Amtrak Coast Starlight
July 12, 2001 through July 16, 2001
Travelogue Between Los Angeles and Seattle
Click here for the new additions to this travelogue.
Today is Friday, July 13, 2001 and it is 7:15 in the morning.
Right now the train is winding its way through the forests and
mountains in northern California just south of Dunsmuir, the
last station stop in California. In a short while, we will be
entering southern Oregon.
The train is running about 2 hours behind schedule. We lost an
hour before I went to bed last night and then lost another hour
sometime during the night.
This trip is a bit different than most of my other rail
travels. My wife, Barbara, and I are celebrating our
25th Wedding Anniversary. The actual date of our anniversary
was June 27th, but this extended weekend was the closest time
to that date that we could schedule to make this trip.
Most of this 5 day mini-vacation will be spent just enjoying
ourselves on the train as we only plan to spend 2 nights and
1 day in Seattle itself.
Unlike most of my other travelogues, this one is without photos.
Any photos that you do find in this travelogue were taken from
stock footage from previous trips to Seattle, Washington.
I did not plan to write a travelogue
on this trip at all, nor to even bring my computer with me!
I only brought the computer because it has a DVD player and
we brought a few DVDs that we haven't seen yet along with
us. I didn't even bring along one of the Sony Mavica digital
cameras that allows me to take almost endless photos at very
little cost. Instead, I brought along a very lightweight
Poloroid digital camera that is only capable of 18 shots
before it needs to be downloaded. I had no plans of taking
any photos at all on this trip, but I like to have a camera
along just in case. My plan for this trip was just to relax
and not be diverted with capturing a log and photos of my
experiences on this trip. But, Barbara sleeps later than I
do on our days off, so I thought this would be a good time
to write about a few things related to this trip.
to read more extensive travelogues of other trips I have taken on
the Amtrak Coast Starlight along with hundreds of photos.
This is the first rail trip that I have taken using miles earned
on the joint mileage program that Amtrak West has with Alaska
Airlines. We are traveling all the way from
Los Angeles to Seattle and back in a Deluxe Bedroom during
Amtrak's peak travel season. This was a bit of a splurge as it
required me to redeem 75,000 earned miles! Only 20,000 points
are needed for one person to travel round trip between Los Angeles
and Seattle off-peak in a Standard Bedroom. Thus, the points for
this peak season trip for 2 people in a Deluxe Bedroom were
almost enough for 4 off-peak trips for 1 person in a Standard
Though this is the first time I'm actually taking a rail trip on
the Alaska Airline mileage that I have earned, it is not the first
time that I have redeemed points for rail travel. Around last
December, I redeemed 20,000 points for a certificate good for
round trip travel between Los Angeles and Seattle for one in a
Standard Bedroom. That certificate expires in December of this
year, so hopefully I will be making another round trip to Seattle
on the Amtrak Coast Starlight before that time!
95,000 points might seem like a lot to have acquire in one year,
but the Alaska Airlines mileage program is pretty generous. It
is a lot easier to rack up mileage on that plan than the new
Amtrak Guest Rewards program. Every round trip in a Sleeping
Room on the Coast Starlight earns 4,000 miles and every round
trip over 500 miles in Coach on the Coast Starlight earns
1,000 miles. Even round trips on the Pacific Surfliner,
Capitols, San Joaquins and Cascades earn 300 miles, no matter
how short the distance you travel! Amtrak West has also had a
number of special promotions where during certain months they
have awarded double mileage! I also obtained an Alaska Airlines
VISA charge card which gives me 1 point for every dollar that
I spend in addition to a significant sign-up bonus and an
automatic renewal bonus each year.
The Alaska Airline VISA charge card is pretty much the only
charge card that I ever use. With the proliferation of places
that now accept credit cards (supermarkets, gas stations,
public utilities, and even for property and income taxes!)
it doesn't seem to take long to rack up the miles. If it wasn't
for blowing 75,000 miles on this one round-trip, I could be
taking a free round trip from Los Angeles to Seattle every
other month! Unfortunately, I can't take that much time out
of my schedule, so splurging my points on this one trip in
a Deluxe Bedroom during peak season was not such a bad idea!
