scenery! You'll be seeing the Colorado Rockies - along the Colorado River. My husband and I always try to get to the diner for last call for dinner on the second night out (just before you get into Denver). Try to sit on the left hand side of the dining car and face forward. Take your camera. If the train is on time you'll be snaking out of the mountains and into Denver just before sunset. The sight is AWESOME.

I've never taken the route from Chicago to Washington - are you taking the Capitols? Before you leave check out trainweb (www.trainweb.com). Steve always has a lot of good information about the routes.

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RE: If you're available and able to email sometime before Friday nite (5/09).. I'd love to read a bit from you about being comfortable sleeping,

My husband and I book the deluxe compartments (he's too tall for the economy rooms), so things are a little different - but here's what I've discovered: DON'T OVERPACK! I'm one of those people who always overpacks and ends up dragging stuff around the entire vacation that I don't need. I usually take my own pillow because I can't sleep without it, but if you don't need one, don't panic, Amtrak will supply that - plus blankets too! I brought several books with me my first trip and spend all of my time lugging the books I never read because I was too transfixed with the scenery - even at night.

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re: showering (especially........ how do I do all that??).

CAREFULLY! I usually take a good look at the schedule (or ask your car attendant) - when are the smoking/fueling stops? - that's a good time to take your shower because the train's not moving! If you can't do that, just use the grab bar in the shower stall - that's what it's there for. Take small bottles (sample bottles work well) of shampoo and stuff so you're not lugging around tons of toiletries!

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re: . is there electricity in my sleeper?

Yes - it works fine. The only time it won't work is if the HEP (head end power) goes off for some reason.

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re: When I made my reservations w/Amtrak on the phone, I was promised a '97 trip planner. It never showed and it's too late now.

You can pick up a travel planner when you get to the station - just ask the ticket agent for one.

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re: I'm so tired of hearing the comment: "Wellllllll, why on earth don't you just fly!!"

Because it's not nearly as comfortable as taking the train and trains are safer too!!

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re: how secure are my things left in my sleeping compartment all day w/o me?

I've never had any problems with security. I usually take my purse with me, but I've left stuff like camera's, scanners, cd players in my room (out of site, but not locked up) and NEVER had any problem. I even once forgot to put my jewelry back on - left my diamond earrings, my engagement/wedding rings, and my pearls in my room and they were still there when I got back!

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re: Or do you find you spend a bit of time in there?

I find that except for meals, my husband and I spend most of our time in our compartment. We like the quiet of the room and it's more comfortable for us. Some people like to sit in the observation car, some prefer the lounge. That's the nice thing about train travel - you can socialize or not if you want. You can walk around, get up for coffee or whatever and retreat to your compartment if you prefer.

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re: Does everyone on the train clamor for those seats in the observation car?

Remember, the observation car is for everyone one the train - and it's usually packed - especially during the more scenic parts like the Rockies Whenever I've walked through the observation car there hasn't been an empty seat. You can still get a good view of all of the scenery from your room. Most people in economy leave their doors/curtains open so that the people in the economy room on the other side of the hall can see both sides of the train. You can always slip down to the lounge for a good view.

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re: What is the food like? Should I bring food of my own?

The food is good on most of the trips (especially the Coast Starlight). So good in fact, that I've had to be very careful to avoid gaining weight. My first trip out I was warned to bring my own food (the person who warned me had traveled in the late 70's when Amtrak had notoriously bad food - it's changed now) and brought a lot of snacks along. One thing I usually bring with me is a few bottles of bottled water. I can't stand the taste of tap water. There is usually bottled water available, but on my first trip the train ran out and I got rather desperate so I always keep a few extra's just in case. I also carry emergency snacks since I'm still dieting - weight watchers snacks are pretty easy to pack, but if you're not worried about gaining weight you can always get snacks in the lounge car when you get hungry (and I bet you won't!)

If you're concerned about calories, here are my dieting tips:

1. order salad without dressing and ask for lemon slices on the side - bit savings in fat calories! 2. ask the server not to bring the bread 3. Order off of the children's menu - the portions are smaller (just enough usually) 4. the fruit/cheese plate for desert is pretty good - I ask the server not to bring the cheese or give it to someone else at the table. 5. Just order a vegetable plate 6. careful with the deserts - they're usually wonderfully rich! 7. Watch out at breakfast - the nonfat yoghurt isn't sugar free so it's fairly high in calories!!

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re: Have you used a camera with much success on the train? yes, but I find that I prefer to just look out the window at the scenery. If you take your camera: if you have an slr - make sure you put a haze filter on the lens - to protect from scratches. When shooting the scenery, put the lens up against the window - or as close as you can. Also, if you have an SLR, some camera shops carry a small rubber cup that fits on the end of your lens and let's you get the camera right up against the window without risking damage to the lens.

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re: If you aren't too far from me.. would it even be possible to call you??

Since I live in Northern California, plus work full time and go to school four nights a week (I decided to get my masters in EE CS), I'm a little hard to get on the phone.

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re: I'm hungry and a little desperate for info (I've checked out every lib book in S.D. I can find).. but especially the personal side of it.. thanks,

Run, don't work to the nearest bookstore (Border's is a chain that carries lots of books) and see if they have the following:

Amtraking All Aboard Amtrak

These books are both chock full of information/advice on traveling by train.

Amtraking was written by a car attendant and has tons of useful information about what to expect

All Aboard is full in information on things like = how trains work, what the routes are like.

And of course, don't forget to check out www.trainweb.com - Steve has TONS of useful information about traveling by train. Check out his travelogues and you'll get a good idea of what to expect. Read also the sections about traveling in general - tipping, etc. He also has a section on suggested books (that's where I found out about the two books listed above), check them out!

Hope all of this information helps.

Nancy Taylor

Subject: Re: What can Amtrak do to improve staffing?

Hi Nancy!

I read your above note to the Amtrak reading list I just joined. Geeez I wish I had read it a little sooner. How are you?

I love the flavor of the way you wrote you travel. That tends to be true for me too. But I'm not an experienced Amtrak traveler (but a traveler far and wide).

I'm leaving early Sat (5/10) morning to Amtrak from San Diego to Wash DC. I'm so excited.. it's something I've wanted to do for over 40 yrs. I've never slept on the train. I'll be going solo and have an econ sleeper on the CA Zephyr to Chicago and also to Wash DC from Chicago. Are you familiar w/those routes?

If you're available and able to email sometime before Friday nite (5/09).. I'd love to read a bit from you about being comfortable sleeping, showering (especially........ how do I do all that??).. is there electricity in my sleeper? When I made my reservations w/Amtrak on the phone, I was promised a '97 trip planner. It never showed and it's too late now.

But finding people that have experienced much Amtrak travel is like being a blind seamstress and looking for needles, you know?? I'm so tired of hearing the comment: "Wellllllll, why on earth don't you just fly!!"

Thanks Nancy for any help.. like how secure are my things left in my sleeping compartment all day w/o me? Or do you find you spend a bit of time in there? Does everyone on the train clamor for those seats in the observation car? What is the food like? Should I bring food of my own? Have you used a camera with much success on the train? Hummmmmmmm on and on.

If you aren't too far from me.. would it even be possible to call you?? I'm hungry and a little desperate for info (I've checked out every lib book in S.D. I can find).. but especially the personal side of it.. thanks,

Nola@MySurf.com


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