One main drawback to the Alaska Airlines program is that you
can only earn points and redeem points on the Amtrak West
trains (Coast Starlight, Pacific Surfliner, Capitols,
San Joaquins and Cascades). Of course you can always earn and
redeem points for air travel on Alaska Airlines and its
partners, but you can not earn or redeem points for travel
on other Amtrak routes. Now that Amtrak has its own Guest
Rewards program, there are rumors that the Alaska Airlines
mileage partnership will be phased out. So far, there is no
indication of any phase out.
With an Alaska Airlines VISA card it is interesting that you
can double dip on your Amtrak West travels. By using your
Alaska Airlines VISA to purchase your tickets, not only do
you earn 4,000 points for taking a round trip on the Amtrak
Coast Starlight, but you earn more than an additional 1,000
points for the cost of the ticket charged to your VISA! Not
only that, but by using your Amtrak Guest Rewards number, you
also earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points for the same trip.
Essentially, you can triple-dip on earning points for every
trip that you take on Amtrak West trains!
Since the Amtrak Guest Rewards program only gives you one
point for each dollar that you spend with Amtrak, it can take
a very long time to earn enough points for a significant size
free rail trip. Until the Amtrak Guest Rewards program obtains
some airline partners and teams up with a credit card for
earning points, the Amtrak Guest Rewards program will remain
a far inferior product to the Alaska Airlines Mileage
partnership with Amtrak West. A major change that I think is
needed to the Amtrak Guest Rewards program is that they
should give you a set amount of points for each Amtrak trip
that you take rather than base it on how much money you
spend on your ticket. That is the way most airlines operate
their mileage programs. As a matter of fact, that is why they
are called "mileage" programs! The airlines award you mileage
points based on the number of miles in your trip, not on how
much you spent for your ticket. Amtrak West is more generous
than the airlines in that it awards more points than the miles
traveled, but the Amtrak Guest Rewards program should at least
follow from the experience of the airlines and award 1 point
for each mile of travel. Awarding points based on dollars
spent is fine for credit cards, but it doesn't make sense
when based on only dollars spent with Amtrak.
In order to work, a mileage program has to be a win-win
situation. The customer has to see enough of a benefit in the
program to alter his behavior to use the merchant's services
more often. If the program does that, then both the customer
and the merchant wins. I have changed my behavior to use my
Alaska Airlines VISA card to the exclusion of all other credit
cards. Thus, it is obvious that VISA and the issuing bank,
Bank of America, has benefited by offering this milesage
program to me. I don't do a lot of flying, but if I need to fly
in the future, I will try to use Alaska Airlines as I know I will be earning
credits that I can use on Amtrak. Thus, Alaska Airlines
benefits by offering this program. And, I have to admit, there
has been more than once that I have taken the Amtrak Coast
Starlight up to Oakland or San Jose rather than the
San Joaquins because I would end up with over 5,000 points
instead of 600 points. It is always a tough choice between
the San Joaquins and the Coast Starlight since the decision
comes down to cost vs. comfort. But, realizing that the extra
points will put me that much closer to my next free round trip
to Seattle, has sometimes made that decision easier. The
Alaska Airlines Mileage Program does effect my decision to
spend more money with Amtrak and is thus a win for Amtrak too!
Now look at the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. I looked at the
number of points needed to obtain a free round trip in a
Sleeping Car and decided that it would take forever to earn
enough points, even for a frequent Amtrak traveler like
myself! I'm certainly not going to throw away the free points
being offered to me, but the Amtrak Guest Rewards program has
had absolutely no effect on my behavior. Someday, I don't
know how far in the future that will be, I'll have earned
enough Amtrak Guest Rewards points to take a free trip. But,
that will come as a total surprise to me when I reach that
point. It will not be because the program has inspired brand
loyalty in me or has inspired me to spend more money with
Amtrak. When that day comes, I'll have benefited from the
program, but I don't see what Amtrak will have gotten from
offering the program. It is really time for Amtrak to take a
look at how the airlines run their "mileage" reward programs
and how Amtrak West runs their mileage reward program. They
need to modify their program to make it rewarding enough
to inspire people to travel more on Amtrak.
Well, enough of a plug for the Alaska Airlines / Amtrak West
Mileage Program and my critique of the Amtrak Guest Rewards
Program! More about this trip ...
Since Barbara and I would be gone from the house for 5 days,
we also had to decide what to do about our daughters
Jodina (16) and Sherica (14). We decided to take them with us
as far as San Jose where Barbara's parents and sister lives.
This was agreeable with Barbara's parents and they would
look forward to the visit by their granddaughters! We could
drop them off on the first day of our northbound trip as we
passed through San Jose that evening and
then pick them up on the final day of our trip as we passed
through on our southbound trip through San Jose. We purchased
one adult coach ticket for Jodina and one child coach ticket
for Sherica. Even though they would have coach tickets, there
would be no problem with them staying in the Deluxe Room with
us. The Deluxe Room Accommodation automatically allows for
meals and all ammenities for 3 people anyway, as long as all
3 have paid for the "Rail Fare" portion of the ticket price.
The Coach Fare of Jodina's ticket took care of that for the
3rd person. Actually, we overpaid a little for that ticket
since their is a special Rail Fare that is even lower than
the full Coach Fare when the person is not going to be taking
up a seat in a Coach Car. Sherica was more of an exception,
but thought it was unlikely that anyone would challenge us
on adding her to the room. Technically, she only had the
right to Coach Car services. But, barring special circumstances,
there is never a problem with a Coach passenger visiting and
staying with someone who does have a Sleeping Car Accommodation
as long as there is enough room. In worst case, if asked, we
would have to pay for Sherica's meals in the Dining Car
whereas the meals for up to 3 people in the Deluxe Room are
included in the Accommodation price. We weren't given any
problems at all about this on our northbound journey and we'll
just have to see if everything goes just as smoothly on the
For the first time in many years, I decided to drive from
our home to Los Angeles instead of leaving our car in Fullerton
and taking a Pacific Surfliner to Los Angeles. There were a few
reasons for this. First, when Amtrak revised their schedules
last May, they pushed the departure time of the Amtrak Coast
Starlight to 10 A.M. Because of Los Angeles rush hour traffic
in the morning, I always worried that I might arrive too late
if we tried to get to Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS) before the
9:30 A.M. departure. It only takes 30 minutes to get from our
house to the Fullerton Station. The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner
leaves Fullerton around 8 A.M. and makes a guaranteed
connection with the Amtrak Coast Starlight. So until now, that
was the safest way to make sure I got from my house to Los
Angeles in time for the departure of the Amtrak Coast Starlight.
The additional half hour in the departure time makes all the
difference in the world. We left our house at 7:45 A.M.
Normal rush hour conditions would get us to Los Angeles by
about 9 A.M. Most unexpected traffic delays should still
allow us to get to the station by 9:30 A.M. Only the worst
of unusual traffic problems would keep us from making the
10:00 A.M. departure of the train!
I seldom drive from my home in Orange County to Los Angeles.
I was surprised to find that there isn't any carpool lane
on the 5 Interstate Freeway north of the California 91
Freeway. Thus, we had to drive in slow moving bumper to
bumper heavy traffic for at least the last 20 miles of our
trip to Los Angeles. We still managed to arrive at Los Angeles
Union Station at about 9:00 A.M. I parked out front at the
paid parking lot ($10 per day maximum) and we rolled our
suitcases into the station.
It wasn't long before an announcement was made that passengers
needed to obtain their boarding passes. There was one long
line for Coach passengers and another very short line for
Sleeping Car passengers. The Conductor was collecting tickets
and giving out boarding passes in the line for Coach passengers
while an Assistant Conductor (AC) did the same for the
Sleeping Car passengers. I showed the AC both sets of tickets
for my family, the Deluxe Room tickets for Barbara and I, and
the Coach tickets for Jodina and Sherica. I explained they
would be traveling with us in our room just to San Jose.
The AC said that was fine and gave us a boarding pass for
4 people for Deluxe Room E in the 1432 Sleeping Car.
After obtaining our boading pass, we were told that we
could take a seat in the waiting area and wait for the
boarding call. While we were waiting, Bob Stone of Amtrak
came down to greet us. Bob was working upstairs in the
Amtrak offices when he saw my name on the manifest list
for the Amtrak Coast Starlight. Fortunately, we were sitting
in the seats by the Car Rental desks right by the door
where Bob popped out. I think there are stairs and an
elevator up to the Amtrak offices right around the corner
beyond those doors. I've been up to the Amtrak offices
before in the station, but I don't know if I've gone up
that way before. I know I once went up using an elevator
at the other end of the building, but that was before a
large remodeling project of the upstairs offices was
Bob Stone used to be the Chief of Onboard Services of Crew Ten
until Amtrak eliminated the Chiefs program. Now Bob is in charge
of taking care of the departure and arrival of the
Amtrak Southwest Chief at Los Angeles Union Station.
I don't understand all the responsibilities of the job, but
I do know that Bob gets very involved in the process of
making sure that transferring passengers are accommodated
when the westbound Southwest Chief arrives late, which has
been happening quite often lately. Bob Stone is alse the
webmaster of the
www.CrewTen.com web site and the new
www.SaveAmtrak.org web site.
After Bob headed off to take care of the arriving Southwest Chief
passengers, I went to check the monitor to see the current
departure status for the Amtrak Coast Starlight. The "ON TIME"
status had been changed to "DELAYED 10 MINUTES". There had
been a long line of people standing by the Coach and Sleeping Car Passenger Gates,
but those lines were now gone! I could only assume that a boarding announcement
had been made. I decided it would be a good idea to head down to the platform
to see if the train was boarding. Barbara and I and the kids rolled our
luggage through the tunnel and up the ramp to the platform at Track 10,
where I think we were told that the train would be boarding.
When we got to the top of the platform, there wasn't any train! But,
there were a lot of people waiting on the platform. I don't know
if they did or did not make the boarding announcement yet. The
people on the platform could have been from the northbound connecting
Pacific Surfliner. Often, they will just have the people from that
Surfliner just get off the train, cross the platform, and directly
board the Coast Starlight. When the Coast Starlight used to be
scheduled to depart at 9:30 A.M., it would usually already be waiting
at the platform. Since there is so much time between the arrival of the
northbound Pacific Surfliner and the departure of the Coast Starlight,
I would assume they would usually have the passengers go to the
waiting area in the station instead of standing around the platform.
But if that is the case, then who were all the people already on
the platform? If they did make a boarding announcement, why did they
do that when there wasn't a train on the platform yet?
While we were waiting outside on the platform, we saw the
Amtrak Southwest Chief do some maneuvering to drop off its
Express Cars. We also saw the arrival and departure of a number
of Metrolink Commuter Trains as well as the arrival of another
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner.
There was an Amtrak staff person on the platfrom directing
people to go to different parts of the platform where they
would be closer to the car that they would board. When he
saw me, he said that he knew that I've traveled on this train
before and that I should head down the platform to board
the 1432 Sleeping Car. As we were heading in that direction,
I realized that I did not give him my name and I don't think
he saw my boarding pass. Did he know my name by sight?
The Amtrak Coast Stralight arrived onto the platform about 30 minutes passed the
scheduled departure time. Later I heard the problem was that one
of the refrigerators in the Dining Car was not operating properly.
After determining that it would not be an easy fix, they decided
to swap out the Dining Car. That takes a bit of time as the
Dining Car is just about right in the middle of the consist.
Thus, taking that car out and puting in a new one takes a bit of
work and a bit of time.
Once the train arrived at the platform, we boarded our
Sleeping Car and headed for our room.
The 4 of us fit into the room just fine, but each of us had
just a little more room than we would each have had if we
were traveling in Coach. Barbara and I headed down to the
Pacific Parlour Car and spent much of the day in that parlour
car. That left plenty of room for the kids in the Deluxe
Barbara and I enjoyed much of the day in the Pacific Parlour
Car, including the afternoon wine tasting. The train arrived
into San Jose at 9:15 P.M., about an hour late. We dropped
off our kids with their grandparents in San Jose.
I've got to get a measuring tape! When we went to bed at night,
the lower bunk did not look as wide as the lower bunk in the
Family Room. I think it is supposed to be the same width and
is the same width, but I had difficulty envisioning how both
Barbara and I could fit comfortably together on that bunk
when I don't recall ever having that problem in the Family
Room. Either the bed is actually narrower in the Deluxe Room
than the Family Room, or Barbara and I have gotten wider. I'm
afraid that the latter might be the case.
I can remember when Barbara and I did a big circle tour
from California to Chicago on the Southwest Chief, from
Chicago to Seattle on the Amtrak Pioneer, and then from Seattle to
Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight.
for more information about our travel on the Amtrak Pioneer
for the travelogue of that entire circle tour. We had a Standard
(Economy) Bedroom for that entire trip. Barbara and I
also just shared the bottom bunk in the Standard Bedroom
for that entire trip. We could both fit into the lower bunk
of the Standard Bedroom, though that was a bit tight. That
was only 5 years ago. Now even the larger bed in the Deluxe
Bedroom seems too small! I guess this is a good time to think
about cutting down on eating and getting a bit more exercise!
We spent much of the next day, Friday, July 13, 2001, just
relaxing and enjoying our Deluxe Bedroom Accommodation.
The train arrived at 11 P.M. into Seattle, Washington, about
2 hours and 30 minutes late. By the time we got out the front
of the station, there was a very long line of people waiting
for taxis. I've walked a number of times between the station
and our hotel, the Pioneer Square Hotel, so Barbara and I
decided to just walk to the hotel rather than wait for a
It isn't a very long walk to hotel. It is probably well
under a mile. The big concern is the luggage. I would not
even attempt this with luggage without wheels. But, even
if your luggage has wheels, I wouldn't recommend this walk
shortly after snow or rain. Rolling luggage that far is a
good way to ruin the wheels on your luggage! I've done
Since this was our 25th Anniversary trip, I had booked
the best room available at the Pioneer Square Hotel.
The room was more like a suite and was on the top floor
of the hotel, the 4th floor. The room was fairly large,
about twice the size of the room that I usually stay
in at this hotel. The cost was $215 per night, a bit of
a step up from the $115 per night that I have usually
The room had both a bed and couch that could fold out
into a bed to accommodate two more people. If we bring
our kids to Seattle in the future, I think this would
be a good room to reserve. By accident, I once reserved
a room at this hotel with 2 twin beds. On that trip,
there were 5 of us: my wife and I, my 2 daughters and
a friend of theirs. Fitting into that room was just
about impossible and they had no other rooms available.
We ended up checking out of the hotel the next day and
moving to another hotel with bigger rooms available.
If I had this room, there would have been plenty of
room for everybody, with or without an optional roll-away
The bed in this room is a regular King Size bed. That
is my favorite size bed. In California, they have this
stupid size bed called a "California King Size" bed.
The California King Size bed is longer than a normal
King Size bed, but it is also narrower! Both my wife
and I are under 5'8" in height and have no need for
that extra legroom. The width of a normal King Size
bed is more appreciated than the extra length. Next
time we purchase a new bed for ourselves, I think we
will import it from back east if we can't find one
local. In any case, the huge "normal" King Size bed
in this room is great!
If you visit Seattle and like historic hotels, I
would strongly recommend the Pioneer Square Hotel.
You will be right in the heart of one of the most
historic and active parts of Seattle with lots of
nightlife. There is an Italian Restaurant across
the street that stays open until 4 A.M.! The
Seattle Underground Tour starts just down the street
and the waterfront and its attractions can be seen
from the hotel.
for more information and photos of Seattle, Pioneer Square and
the Pioneer Square Hotel.
On Saturday, July 14, 2001, we slept late, until
almost 11:00 A.M. Once we got out of the hotel,
we headed to Pier 56 to take the 1:00 P.M. 2.5 hour
narrated cruise of the Seattle Locks provided by
Argosy Cruises. This was an easy walk from our
hotel. The cruise was relaxing and educational.
From the water we got a very good view of the
Seattle skyline as well as a view of a good
segment of recreational and commercial boating
activities in Seattle.
for more information about the Locks Cruise and other tour
cruises offered by Argosy Cruises.
After the cruise, we headed to the "Cow Chip Cookies" store.
They have some of the best chocolate chip cookies to be
found anywhere! We purchased a number of them to take back
to our kids and had a couple of "mini" ones as a treat for
ourselves! They are also located just around the corner from
the hotel neer the corner of Yessler and 1st Streets.
If you visit Seattle, especially the Pioneer Square Area,
I'd strong suggest that you try "Luigi's Grotto",
102 Cherry Street, at the corner of Cherry and 1st Street.
Their telephone number is 206-343-9517 and their fax number
is 206-343-8822. You can reach them by sending e-mail to
Actually, there are two Italian restaurants at the corner of
Cherry and 1st Street, both owned by Luigi DeNunzio.
You don't want the one upstairs which is
more like a pizza parlor. Both have the Luigi name, but
the upstairs eating establishment is called Bengodi.
You want to walk one door up Cherry Street until you see a steep stairway
leading down into the cellar. That is "Luigi's Cellar" where
you will find a great atmosphere and, in my opinion, the
best Italian food in Seattle! Not only that, but you will also
get to meet the genuine Luigi with a personality built for
entertainment! All four of grandparents are Italian and I
have grown up on Italian food at home and in restaurants.
I've had a lot of good Italian food, but I don't think any
of it can compare to what I have had in the cellar at
The restaurant used to be called "La Buca", so don't be
surprised if you have difficulty finding "Luigi's Grotto"
in the phone book or local guides to restaurants.
for more information about the name change.)
to find more information and a photo of this restaurant at
I discovered this trip on a previous trip to this area
with Ray Burns when we came to take 360x360 virtual photos
of the Amtrak Cascades for the Washington State Department
of Transportation. After eating there, I promised myself
that I would one day take my wife to eat at this great
Barbara and I had their special called "Luigi's Table" which was a wonderful
assortment of Italian food for $25 per person. This gave
us a good idea of the taste of many offerings by the
restaurant. We thought the courses would never stop
coming! Every item was fantastic. It seems everything
that this restaurant serves, it knows how to prepare
perfectly! To accompany our meal we had a bottle of
Chianti Rufina Vendemmia 1999 for $27. The Chianti was
Unfortunately, I don't have a list of the assortment of
Italian food that was served to us as part of our special
dinner, but here are other items from their new menu:
102 Cherry St.
Simplicity / Product / Taste
w/figs, rosemary, port & gorgonzola
MOZZARELLA CAPRESE 7.00
mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil
sauteed w/spinach, roasted garlic, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives & chili oil
quickly sauteed w/ pine nuts, raisins, white wine & lemon
ORGANIC GREENS 5.00
tossed w/ house honey berry vinaigrette
DELSA CASA 6.50
field greens tossed w/ an orange fennel vinaigrette w/ artichokes, grapes, gorgonzola & toasted pine nuts
w/ apples, fontina cheese, house made berry vinaigrette
RAVIOLI MARE 15.00
puff pastry filled w/ seafood, baked, served w/ marinara & a pesto drizzle
PENNE PRAWNS 14.00
penne pasta tossed w/ sauteed prawns, marinara, basil & spinach
house made gnocchi w/ marinara & ricotta
RIGATONI CHICKEN 13.00
roasted chicken, caramelized onions, peppers, rosemary & tomato ragout
CHICKEN PARMESEAN 14.00
sauteed chicken breast, marinara, cheese served w/ pasta
CHICKEN & PORTOBELLO 14.00
sauteed chicken w/ roasted portobello mushrooms, marsala & provolone served w/ pasta
SPAGHETTI & HOUSE MADE MEATBALLS 12.00
VEAL W/ ARTICHOKES & MUSHROOMS 17.00
veal sauteed w/ artichoke hearts, crimini & porcini mushrooms in a cream sauce served w/ pasta
VEAL PICATTA 16.00
veal sauteed w/ capers, lemon, white wine, butter served w/ pasta
BRACIOLA BRINDISI 16.00
rollentina of beef, stuffed w/ prosciutto, provolone, caramelized onions braised in a barolo rosemary sauce served w/ pasta
rib eye, pan seared w/ caramelized onions & shallot sauce served w/ pasta
RISOTTO W/ CRAB & PEAS 15.00
aborio rice cooked w/ Dungeness crab & green peas
LAMB OSSO BUCO 17.00
lamb shank braised in a Italian herbed tomato sauce w/ pecorino & gremolata served w/ pasta
ask your server
After dinner, we headed to our favorite bookstore, the "Elliot Bay Book Company"
We always try to stop by this bookstore whenever we are in Seattle. It is just around the corner and
up the street from the Pioneer Square Hotel. They have both new and used books, but most important is that
they have a very interesting selection of books. That bookstore is fairly large, but not one of the largest.
Just about every bookstore has the best sellers, but once you go beyond that, it is really up to the owner or
manager of the bookstore as to what they obtain to fill the rest of their bookstore. Barbara and I frequent
Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores and sometimes find a book or two that we find interesting. When we go
to the "Elliot Bay Book Company" we find it difficult to keep our purchases down to an arm full!
On Sunday morning, July 15, 2001, we awoke at 7:00 A.M. I went down to the cafe by the lobby to bring back some
breakfast items. They serve a nice continental breakfast for free at the Pioneer Square Hotel. The breakfast isn't
just a coffee and a pastry as you will find at most Best Westerns and other hotels. They have a wide selection of
cereals, toast, bagels, two types of juice and three types of gourmet coffee. Plus, they have a selection of fruit.
I took a tray of items back to our room.
We were ready to check out by 8:30 A.M. I presented my Best Western Gold Crown Club card to get the points for
staying at the hotel. When the hotel clerk noticed from my credit card that I was an Alaska Airlines Mileage Program
member, he asked if I was sure that I wanted the Gold Crown Club credits rather than the bonus Alaska Airline miles.
I wasn't even aware that I could get extra Alaska Airline miles by staying at the hotel! I'm going to have to look
into this and see if the reason for the extra miles is something Alaska Airlines has worked out with Best Western,
or if it is something specific to the Pioneer Square Hotel. In any case, I was given an extra 250 Alaska Airline miles
for my stay in the hotel in addition to more than 400 miles that I will get from charging the cost of the room to
my Alaska Airlines card.
Last night, I found out that I missed out on an additional 300 Alaska Airline miles that I could have gotten at
Luigi's Grotto. I knew that Alaska Airlines has a "Dine-Air" program where you can get extra miles at certain
restaurants, but none of the participating restaurants in southern California are ones near my house or that I
am likely to frequent. So, I just ignored the program after I learned about it. After returning to my room last night
from Luigi's Grotto, I went on the internet to find a link with more information about the restaurant. In the process,
I found that Luigi's Grotto was one of the restaurants in the Alaska Airline Dine-Air Mileage Program. I could have
gotten 300 or 400 miles from the meal last night instead of just the 100 from charging the meal to my Alaska Airlines
credit card. I'll certainly know better next time!
We left the hotel at about 8:45 A.M. and walked to the train station. Being Sunday morning, the streets were
relatively deserted. We took a different route this time. We took a right out the front door of the hotel and
walked up Yesler to 2nd. We took a right on 2nd and walked a few blocks down to King Street. We took a left onto
King Street and the station was right there. It actually only took about 15 minutes to walk from the hotel to the
station and we were walking at a pretty leisurely pace rolling our luggage behind us. Near the station there are
still signs indicating you are in Pioneer Square, so I guess the station is considered to be in the same general
part of town as our hotel.
In Seattle, the checked baggage is usually handled by Red Caps outside in front of the station. If you plan to
check some of your luggage, you can do so right out front of the station before you enter through the station
doors. Barbara and I don't bring a lot of luggage along so we seldom have anything that needs to be checked.
We usually each bring just one roller suitcase which we leave on the racks downstairs in the Sleeping Car and
one backback or shoulder bag. We try to leave all the things that we won't need on the train in the bags that
we put on the racks and take whatever we will need on the train in our backpack or carrybag. The smaller bags
easily fit in the room and have everything we will need while we are on the train!
At 9:10 A.M. the Conductor and Assistant Conductor started issuing boarding passes to the passengers. Boarding
of Sleeping Car passengers started at 9:20 and boarding of Coach passengers started at 9:40. There was one
baggage handling person absent from work today so it took them a bit longer to load the checked baggage onto the
train. The train departed just 10 minutes late at 9:55 A.M.
I've always told people that if they get a room on the train, try to get an even numbered room going up and an
odd numbered room going down (even up, odd down). The Deluxe Rooms are on the same side of the train as the even
numbered rooms. The reason for this is that the even numbered rooms are usually on the western side of the train
going north while the odd numbered rooms are on the western side of the train going south. Thus, those rooms will
have a long view of the ocean between Oxnard and San Luis Obispo, more than 2 hours. From all the years of travel
that I have done on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, seldom have the Sleeping Car Rooms not been oriented the way that
I just mentioned above. However, I am starting to wonder if Amtrak is being as strict as they used to be about
trying to keep the Sleeping Cars oriented this way. There were 3 Sleeping Cars on our train heading north and
three on our train heading south. In both cases, the middle Sleeping Car (the 31 car) was oriented backwards.
Thus, I'm not sure how reliable my "even up, odd down" rule is anymore. It used to be at least 90% reliable, but
it seems to have only been about 66% reliable for this trip. Personally, I didn't mind it at all on this trip.
Heading north, we were in a properly oriented car which gave us hours of ocean viewing on our northbound journey.
Heading south, we are in the backwards oriented car which again places us on the side of the train facing the ocean!
I guess we lucked out on this trip.
Elizabeth is our Sleeping Car Attendant this time. She is very friendly and seems very efficient. Elizabeth
gave everyone a warm greeting and helpful advice as they boarded her car. Afterwards, she came to each room
and provided each passenger with any further information that they might need in getting acquainted with the
accommodations. When she came to our room, she said she recognized me. I recognized her also, but I don't believe
I've ever had her as my Car Attendant. We've probably both been on the same train a number of times before.
She said to be sure to use the "Call Attendant" button if we needed anything as she has lots of energy!
Shortly after departure, I went down to the Pacific Parlour Car to get a Bloody Mary.
Garrett Nelson was the Pacific Parlour Car Attendant. Garrett was the person that helped us with our arrangements
to take the 360x360 photos of the Pacific Parlour Car. He came in early one morning and set up the whole parlour car
just so that we could get photos of everything ready for the morning brunch before other passengers started boarding
the train. Garrett was also the Pacific Parlour Car Attendant on a couple of previous trips I have taken.
Click here for the travelogue of the trip I took on
August 16, 1998 and
click here for the travelogue of the trip I took on
August 26, 1999.
The southbound trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight went pretty good. We departed on-time,
and remained pretty close to schedule arriving at most stations early. The following morning,
we arrived so early into Oakland / Jack London Square that we had to hold there for 40 minutes
in order to not leave ahead of schedule.
Due to the long summer hours, we were able to view the coast all the way from San Luis Obispo
to Oxnard. Because our Sleeping Car was oriented backwards as I mentioned above, the coast was
outside our window. However, much of our time was spent in either the Pacific Parlour Car,
especially during the afternoon wine tasting, or in the Dining Car during our early 5:30 P.M.
A wine tasting used to be held in the Pacific Parlour Car on the first day and a Champagne Party on
the second day, but now they only have the wine tasting on both days. I don't think they do Champagne Parties
in the Pacific Parlour Car any more. They still serve the wine and cheese, but they did away with the fruit plate
during the wine tasting. Some Pacific Parlour Car Attendants that are very knowledgeable about wines make
a big production out of the wine tasting giving a lot of information about each wine being served. Others just
tell you which wine they are serving and serve the wine. An information sheet about the wines used to be handed
out to passengers during the tasting, but that was not done on any of the four wine tastings that we attended
on our way up and down. I guess that has also been eliminated. However, one thing I did like on this trip is they
never seemed to skimp on the amount of wine they poured for each person! On those times that I have attended
the Pacific Parlour Car wine tasting when they did make a professional production out of it, it did seem they were
more likely to give you just a "taste" of each wine. I like something more in between. I like more information,
but I also like more wine!
Somewhere on the way south we lost a little bit of time. If we were planning to connect to
the southbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, the late arrival would have been perfect to make
the connection. The Coast Starlight arrived about 9:40 P.M., just 10 minutes prior to the
scheduled departure of the southbound Pacific Surfliner. But, we were driving home from the
Los Angeles Union Station, so the perfect connection didn't help us at all this time!
The cost of parking in Los Angeles is $10 per day so our total parking bill came to $50.
Parking at almost all of the other Amtrak Stations is free, so the convenience of driving
direct between our house and LAUS was a bit expensive. We arrived home at 10:38 P.M. Since
the southbound Pacific Surfliner was scheduled into Fullerton at 10:22 P.M. and the drive
to my house is about another 20 minutes, going by car instead of by train didn't save us
too much time (assuming the Surfliner ran on schedule). But, I'm glad we did drive this
time. The southbound journey on the Amtrak Coast Starlight is wonderful, but once we get
off the train, we just want to head straight home.
The following are photos that were taken on a previous trip to
Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington:
Set #1 /